The Montreal Impact kicked off the Eastern Conference semi-final with a victory over the Columbus Crew by a final score of 2-1. Despite an away goal conceded by Montreal, the Impact will take a one goal advantage into MAPFRE Stadium next Sunday night. After a busy week that saw Montreal beat Toronto twice before the victory over Columbus, the Impact will be looking forward to having a few days off before the second leg.
Crew Strike First:
"We started off little flat both mentally and physically and it took us a little bit of time to get going after two emotional games earlier in the week" - Evan Bush
The Impact got off to a slow start on Sunday night after playing in two high intensity matches earlier in the week against Toronto FC. The visitors opened the scoring in the 33rd-minute Frederico Higuain after an uncharacteristic mistake from designated player, Didier Drogba. The Ivorian misjudged a clearing attempt before gifting it to Higuain who made no mistake putting it past Montreal keeper, Evan Bush.
"We could have easily struggled after they scored the first goal, but we were able to lift our game and improve as the match went on" - Mauro Biello
The Crew's lead did not last long however with the Impact striking back right away. Five minutes after Columbus scored their away goal, Montreal captain Patrice Bernier equalized the match through a perfectly placed header beating Columbus keeper Steve Clark. The goal from the set-piece was an example of how far the club has come over the last couple of months, with set-piece goals during the last season and a half no more than an pipe dream. Italian Marco Donadel picked out Bernier with a perfect cross, as the Columbus defence were focused on marking Drogba.
Venegas Super Sub Hero:
"I am extremely pleased with our performance after playing three tough games in a week and we were able to find a way to win" - Mauro Biello
Since taking over at head coach, Mauro Biello has been making all the right moves and Sunday was no exception. In the 73rd-minute Biello brought on midfielder Johan Venegas to try and help spark the Montreal offence; and what a substitution it turned out to be. Four minutes after his entrance into the match Venegas stole the ball from a Columbus defender before striding in on the Crew net and giving Montreal a 2-1 advantage. The Venegas marker will give the Impact a slight advantage going into the second leg.
The Impact will have a week off now to prepare for the second leg in Columbus. The week should give Montreal a chance to refresh and retool. With Oyongo, Cabrera, and Drogba all on yellow cards, Biello will have to manage his players fitness along with the threat of suspension if these players pick up another yellow card in the return leg. The second leg will take place next Sunday evening in Columbus at 5pm EST.
Match Statistics and Quotes Courtesy of the Montreal Impact:
MTL – GK-Evan Bush; D-Donny Toia, Laurent Ciman, Victor Cabrera, Ambroise Oyongo; M-Nigel Reo-Coker (Calum Mallace 67’), Marco Donadel, Dominic Oduro (Dilly Duka 61’), Ignacio Piatti, Patrice Bernier (Johan Venegas 73'); F-Didier Drogba
Subs not used: GK-Eric Kronberg; D-Hassoun Camara, Wandrille Lefèvre; M-Kyle Bekker
CLB – GK-Steve Clark; D-Gaston Sauro, Harrison Afful, Michael Parkhurst, Waylon Francis; M-Ethan Finlay (Cedrick 67’), Federico Higuain, Justin Meram, Tony Tchani (Kevan George 82’), Will Trapp; F-Kei Kamara
Subs not used: GK-Brad Stuver; D-Chris Klute, Tyson Wahl; M-Hector Jimenez; F-Jack McInerney
CLB – Higuain 33’
MTL – Bernier (Donadel) 37’
MTL – Venegas 77’
MTL – Cabrera 45+2’
MTL – Oyongo 51’
CLB – Sauro 52’
MTL – Drogba 87’
CLB – Afful 90+3’