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It was another wild playoff match between Cavalry FC and Forge FC.

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But after the fireworks fizzled, it ended the same way as it always does for Calgary’s professional footie side.

A 2-1 Sunday victory by host Forge leaves Cavalry crushed for the fourth consecutive Canadian Premier League campaign.

“The players are sick,” said Cavalry gaffer Tommy Wheeldon Jr. immediately after the semifinal decider at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field.

“They’re heartbroken.”

That’s hardly surprising after yet another post-season fall — the third at the hands of their nemesis, and a second helped along by controversial officiating.

This one was marred by two send-offs — one for each in the first half on Forge captain Kyle Bekker’s dangerous kick and Cavalry defender David Norman Jr.’s knockdown of a foe for his second yellow card on the day.

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But it was decided on the board by two goals from Forge — a penalty kick from Woobens Pacius in the 75th minute, just six minutes after veteran David Choinière opened scoring with a well-placed shot off a rush past Cavs goalkeeper Marco Carducci.

The Cavs tried to rally from the two-goal hole but managed only one — that from Myer Bevan low past Forge goalie Triston Henry in the 78th minute — despite strong pressure right up until the final whistle.

“I thought we had a right go at ’em,” said Wheeldon Jr. “I thought we had an absolute right go at ’em at the end. The only wish I have for the lads is that we started the half like that.”

Indeed, the offence just wasn’t there for the Cavs until late.

They allowed Forge to enjoy its typical possession in the first half, with plans of being patient before working the counter-attack like they did to score first in the 1-1 first leg of the semi eight days earlier at ATCO Field in Calgary.

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But this first half was fraught only with Forge pressure, courtesy of brilliance from Bekker, Choinière, Rezart Rama, Tristan Borges and Aboubacar Sissoko — most of it applied down the right side against Cavalry.

That press spurred on quality chances, especially two for the usually-clutch Bekker, who blistered one wide of the net and knocked another right into the Cavalry defence that Daan Klomp cleared out of harm’s way.

“We couldn’t get it up to Joe Mason and Ali Musse and make an attack and build an attack from there,” said Wheeldon Jr. “That’s something we could’ve been better on.”

Then came the cards.

First, Bekker was handed a red one by referee Yusri Rudolf for getting his foot up high on Cavs midfielder Elijah Adekugbe. The dangerous kick — rather unintentional but still considered these days to be a straight red — meant the hosts went down to 10 men in the 42nd minute.

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But that advantage lasted only a few minutes for Cavalry.

Right before intermission, Norman Jr. got over-aggressive on defence, which culminated in the Cavs defender knocking down Alessandro Hojabrpour to draw his second yellow card of the first half. It was a tough one for Cavalry to swallow, given Rudolf should’ve called a penalty when Cavs midfielder Joe Di Chiara took a high boot from Choinière just seconds before that. But the game was allowed to play on, and the referee was given a way to even up the game. Hojabrpour ran into a stationary Norman Jr. and sold it for Rudolf to call.

“Poor Davey Norman now has been sent off twice by the same official,” said Wheeldon Jr., recalling a regular-season red card drawn by his defender for his peaceful part in a melee with Pacific FC. “That’s twice … and look at (those fouls). Sickening.

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“It seems to be there’s no easy games in here. Seems to be as soon as we get something, it’s ‘oh, we better balance out the scales.’”

At 10-v-10 for the second half, the fireworks of the first faded with the teams set out to decide a winner.

That’s when clutch Forge veteran Choinière broke open the scoreless game, running between Cavs defenders onto a beautiful ball fed upfield by Hojabrpour and then beating Carducci with a perfect strike into the wide side of the net.

Before the Cavs could gather themselves, the hosts struck again — this time on the Pacius penalty kick, taking advantage of Tristan Borges getting hauled down in the box after turning defender Klomp inside-out with a slick move. The 75th-minute freebee saw Pacius kick it beyond the outstretched arms of Carducci, who guessed right by diving to his right on the shot.

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At 2-0, however, the Cavs didn’t roll over.

Instead they rebounded quickly with pressure that immediately paid dividends when Jose Escalante took a ball low in the Forge zone, danced his way along the end-line and laid a pass out front for Bevan to ease in from 12 yards out. It brought renewed life to Cavalry, who got a boost from its substitutes Bevan, Charlie Trafford — who started the scoring play by dropping it down for Escalante — and others.

Despite continued pressure, however, the two-goal deficit proved too much to overcome.

And with it, Forge is off to a fourth consecutive CPL final, searching for a third title against regular-season champ Atlético Ottawa. Earlier Sunday, Ottawa drew 1-1 with Pacific FC in the nation’s capital, securing a spot in the single-game championship with 3-1 total-goal semifinal.

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“We needed to be a bit more progressive with the ball,” added Wheeldon Jr. “We were looking at making changes before the penalty, about bringing on Roberto Alarcón, bringing on Charlie Trafford, bringing on Mikael Cantave and bringing on Myer Bevan — and (the penalty) happened so quickly. So if there’s anything I could reflect on, it’s maybe I should’ve made those decisions a little bit earlier. I love the way we played for the last 20 minutes.

“I wish we’d have come out like that in the second half.”


The Cavs’ Starting XI was: Carducci; defenders Daan Klomp, Mason Trafford, David Norman Jr. and Karifa Yao; midfielders Elijah Adekugbe, Joe Di Chiara, Elliot Simmons and Jose Escalante; and forwards Ali Musse and Joe Mason … The club’s subs were: goalie Julian Roloff; defender Roberto Alarcón; midfielders Ben Fisk, Charlie Trafford and Sergio Camargo; and forwards Myer Bevan and Mikael Cantave … The scratches were: goalie Mitchell Barrett; defenders Tom Field (knee), Bradley Vliet and Michael Harms; midfielder Nikolas Myroniuk and Skyler Rogers; and forwards Fraser Aird (ACL), Anthony Novak (ACL), Goteh Ntignee, Jean-Aniel Assi and Gareth Smith-Doyle.

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