New England Soccer Today

Drawn into Controversy

The New England Revolution fought back from a first half deficit – thanks in part to a controversial penalty kick – to take a stoppage time lead, but the New York Red Bulls scored a controversial equalizer of their own in the 97th minute to finish deadlocked, 2-2, in front of a sell-out crowd of 25,219 at Red Bull Arena.

The Revolution came out flat and a poor first half performance saw them fall behind on Fabian Espindola’s 14th minute goal after a giveaway from Scott Caldwell. But the visitors came back late in the second half, getting an equalizer from Lee Nguyen on a penalty kick in the 85th minute after referee Fotis Bazakos whistled for a hand ball on Jamison Olave that actually appeared to hit off his shoulder.

Bazakos would eject Andy Dorman a few minutes later, leaving New England down a man, but Diego Fagundez still put the short-handed Revolution ahead in the 91st minute. That was far from the end of Bazakos’ influence on the match, as the referee let several challenges go unpunished, including a strong penalty shout for Dimitry Imbongo, before allowing the game to go into the seventh minute of the four minutes of stoppage time originally called for.

New York would equalize in the 97th minute off a free kick. With the Revolution already down a man, the team was further reduced when Bazakos ordered Andrew Farrell – who had been injured in a collision with Matt Reis, caused by a push from Thierry Henry that went uncalled – off the field , likely for bleeding from the earlier injury, though none was easily visible. The Red Bulls brought goalkeeper Luis Robles into the box, giving them a huge numerical advantage. Reis weakly punched away the initial service, but the ball went right to Tim Cahill who headed it past the out-of-position ‘keeper to make it 2-2.

The draw leaves the Revolution (11-11-9, 42 points) in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, three points behind the Philadelphia Union for the fifth and final playoff spot. New York (15-9-8, 53 points) remains in first in the East.

Head coach Jay Heaps made just one change to the line-up that drew 1-1 with the Houston Dynamo at Gillette Stadium last weekend, starting Juan Agudelo over Dimitry Imbongo. Agudelo, who came into the league with the Red Bulls through their academy system, returned to the starting eleven from a knee injury to make his first appearance against his former club.

New York asserted their dominance early and Thierry Henry threatened in just the 2nd minute, when he getting behind Chris Tierney to get on the end of a cross from Jonathan Steele from the left flank. Henry attempted to hit a header over goalkeeper Matt Reis, but his effort landed in the top netting.

The Red Bulls took the lead through Espindola in the 14th minute when the Argentine striker picked off a pass from rookie midfielder Scott Caldwell in the Revolution’s defensive third. Espindola drove across the top of the box before slotting a low shot from just outside the 18-yard box past Reis into the lower corner.

The Revolution nearly fell two behind in the 24th minute as Henry sent in a cross from the right flank to the far post. Espindola shed his defender for an unmarked header from close range, but was denied by the post.

New York was on the attack again in the 36th minute when Steele stole the ball from rookie right back Andrew Farrell. Steele dribbled to just outside the box before taking a shot, but his effort was blocked by A.J. Soares.

The home side continued to look the better team in the second half and some fantastic work by Henry created space for the veteran Frenchman to get off a dangerous shot in the 57th minute. Henry curled a shot targeted for just inside the post, but a diving save by Reis managed to tip the ball wide for a corner.

New England finally had a chance in the 61st minute on a quick counterattack after Reis made another save. Diego Fagundez broke into the left side of the box then found Lee Nguyen near the penalty spot. Nguyen sent a pass to Saer Sene, wide open in the right side of the box. Sene blasted a shot from close range, but it was poorly placed and right at goalkeeper Luis Robles, who made the save.

The Revolution desperately looked for a late equalizer and switched to a 3-5-2 formation in the 76th minute with Dimitry Imbongo coming on in the 76th minute for Soares. Honduran international Jerry Bengtson entered for Agudelo three minutes later.

Imbongo tried to get his name on the score sheet in the 81st minute with a shot from just outside the box, but Robles was well positioned to make the save.

New England received a break from referee Fotis Bazakos in the 84th minute when Jamison Olave blocked a cross in the box from the left flank. The ball appeared to glance off Olave’s shoulder, but Bazakos seemed to indicate a handball and gave the Revolution a penalty. Nguyen stepped up and sent it to Robles’ left, just inside the lower corner, knotting the score at 1-1.

Three minutes later Bazakos made another controversial call, ejecting Andy Dorman – who had subbed in for Caldwell in the 56th – for a late challenge that appeared to make little contact.

New York then caught the Revolution defense stretched two minutes later when Henry was played into the box, but Reis came up with another huge save to keep it tied.

But despite playing down a man, the Revolution put on the pressure going forward and found what looked like a game winner in the 91st minute when Fagundez stole the ball from David Carney, who struggled under pressure from Bengtson. Fagundez dribbled into the box and coolly finished past Robles for his 12th goal of the season, giving the Revolution a 2-1 lead.

Two minutes later Thierry Henry got away with a cheap shot, shoving Andrew Farrell into Reis when Reis was collecting an Eric Alexander cross that was too far for Henry to reach. Farrell appeared to take Reis’ knee to the face, causing a big gash on his face and forcing the Revolution to go down another man while he received treatment. Bazakos failed to call a foul on the play, leaving Andre Akpan with an open net to shoot at after the collision, but the substitute missed the target.

Still, down two men, the Revolution were on the attack when Nguyen played Imbongo behind the defense on a free kick. Markus Holgersson grabbed ahold of Imbongo and tried to drag him down, but Imbongo remained on his feet and Bazakos signaled a play on. Imbongo took advantage and ran in on goal and took a touch around Robles, but was taken down by a late challenge by Robles. Still, Bazakos swallowed his whistle and didn’t award the penalty.

New York would then earn a free kick in the sixth minute of the originally allotted four minutes stoppage time, when Kelyn Rowe deflected a cross on the left flank with his arm. The Red Bulls brought Robles into the box and Farrell, who had already been allowed back onto the field, was then sent back off the by Bazakos for an unknown reason, leaving New England with seven field players in the box – plus Fagundez as the lone man in the wall – to mark 10 New York players in the area.

Reis punched out the initial service, but Tim Cahill was there to head it into the empty net to knot the score at 2-2, dashing New England’s hopes of a miraculous three points.

The Revolution return to action with a trip to face the Montreal Impact on Saturday, October 12th at 2:30 p.m. in what now looks like must win for the team’s playoff hopes.


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