MATCH ANALYSIS: 10-man Vancouver FC score late equalizer in wild 3-3 draw with Forge at Tim Hortons Field
Canadian Premier League

Final Score: Forge FC 3-3 Vancouver FC
Goalscorers: Owolabi-Belewu 36′, Parra 66′, Choinière 85′; Bitar 12′, 90+1′, Díaz 40′
Game of the 2024 season: 48
CPL match: 532

Match in a minute or less

For the second consecutive week, Forge FC were involved in a rollercoaster of a match, this time drawing 3-3 at Tim Hortons Field with ten-man Vancouver FC.

Gabriel Bitar opened the scoring with an absolute screamer in the 12th minute, before Forge equalized in the 36th minute through Malik Owolabi-Belewu’s first of the season. Alejandro Díaz then sent Vancouver into the half with a lead with his fifth of the season. The match took a turn in the 52nd minute, however, when Vancouver’s Vasco Fry was shown a red card.

Forge instantly looked to press their advantage, and tied the match in the 66th minute on a deflected Daniel Parra strike. Forge’s David Choinière looked to have won it in the 85th minute, but in second-half stoppage time Bitar again stunned the crowd at Tim Hortons Field with a late equalizer for Vancouver FC.

As a result, Vancouver stay in second place in the table, maintaining their one-point advantage over Forge FC. They went undefeated in their two matches at Tim Hortons Field this season, having won 2-1 in Hamilton back in May.

Three Observations

Opportunistic 10-man Vancouver FC fight for another result at Tim Hortons Field

As David Choinière ran away in celebration in the 85th minute, it looked as though Forge FC had earned what would have been a hard-fought home victory on Friday night at Tim Hortons Field.

Instead, Forge were left stunned at the final whistle as a stoppage-time strike from Gabriel Bitar saw them and Vancouver FC split the points after a wild 3-3 draw. After going down to ten men in the 52nd minute, and then allowing Forge to take a 3-2 lead, getting anything out of this match looked to be out of reach for the visitors. Instead, they gained a league-leading twelfth point from a losing position with a late equalizer from Bitar.

“To take two goals, one is deflection own goal, the other another deflection, many teams would have at that moment fell flat on their backs and given up,” said Vancouver FC head coach Afshin Ghotbi.

Vancouver FC didn’t need many openings to score their three goals on the night, doing so on just six shot attempts, compared to Forge’s 20, and 0.31 expected goals.

“When you look at the clinical finishing, and the two beautiful goals we scored as a team and how efficient we are becoming in front of the goal, I think that’s very very extraordinary for our league, for our team,” said Ghotbi.

Despite the late nature of their goal, and their man disadvantage, Ghotbi did admit to being a bit disappointed that his team didn’t try to go one step further and claim all three points. They won a late free kick just outside of Forge’s box for example, and instead of going for goal, played it short and killed time.

“I want to change the whole mentality, not just our team, but just the Canadian mentality, is that it’s 3-3, we get a wide free kick the last moments of the match, bring the ball in front of the goal and try to win,” said Ghotbi. “We play short and try to just be happy with a draw. And I think I want more of the feeling that we can win this game right now, hopefully with time, I can change that.”

Vancouver FC now enter a big stretch in their season with three consecutive home matches, first against Atlético Ottawa, then York United and Cavalry FC before the end of the month. The way they were able to take a point in Hamilton will go a long way toward hardening their resolve heading into that stretch.


Forge FC bemoan more late points dropped, self-inflicted wounds

For the second consecutive week, Forge FC fought all the way back only to see their hard work undone by a late goal from their opponent.

A week ago it was Kwasi Poku who scored in the 88th minute to equalize against Atlético Ottawa, before Liberman Torres broke their hearts in stoppage time with the match-winner in a wild match in the nation’s capital.

On Friday night, it was David Choinière who with a thunderous volley looked to have won yet another chaotic match for Forge in the 85th minute, only for Gabriel Bitar to equalize in second-half stoppage time again.

“Self-inflicted wounds hurt, in every part of life including football, and that’s what we have done again today, simple as that,” said Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis. “We can talk, what are we going to talk about, the 15 chances we’ve had, the excellent saves by Callum Irving to keep them in the game, coming back in the score. Done everything great, for a matter of a simple mistake at the end, we come away with one point instead of three.”

From a run-of-play standpoint, Forge FC were undoubtedly the dominant side on Friday night. They had 63.5 per cent of possession, four big chances, and 16 shots attempted inside the box on a stunning 35 touches in the Vancouver box.

Their attack remains red hot, with their 13th goal in the last six matches. But once again, it was rather simple mistakes that undid all of their hard work. After a strong start to the match, they allowed Bitar to walk in and blast a shot past Jassem Koleilat. Then they failed to adequately pick up Alejandro Díaz in the box. Finally, Alexander Achinioti-Jönsson was caught in possession just outside his own box in the 90th minute, and Bitar walked in to score the equalizer.

It was only the second time this season that Forge FC have dropped points at home in CPL action, both of which came against Vancouver FC.

“Today feels like a loss, it’s as simple as that,” said Smyrniotis.

With the biggest game of their season to date coming up on Wednesday against Toronto FC, Forge know they need to be much cleaner defensively if they are to get a positive result against the MLS club.

Gabriel Bitar given opportunity to play as a number 10, scores goal of the season candidate

With Moses Dyer out injured for Vancouver on Friday, Afshin Ghotbi had to try something a little bit different in his attacking approach.

In the pre-match press conference, he spoke about the fact that he’s been missing an attacking link between the strikers and the midfield, and he may have found it by shifting Gabriel Bitar centrally on Friday night.

Having not scored since Vancouver FC’s opening match of the season, Bitar had a brilliant brace on Friday, opening the scoring and then adding the late goal which stole a point for the Eagles.

“I think brilliant performance, I think one of the goals of the year, it will be a candidate for that kind of strike from that kind of distance but also just the way he performed all game,” said Afshin Ghotbi. “I think it was his best game of the season.”

“He wants to play underneath the striker, he wants to be the number 10, he wants to be that guy. I feel by putting him in that position all of the sudden he feels a different amount of responsibility and importance and that maybe brings the best out of him.”

Bitar finished with three shots on target and three dribbles completed during an all-around dynamic offensive performance. It was the thunderous strike that he scored just 12 minutes into Friday’s match, however, that will truly give him a significant confidence boost going forward in this season.

“I’ve been told by a couple of teammates that I should shoot the ball more, and so as I kept driving towards, the backline dropped off and so once I got in shooting position I was like ‘I’m just going to try it’,” said Bitar. Player of the Match

Gabriel Bitar, Vancouver FC

With his first multi-goal performance of the season, Bitar was a game-breaker for Vancouver FC on Friday at Tim Hortons Field. He also completed three dribbles, and won possession twice in the final third.

What’s next?

Forge now set their sights on a huge clash with Toronto FC at Tim Hortons Field in the first leg of the Canadian Championship final on Wednesday, July 10 (7:00 p.m. ET). Their next league match is also at home on Sunday, July 14 (7:00 p.m.). Vancouver FC, meanwhile, return home where they host top of the table Atlético Ottawa on Friday, July 12 (7:00 p.m. PT / 10:00 p.m. ET).

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