A rapid-fire double from Alejandro Diaz carried Pacific FC to a 2-1 win away from home against Valour FC in Winnipeg on Saturday (July 30).
Coming off the back of a difficult trip to Jamaica during the week, the hard-fought win will be a big boost to the team ahead of the return of its CONCACAF League tie against Waterhouse FC.
Emil Gazdov was given his debut in goal, although it didn’t get off to the ideal start after a mistake from Abdou Samake allowed Valour a clear sight of goal. Gazdov parried well initially but the ball bobbled into the path of Matteo de Brienne, who reacted quickest to head home and give Valour a one-goal lead after 23 minutes.
Gazdov was the far busier of the two keepers, saving strongly from three long-range efforts from Valour in the first half, and then in the second scrambling across to disrupt Sean Rea as the Valour attacker tried to bundle home a second goal for Valour on 50 minutes.
PFC was far from on top, but the turning came on 61 minutes when Valour midfielder Jose Daniel Ascanio Aparicio was sent off for diving in the box after he’d already received a yellow earlier in the match.
Pacific worked quickly to make good on the man advantage, with Marco Bustos and Diaz connecting beautifully to tie the game at 1—1. The ball was worked out to Bustos, who cut inside and fired in an early cross, which Diaz met perfectly at the near post, flicking it behind him and past the despairing reach of the Valour keeper.
If the first was beautiful, the second was scrappy. Almost straight from the restart, Djenairo Daniels made a robust challenge near halfway, and the ball came to Kamron Habibullah. The young midfielder cut onto his left foot, dragging his shot but luckily Diaz was on his toes and was able to tap in for his second goal in as many minutes, giving PFC a 2-1 lead with 72 minutes gone.
With the win, PFC stays top of the Canadian Premier League, for now, one point clear of Cavalry FC in second and three points clear of Forge FC. But the Hamilton-based team has three games in hand.
Next up, PFC plays the return leg of its CONCACAF preliminary round tie against Waterhouse FC at Starlight Stadium on Aug. 2.