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PK goal gives PFC victory over HFX in CPL opener

PFC blanked HFX before 4,367 fans at Starlight Stadium
Pacific FC’s Ayman Sellouf scores the winner from the penalty spot. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST


As soon as he felt the nudge from Pacific FC forward Reon Moore, HFX Wanderers captain Andre Rampersad knew it was game on Saturday.

“He [Moore] bumped me right after the opening whistle, and I thought: ‘OK, we’re going to go after it today.’ ”

Moore and Rampersad were teammates last month on Trinidad and Tobago in its 2-0 loss to Canada in the CONCACAF play-in game to see which national side would meet defending World Cup champion Argentina in the opening game of Copa America this summer.

“We are brothers on Trinidad and Tobago,” said Rampersad.

But not in club play.“Yes, it’s football,” said Rampersad, when asked if there was much chirping between Moore, himself and fellow Trinidad and Tobago-capped Halifax player Ryan Telfer.

Moore had the last word, however, as he provided the key moment of the Canadian Premier League opener for both teams when he broke into the box at 35 minutes to chase a lead pass and was clipped on the back heel by an HFX defender and went down. Dutch import Ayman Sellouf buried the ensuing penalty kick with a laser into the left side of the net for the winning goal as PFC blanked HFX 1-0 before 4,367 fans at Starlight Stadium.

Other than that, HFX had pretty much bottled up Moore, a splashy off-season signing, and the rest of PFC’s vaunted attack.

“Counter-attack goals always hurt,” said Rampersad.

Moore needed just one opportunity to make a difference.

“It was his first game with us and it was difficult but we had a moment with Reon, with a great run to get behind the defence, which led to the penalty kick,” said PFC head coach James Merriman.

HFX had the better of the play for the most part with 58 percent possession as PFC goalkeeper Emil Gazdov earned his clean sheet with some astute parrying and clearing.

“We were very unlucky not to get a point. It stings. It sucks,” said HFX head coach Patrice Gheisar. “But it’s the first game of the season. We will take this hunger and passion into Thursday [against Vancouver FC]. There’s not a lot of time to sit and feel sorry about it.”

Saturday was a reprise of last year’s 1-0 playoff quarter-final win by PFC over HFX in Halifax.

“They [PFC] have a great team and we have a lot of familiarity with them,” said Gheisar. “For me, this is what Canadian soccer is about. It’s a great day and a beautiful venue [Starlight]. You feel like you’re growing the game in Canada and part of something bigger.”

PFC ’keeper and player of the game Gazdov’s growing confidence was evident Saturday following a sometimes uncertain 2023 CPL season for PFC as a rookie pro starter.

“Last year was last year with a lot of things to learn. It was a long off-season and I am happy with this start today,” said the emerging six-foot-three, 20-year-old B.C. product.

It wasn’t a seamless start but PFC will be happy to bank the early three points.

“We recorded a clean sheet. Everyone on the back connected,” said Merriman.

But the forwards did not connect as much. “It’s going to take time,” said Merriman.

“We know the quality our forwards have. But it takes games played to find that chemistry.”

PFC next plays Friday at Starlight Stadium against Valour FC of Winnipeg.

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