Columbus Crew SC looked to have booked their place in the Eastern Conference final with a first leg 4-1 win over NYCFC, which featured 33 shots in total and a red card from a video replay. Crew SC started tonight with the same team that achieved the penalty shootout win over Atlanta.
The first goal of the game came after only six minutes and it was from the boot of Crew SC leading goal scorer Ola Kamara. Rodney Wallace was caught in possession by Pedro Santos and his cross found Federico Higuain, whose shot was saved one-handed by Sean Johnson and the loose ball fell to the alert Kamara, who slid it home.
It should have been 2-0 on 31 minutes and it was Santos as the creator again. After cutting inside from the right midfield he unleashed a 25-yard shot that Johnson could only parry into the path of Justin Meram, who ballooned the ball over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
NYCFC had their chance to level the game on 37 minutes and it fell to their leading goal scorer David Villa. Kamara’s back pass was underhit and intercepted by Villa, who ran into the area and his right foot shot rebounded off the right post and to safety when it looked certain he would score.
The second half started in the same vein as the first with defenders giving up opportunities. This time it was Jonathan Mensah who miscued a routine clearance, which fell to Villa on the edge of the box and his quick-fire shot deflected just over the bar.
The game and the tie changed on 52 minutes and it was thanks to a video review. New York had a corner and Justin Meram went down while challenging Alexander Callens for the ball. The referee then went to a video replay, which showed an obvious thrown elbow which resulted in Callens being red carded.
Columbus soon made the extra man pay and it was Artur, who put Crew SC two up on 58 minutes. He initially won the ball in midfield and released Higuain, who centered the ball back to Artur. He then controlled and dispatched a straight shot past Johnson.
Meram then scored the third of the night and it all came from another fast Columbus breakaway. The ball found Kamara in the center of the field, who then ran towards goal and found Meram on his right. Meram’s first time shot squirmed under Johnson, who should have easily saved it.
New York City were finally coming into the game now and Columbus looked like the team playing with ten men. Villa initially had a chance after a Mensah slip, but he did well to recover and block the chance. This was only a delay to Villa’s goal that came on 78 minutes and it was Mensah at fault again. He slipped and miscuing a simple clearance and the ball ballooned into the air and Villa was on hand to swivel on the ball and beat Steffen.
Harrison Afful scored the best goal of the night to give Crew SC the commanding lead. He went on a winding run into the area, beating four defenders and coolly slotting the ball to Johnson’s right.
NYCFC now have an uphill battle to get back into this game and continue their awful playoff record far they have just scored a single goal and conceded 11 in just four playoff games.