After coming off a 2-2 draw against the Montreal Impact last week, it was certain that the Chicago Fire needed the full three points against Columbus Crew SC on Saturday. Meanwhile, the visitors came into this match riding a three-game win streak. Looking to extend the streak, they would need to grab three points on the road against the Men In Red.
Nemanja Nikolic, Chicago Fire Handle Columbus Crew SC With Win
Chicago Fire Own First Half Possession
Chicago owned the first half possession stats, just as they did home-field. A high press tactic was given by head coach Veljko Paunovic and it worked wonders. The Fire enjoyed 53 percent possession in the first half.
Not only did they have the ball for most of the opening 45, Chicago also opened the scoring in the 22nd minute. A great through ball by captain Dax McCarty found Nemanja Nikolic, who was able to slot it home past Crew SC keeper Zack Steffen to give the home team a 1-0 lead.
Chicago generated chance after chance, applying pressure to the Crew SC backline.
David Accam had a chance to double the lead in the 29th minute, but his attempt was tipped over the crossbar by Steffen.
That’s not to say that Columbus had chances as well. In the 40th minute, a long ball clicked off the heel of Justin Meram fell nicely to Ola Kamara. Kamara turned and found Ethan Finlay at the top of the box. Finlay took a shot but sailed over the bar.
Crew SC Fire Back In Second Half
Apparently the message to the Black and Gold in the locker room worked. Columbus wasn’t down and out yet. A fresh 45 minutes to make something happen was in their sights. As stated before, the Fire did really well in the first half. Now it was Columbus’ turn.
Hector Jimenez generated a chance in the 52nd minute, sending a ball over top to find Finlay. The pass was a little too hard and was easy enough for Jorge Bava to leave home and clean up the danger.
Desperate to find the back of the net, Columbus weren’t giving up hope.
Artur took a great shot on goal in the 66th minute but that too went sailing over the bar. Just three minutes later, Meram delivered a good cross into the Chicago penalty area that found the head of the rookie center back Alex Crognale. His header was not on frame either.
Niko Hansen also had two opportunities of his own back-to-back, but Bava was there to stop them both to keep his team in the lead.
Zack Steffen came up huge for Crew SC late in the half after earning what had to be the save of the game off of a Bastian Schweinsteiger free kick just outside of the penalty area.
Chicago Fire would hold on to beat their rivals 1-0 and grab three huge points at home. It marks their first win in the rivalry since June 22, 2013 and their first at Toyota Park since April 20 of that year.
Chicago Fire is back at home next week to take on the New England Revolution. Columbus Crew SC are also home next week as they host Toronto FC in the first leg of the Trillium Cup.