In a day with several lopsided scorelines in MLS, the New England Revolution and Columbus Crew SC surely seemed like their match was going to enter high scoring territory after a playing out the first half to a 2-2 draw.
Despite end to end action right from the start and numerous chances for both teams in the second half, neither team could find the net in the second half and Cristian Penilla’s first half stoppage time equalizer held to give New England a road point and the Revs back-to-back results on the road for the first time since the 2016 season.
The match started with the Crew holding the bulk of the possession and the Revs hitting back on the counter. New England centerback blocked a shot in the second minute leading to a counter-attack though the Columbus defense rallied to contain the 2-on-2 chance.
In the 9th minute, Andrew Farrell opened the scoring for the Crew on an own goal as he got crossed up with keeper Matt Turner inside the six yard box. Federico Higuain sent a long cross to the opposite side of the Revs penalty area where leftback Milton Valenzuela overlapped and sent the ball back into the middle. With Turner coming off his line to claim the ball, Farrell stepped in to attempt a clearance but put the ball into his own net.
The lead would not last long, as the Revs scrapped together an equalizer just five minutes later. In the 14th minute, Wilfried Zahibo recovered a ball and sprung Cristian Penilla forward. The Revs winger would find Teal Bunbury inside the area and the striker fired a tough angled shot from the corner of the six yard box past Zack Steffan off the post and in.
Eventually, the Crew started to find the front foot of the match, nearly finding a go ahead goal several times midway though the first half. Matt Turner made a stellar one-handed save on Niko Hansen in the 19th minute and then the Crew nearly found a goal at the back post later on but were unable to connect into a wide open net.
Eventually, the continued signs of weakness at the back for New England would lead to a breakdown, as Pedro Santos and Higuain combined to play Gyasi Zardes in past the Revs centerbacks to slot home the Crew’s second goal in the 43rd minute. It was a deserved goal for Columbus and what many thought would be a halftime lead.
Then a bit of magic happened.
Check that @JuanAgudelo footwork...— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 22, 2018
...and Penilla applies the finish. 2-2. #CLBvNE https://t.co/YRo3vMcyJT
Juan Agudelo pounced on a wayward chested effort and sent a juggling half volley over to Cristian Penilla whose one-time finish leveled the match in first half stoppage time.
The second half started with the Crew still dominating the play as the Revs struggled to maintain any possession or shape coming out of the locker room. Columbus was all over the Revs, racking up corner kicks, striking the crossbar early in the half. Fagundez was booked in the 60th minute for a foul deep in the Revs half at the edge of the area and the ensuing Higuain free kick routine only found the side netting.
Multiple times the Revs had to resort to a lot of emergency defending, with Farrell dispossessing Zardes after a misplay by Turner, centerback Jalil Anibaba helping clear a ball off the line and blocking several shots in the half, and Dielna stuffing a Crew counter at the top of the box.
The Revs best sequence of the second half came starting in the 67th minute with a counter, as the press paid off when Fagundez created a turnover and played in Penilla only to be denied at close range by Steffan. Two minutes later Farrell crossed in for Bunbury only to see his well placed header tipped away by Steffan at full stretch.
New England nearly stole the game in the 86th minute when Fagundez played in Penilla again, only to have his goalbound shot blocked by Crew defender Jonathan Mensah. Penilla had beaten an onrushing Steffan but the Crew defense was tracking back following a turnover to cover the play.
The final sequence of the game saw Higuain and Scott Caldwell tangle behind the play as the Crew made one more last ditch effort up field, as Crew substitute Cristian Martinez fought his way into the Revs box and nearly saw his centering pass find the net by way of Jalil Anibaba only for the Revs to be saved by the post for the second time.
The frantic match ending in a draw is perhaps a fair result, though both teams will think they had the opportunities to win it. The Revs were able to find chances on the counter but being under constant pressure for long stretches and being unable to maintain possession could have been costly for New England.
While the Crew outshot the Revs 18-9, it was New England who put more on target with a 6-4 edge in that category. Timely interventions from Anibaba who had four blocks on the night, as well as Turner’s three saves were enough on this night to secure a road point for the Revs.
The draw puts both New England and Columbus level with 11 points in the Eastern Conference standings, with the Revs holding 4th place on goal difference early in the season and also holding a game in hand.
New England’s next match will be home to Sporting Kansas City on April 28th at 730pm.