FOOTHILLS COUNTY, Alta. — The Battle of Alberta continues to be a decidedly one-sided affair.
First-place Cavalry FC (7-2-2) improved to 14 games all-time without a loss versus FC Edmonton after earning a 3-1 triumph In the Al-Classico featuring teams at opposite ends of the table in the Canadian Premier League on June 26, Pride Match at Spruce Meadows ATCO Field.
“It's consistency, I think it’s one of those things where we enjoy these battles, the Al-Classico,” said Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. “The fact that the fans have put a trophy on it (the Wildrose Cup) is important and I think we just got the edge on them and kept going and it becomes psychological.
“I'd like to keep that run going for as long as I’m at the helm.”
Both teams looked poised to break the deadlock inside six minutes with Cavs midfielder Charlie Trafford’s curling strike from the edge of the box well-saved by Edmonton’s Andreas Vaikla and Gabriel Bitar coming close for the visitors with a shot from distance slamming the crossbar.
Sergio Camargo was close in the 23rd minute on a clearcut breakaway with Vaikla coming out to challenge and using his right foot for a terrific save to deny the opener.
Three minutes later the Cavs found the back of the net with central midfielder Elijah Adekugbe playing provider and Aribim People notching his fourth goal in as many games with his shot blocked and the ball then ricocheting off the striker into the goal on a friendly bounce for the in-form forward.
“A goal is a goal is a goal,” Pepple said with a laugh. “I don’t know if it was off my knee, off my foot, I don’t care as long as it goes in the net.”
It was two goals in front with the blink of an eye when Jose Escalante’s cross took a fortuitous bounce off FC Edmonton’s defence into scrambling back into play in the 29th minute.
The visitors struck in the final minute of the first half to trim the deficit in half as Bitar found space at the edge of the box, spun around and fired a powerful strike into the far corner out of the reach of Cavs’ goalkeeper Marco Carducci.
“We had some really good moments in the first half and then we just let them in at the wrong time and it was a bit of a reminder at halftime,” Wheeldon Jr. added. “With a two-goal cushion we didn’t feel they were going to score two, but credit to Edmonton, they didn’t stop.”
Pepple, the CPL player of the week earlier in the month, restored the two-goal advantage from the spot just two minutes after the restart.
After Camargo was brought down in the box and a penalty kick was awarded, Pepple made no mistake sending Vaikla the wrong direction with a calm strike to the right corner of the goal.
“I asked for it (the kick) and we have a great group, everyone knows when someone’s feeling confident they’re able to take it,” Pepple said. “Thankfully, I was able to score. Thanks to those guys, they didn’t have to give it up, but it just shows the togetherness of our group where people are willing to give up a potential goal for someone else.”
The Eddies pressed late with Carducci coming up clutch to turn aside substitutes Cj Smith and Kai Coore with consecutive opportunities.
The last line of defence saved his best for last with an outrageous diving effort to turn aside a clear cut chance in front of goal form Tboy Fayia in the 83rd minute.
“We were pretty frustrated today,” said FC Edmonton head coach Alan Koch. “Because we planned accordingly and some of the things that we had hoped and expected to go a certain way didn’t go our way.
“But we had character, we had personality and we’re going to work incredibly hard for our club and for our boys every week. The reaction was positive, but it was a little bit too little, too late.”
With the win, the Cavs are now 12-2-0 in all competitions versus their provincial rivals dating back to the CPL’s inaugural season in 2019.
The victory extended the Cavs’ winning streak to five and its unbeaten run to eight. The red-clad squad is a perfect 4-0 at ATCO Field in league action in 2022.
“Right now the boys are feeling pretty confident,” Pepple said. “We know we have to win as a group, we’re missing some key players, Myer Bevan, Joe Mason, huge parts of our team, but we know that the next person is always going to step up and that just keeps us confident.
“We trust in our coach, we trust in our abilities and we take it one game at a time.”
Cavalry boast a four-point cushion on the second-place Pacific FC with two games in hand on the Vancouver Island squad.
The Cavs are back in action on June 30 on the road at Pacific FC.
The next home date at Spruce Meadows is July 14 versus the HFX Wanderers.
For more information go to cavalryfc.canpl.ca.