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Pacific FC controls play but records frustrating draw against HFX

Race has tightened to where six teams are battling for the five playoff berths
Pacific FC’s Manuel Aparicio slide-tackles Halifax Wanderers’ Tomas Giraldo Ortiz. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST


Soccer can be a cruel game if you don’t convert domination into goals. Pacific FC found that out Friday night at Starlight Stadium in a 1-1 Canadian Premier League draw played mostly in the HFX side of the field before 3,153 fans as the Wanderers captured a point that they will gladly take back with them across the country to Halifax.

“We created more than enough chances to win this game,” said PFC head coach James Merriman.

“We created great chances. We have to be more aggressive in turning chances into goals.”

A season in which Pacific FC topped the table for a good stretch is now at the precipice as the race has tightened to where six teams are battling for the five playoff berths.

The Tridents are in second place but only four points ahead of sixth place. PFC has five games remaining.

“There is no time left,” said Merriman.

Ayman Sellouf, PFC’s goal scorer on the night on a penalty, concurred: “It’s something we have to fix fast with our next game Wednesday [in Ottawa].”

The game swung on the last play of a first half owned by PFC. The Tridents were again self-punished, as they have been often recently, for not converting pressure into goals. Failing to finish opportunities came back to haunt when HFX was awarded a free kick from just outside the PFC box, that was converted into an against-the-grain goal at 45 minutes by Armaan Wilson that stunned the crowd.

The Tridents got it back when awarded a penalty kick at 57 minutes that was converted by Dutch-import Sellouf for his team-leading and CPL top-five seventh goal of the season.

“You have to take penalties with confidence,” said Sellouf.

“I hit it at the right pace into the right corner.”

Another penalty kick was originally awarded to PFC at 80 minutes but then rescinded when it was over-ruled (without VAR) and decided that the HFX handball had occurred just outside the Wanderers’ box.

“I don’t understand it,” said a disbelieving Merriman.

“The referee ruled it a penalty. [Backtracking on the decision] was difficult to take in the moment. It was a clear penalty. Those are big decisions.”

The match featured the third-longest distance travelled between pro teams in a domestic Premiership soccer league.

The four-game season series between the opposite-coast rivals concluded drawn with both teams winning one game and playing to two draws.

PFC leads the all-time series 7-5-6 in wins-losses-draws.

HFX was missing captain Andre Rampersad, who is away on national-team assignment with Trinidad and Tobago in the CONCACAF Nations League.

The Tridents, with five regular-season games remaining and only one left at Starlight Stadium, became road warriors with three consecutive away games beginning Wednesday night in the nation’s capital against Atletico Ottawa.

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