It’s been a crazy two days for football. Liverpool 4, Barcelona 0 ! Ajax 2, Tottenham 3 !! New York Red Bulls 1, Montreal Impact 2 !!!
I’m not exalting the Bleu/Blanc/Noir into such hallowed company, but after what’s gone on over the past 50-odd hours, their result carries almost as much incredulity as the other two .... if not as much drama. For the first time in MLS history, the Impact has gone and played a regular-season match at Red Bull Arena, and managed to avoid defeat!
That’s at the tenth attempt. Nine straight losses, all brought to an abrupt end last night in New Jersey. It’s also the first time in almost 2 years since they’ve overturned a HT deficit to win (H v Orlando City, 2-1 in August 2017), and first on the road for 3 (v Chicago, 2-1 in April 2016).
Again, the Impact have bounced straight back following a poor showing, a trend that’s becoming a feature of this group in 2019. You want to go see the Impact perform? Wait until they have a bad one, then go to the next! It seems guaranteed.
It was an evening that started brightly for Red Bulls centre-back, Aaron Long, but ended in despair. The defender gave Diallo the slip to meet Rzatkowski’s delicious, curling free-kick on 36 and plant a firm header past Bush, but his joy was to be overturned in the second period. Firstly his clear, yet unnecessary, push on Jackson-Hamel resulted in the penalty award which would win the game for Montreal, then towards the end he left the action, discomforted by hamstring trouble.
Montreal will not complain though. This was the dogged, determined performance required going to a place which for them, has been synonymous with failure. There was character, grit and tenacity. And they played a little more than usual on the front foot, a little higher up the pitch, and with two strikers up the middle.
Both had significant parts to play, but only after Zakaria Diallo redeemed himself by meeting Urruti’s fine cross on 64. This time it was the French defender’s turn to give his marker the slip, young debutant, Tom Barlow, before glancing his header wide of Robles’ despairing grasp.
Then in the 79th minute, Montreal were afforded the break that would win them the game. Jackson-Hamel chased Shome’s through ball into the box. It would have been enough for Long to marshal the Impact striker away from goal, but what the Red Bulls defender produced was a rash challenge pushing the Impact man to the ground.
Mr Chilowicz, the ref, had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. It was a clear penalty, and Urruti, no longer ‘Scoreless in Saputo’, stepped up confidently and coolly to send Robles the wrong way from 12 yards.
But this was not a hollow or fortunate victory. True, Red Bulls looked under the weather, however after a rocky start to 2019, they had shown signs of improvement, not least in defeating LA Galaxy at the weekend. Long’s goal put them on the road to their third win in succession, but they lost direction, and Impact didn’t need to be asked twice.
The visitors were superior in the second-half, and looked more competent than ever in trying to chase a game after going behind, not their greatest strength as everyone knows, but they came up trumps last night.
Only after Urruti had put them ahead did they suffer a stressful time, but that’s exactly to be expected when an opponent goes 1-2 behind at home with ten mins left to play. But apart from one anxious moment when Bush should have dealt better with a cross, the resultant shot was headed over by Camacho, Montreal saw out the proceedings untroubled.
This will have been pleasing for Remi Garde and his coaching team who were able to allocate more minutes to Shome, Jackson-Hamel and the impressive Brault-Guillard. He also introduced Browne from the start.
I’m very proud of the performance of all my players,” said Impact head coach Rémi Garde, “We played against a good team that’s used to winning its games here. I’m proud of their investment on the pitch. Tactically, I think they answered well to what we had prepared, and on short notice. I think we caused them a lot of problems tonight.”
A very satisfying evening all round for the Impact, considering neither designated player was available, apart from a five minute cameo towards the end for Saphir Taider.
Montreal re-joins DC United and Philadelphia at the top of the Eastern standings on 20 points, with a game more played. Red Bulls continue to struggle below the red line in 10th, with 11 points from their 10 games.
NYRB - Robles - Lade, Parker, Long, Amro Tarek (Kaku, 68), Lawrence - Muyl (Fernandez, 68), Rzatkowski, Davis, Royer - Barlow (Etienne, 74)
IMFC - Bush - Brault-Guillard, Diallo, Camacho, Raitala, Lovitz - Browne (Azira, 74), Piette, Shome - Urruti, Jackson-Hamel (Taider, 85)
Referee - Alex Chilowicz
Asst Refs: Brain Dunn, Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho
VAR: Alejandro Mariscal