Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
HARRISON, N.J. — Needing a goal to rescue a point, the ball fell to a player few would have expected to pull off the move that came next.
In second-half stoppage time, Red Bulls defender Jamison Olave collected a flicked cross from teammate Johnny Steele, controlled it with the poise of a veteran forward, and fired home a stoppage-time equalizer to help the Red Bulls salvage a 2-2 draw at Red Bull Arena.
Thierry Henry also scored for the home side, and Crew forwards Federico Higuain and Dominic Oduro scored for the visitors, who came away with a point despite missing standouts Jairo Arrieta and Chad Marshall.
The Red Bulls looked destined for their first loss since early April before Olave stepped up to help extend New York’s unbeaten streak to seven matches.
“When I saw the ball up high I wanted to place it down to Fabian,” Olave said via a translator. “When the defender closed in on me, I just brought it in with my right foot, and was able to put in a good shot with my left foot. Thankfully I was able to put it in.”
The complexion of the match changed in the second half with a controversial penalty called on the Red Bulls in the 73rd minute. Justin Meram shanked a wide-open look on goal, but fell in a heap after Kosuke Kimura made contact with him after the shot. The whistle blew and penalty kick was awarded, which led to a post-game tirade from Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke about the referee’s decision.
“(Meram) miss-hits the ball, and then there’s contact,” Petke said in his post-match press conference. “That’s a guy [the referee], in my estimation, who is probably getting ready for the Memorial Day weekend, and wants to be part of the show. I could care less what the league fines me, and what they say.
“Those decisions, those type of things, cost jobs.”
The Crew needed just two minutes to score the game’s opening goal. A poor clearance from Olave fell to Crew midfielder Eddie Gaven, who found the feet of Oduro. Oduro weaved through traffic in the second minute before scoring into the far corner, taking a hard challenge from Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles in the process.
“I tried to finesse the ball a little bit which is really good, it went in the net, but the goalie got me with his knee, which really hurts,” Oduro said.
Oduro was forced off in the eighth minute, taking the Crew’s best strike option out of the game. Slowly the Red Bulls worked their way back into the match, and in the 31st minute, Tim Cahill sent a curling ball from midfield towards Henry, who chipped the ball beautifully over Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum for New York’s first goal.
Higuain stepped up for the Crew after the penalty kick was called and made amends for his miss in the last match between these teams, powering the penalty past Robles to make the score 2-1.
“You are going to have some calls going for you, some against you, I don’t question the referee’s decision, Crew head coach Robert Warzycha said. “I think there was contact with the ball and (the ref) has the right to call it. Too bad it was against (Petke).”
Following the goal, the Red Bulls began to push the defensive line forward, leading to more chances on goal. In the 85th minute, the Red Bulls nearly equalized, as a corner kick was flicked on towards goal past Gruenebaum, but Crew defender Kevan George cleared the ball off the line.
In the 90th minute, after constant pressure, Olave was on hand to save the day, taking a flicked cross from Johnny Steele, settling the ball, and then finishing into the far corner of the net with a left-footed blast.
“We rescued a point, and more than rescuing a point we feel like we lost two points,” Olave said. “We’re at home and we should always play to win at home. It’s a shame the way we played, however, it was a good effort at the end.”
Just seconds later, the Red Bulls could have won the match if not for a desperation slide tackle from Crew defender Tyson Wahl, stopping point blank chances from Juninho and Tim Cahill.
Petke accurately summed up his feelings on the outcome.
“I’m not blaming the refs for us not winning, I don’t think we did enough to deserve to win,” Petke said with a shake of the head.
“To give them that PK call…shocking.”