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HAMILTON — Forge FC will play Pacific FC for a Canadian Premier League title after defeating local rivals York United FC 3-1 in Sunday's semifinal.
Hamilton's Forge is a win away from a third straight CPL title after dispatching York at Tim Hortons Field.
Pacific FC downed host Calvary FC 2-1 in Saturday's semifinal in Calgary to advance.
As the top playoff seed, Forge will host the CPL's championship game Dec. 5.
Sunday's "905 Derby" got off to a slippery start on a rainy afternoon in Hamilton with Woobens Pacius giving the hosts a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute.
Tristan Borges’ perfectly timed through ball split the York defenders and picked out Pacius, whose drilled left-footed finish off the post beat York ‘keeper Nathan Ingham.
"(Pacius) showed up, he’s been showing up and at the end of the day he’s a striker and that’s his most important attribute to have,” Borges said.
"As a midfielder, I’m proud to see his movement right as I look up, I saw the run that he made and I wanted to give him the opportunity to try to score, help the team out and that’s exactly what he did.
"As an individual, he’s stepped up to the plate multiple times this year and I’m sure if his name is called again in the future, he’s going to do the same thing."
The Nine Stripes countered in the 38th minute with Michael Petrasso drawing the visitors level at 1-1.
Daniel Krutzen’s headed clearance from a York cross left Triston Henry in no man’s land, which gave Petrasso the room to chip the Forge ‘keeper from top of the box.
Forge had 54 per cent possession while firing more than triple as many shots (14) as York did (4) in the first half. Hamilton wasn't able to capitalize on that dominant display to extend or preserve their lead before halftime.
Ijah Halley came on in the 56th minute of the game for Petrasso, who held his hamstring as he limped off the field.
“We tried to stay in the game,” York United FC head coach Jimmy Brennan said. “Michael coming off with being injured changed things for us, so we expected to add a bit more pace down the flanks with Ijah.
"Overall, I thought it was a decent match but they just had a little bit more quality than what we did on the night."
York's second substitution in the 64th minute swapped Lowell Wright in for Julian Ulbricht.
Just two minutes later, Forge led 2-1.
Despite being the more dominant side in the opening 20 minutes of the second half, a lapse in defensive concentration from York United afforded Omar Browne enough time to find Navarro in the penalty box.
Navarro's shot flew past the fingertips of Ingham and into the back of the net.
"He’s been excellent. It's like sometimes he’s a guy for special missions,” Forge FC head coach Bobby Smyrniotis said.
"Navarro’s performance was absolutely brilliant right from the beginning and especially in the second half.
“He just picked it up and he was excellent in all the zones we wanted him to be. He scored that second goal that was very crucial for us and he got the header leading to the third goal.”
Hamilton extended its lead in the 73rd minute via an own goal from York’s Noah Verhoeven.
Forge captain Kyle Bekker’s corner kick met the head of Navarro, whose deflected effort struck Verhoeven and found the back of the net to give Forge a fourth set-piece goal against York in their last two meetings.
Smyrniotis made his first substitutions for the home team in the 76th and 82nd minute as Maxim Tissot and Chris Nanco replaced Borges and Pacius respectively.
Forge capped a well-rounded performance with their third and final substitution in the 92nd minute when Omar Browne made way for Klaidi Cela.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 21, 2021.
Marko Miokovic, The Canadian Press