MONTREAL – Drogba Effect? Biello Effect? How about both?
Didier Drogba scored a controversial opening goal and Impact interim head coach Mauro Biello’s first two substitutes, Andres Romero and Patrice Bernier, combined to create the winner as the Montreal Impact defeated the Chicago Fire by a 2-1 scoreline on Wednesday night at Stade Saputo.
David Accam replied for the visitors (7-17-6, 27 pts), who were led for the first time by interim head coach Brian Bliss but were bound to remain at the bottom of the Eastern Conference no matter the result. Montreal (11-11-6, 39 pts), meanwhile, strengthen their sixth position in the East and are only one point behind rivals Toronto FC in fifth, with a game in hand.
Impact captain Bernier celebrated his birthday with a big assist for the winning goal. He slipped a perfectly weighted through ball behind the Fire backline and into the path of Romero, who hadn’t scored since June 6. But Romero made no mistake, squeezing his finish at the near post past the onrushing Jon Busch.
It was Romero’s fourth of the campaign, and quite a relief, too: he removed his shirt in celebration and got duly booked for it, ruling him out for Saturday's visit from D.C. United via yellow-card accumulation.
That, along with Laurent Ciman’s dismissal for a second bookable offense in second-half stoppage time – the team’s third sending off in as many games – were the only sour notes for Montreal. Jeff Larentowicz almost nodded in the equalizer on the free kick following Ciman's ejection, but Bush pulled off a miraculous diving save to his left.
Drogba, for his part, had warned the Fire of his intentions midway through the first half, when his header on a Dilly Duka chip from the right was well saved by Jon Busch.
He opened the scoring in a not-too-dissimilar way. Johan Venegas, marked at the top of the box, lifted the ball over David Accam’s foot to find Nigel Reo-Coker drifting to the right. Drogba wrestled Jeff Larentowicz to the ground, somehow escaping without a foul call, and nodded Reo-Coker’s cross past Busch from inside the six-yard box.
At the other hand, Gilberto had beaten the Impact’s back line twice in the first half, and he created the Fire’s bizarre goal shortly after the break.
Center back Victor Cabrera missed his header in front of Gilberto, leaving the Brazilian 1-v-1 against Evan Bush down the left. The Impact goalkeeper got a hand to Gilberto’s lob, but Gilberto followed through and sent a chip over Ciman towards the empty net. A lunging Donny Toia got a touch to deflect it onto the woodwork, but David Accam bombed forward to head the ball into an empty net at the far post.
Both teams are back in action on Saturday. The Impact end a three-game home stretch against D.C., while Chicago complete their week in Canada at BMO Field against Toronto FC.