Ibrahimović finishes off an amazing second half that won’t soon be forgotten by LA Galaxy fans.
Carson, CA — Hollywood endings aren’t written this way. They couldn’t. The outlandish finish of this game would be deemed unrealistic, absurd, and impossible by big-wig studio execs.
But the game was all of those things – and especially exciting – as the LA Galaxy came back from being down 3-0 early in the second half to win 4-3 on Saturday afternoon at a sold-out StubHub Center over in-city rivals Los Angeles Football Club.
And the figure at the center of both the game-tying goal and the game-winning goal was none other than Zlatan Ibrahimović. A man who just arrived from Manchester United on Thursday night to fanfare and optimism.
And through the first half, the lack of possession, ability to control play, and defensive bite continuously burned the home club.
LAFC’s Carlos Vela was the first to get on the board when he scored from outside the box in the fifth minute. His curling left-footed shot easily cleared Galaxy captain Ashley Cole and tucked into the upper left corner to beat ‘keeper David Bingham. The goal gave the visitors, from just 12-miles north, the opening lead.
And it would be Vela again in the 26-minute scoring on another outstanding effort where he somehow avoided seven Galaxy players in the box to bounce it off the underside of the bar. His footwork embarrassing the Galaxy defense and taking the visitors further ahead.
The halftime score would be extended after another goal. Marco Ureña beat Galaxy defender Jorgen Skjelvik and crossed a hopeful ball on the ground toward a wide-open Vela. But the ball would never get there as Galaxy defender Daniel Steres intercepted the pass but it bounced off his right foot and into his own net.
LAFC was leading 3-0 in the 48-minute. They were dominating the attacking chances and they were simply outplaying the Galaxy up the field. There seemed to be no answer for the smooth ball movement and the constant forays into the attacking zone.
The Galaxy’s attacking midfielder, Emmanuel Boateng was struggling to create chances. He’d get the ball but couldn’t pass. He’d get in position to cross the ball, but they couldn’t find the target. He was struggling to stay involved but the Galaxy had no one else to spearhead the attacks.
Servando Carrasco was in a similar situation. He was poor with possession on the night and was constantly beaten in defensive situations.
So 61-minutes in, with Baggio Husidic ready to replace Carrasco, he was able to intercept a poor pass from LAFC’s Benny Feilhaber got caught in possession about 35 yards from goal. Carrasco was able to fire a pass to the Galaxy’s Sebastian Lletget who fire it one-time from steps inside the box. The goal, Lletget’s first of the year for the club, closed the gap between the two sides.
10 minutes later, Ibrahimović, hearing chants of “We want Zlatan,” would replace Lletget for his first minutes as a Galaxy player.
And the impact was almost immediate.
Galaxy midfielder Chris Pontius was next to find an opening. With all LAFC’s eyes on the 6-foot-5 Ibrahimović, Boateng was able to find a cross from the left side of the box toward Pontius. Pontius laid out a diving header that screamed past LAFC’s Tyler Miller and into the back of the net.
The gap was just a single goal with a capacity crowd of 27,068 rocking StubHub Center.
What happened next raised the volume in the stadium to heights that haven’t been heard since Robbie Keane scored an extra-time goal in the 2014 MLS Cup.
Ibrahimović ran onto a ball about 45-yards out from the goal after a Steres header was directed up the field. Galaxy forward Ola Kamara jumped for the ball, and in doing so took his defender out of the play. The ball cleared both players and fell to Ibrahimović.
The rest will be re-lived over, and over again by Galaxy and league faithful.
With one bounce, Ibrahimović wrapped his right foot around a shot that traveled a good 10-yards horizontally as it beat an out of position Miller for his first goal as a Galaxy player and his first goal in MLS. It was a “world-class” goal from any angle. And Sigi Schmid said as much in his post-game press conference.
But the amazing Zlatan wasn’t done.
With time quickly fading away, Ibrahimović had one more gift for the fans.
Cole, who was pressed into the midfield by bringing on Dave Romney for Pontius, ran onto a ball in the final third. From just outside the extreme left side of the box, Cole’s cross found Ibrahimović streaking between two defenders and an oncoming goalkeeper. But none of them could get there in time. The header, glancing off the top of his head, nestled to the back post and crinkled the netting.
The game-winner had been scored, the crowd reached new levels and the Galaxy had come from three goals down with the help of their tall Swede.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, the first El Tráfico painted the city – and it’s surrounding areas – blue, white, and gold.
The most Hollywood of endings for the two Hollywood teams.
“Every movie has a good ending,” Ibrahimovic quipped after the game. “And a good start.”