Steffen the hero as Columbus advance in MLS playoffs
Steffen the hero as Columbus advance in MLS playoffs
Steffen saved twice as the Crew stunned the 67,221-strong Atlanta crowd into silence to advance to an Eastern Conference semifinal against New York City FC next Tuesday.
Crew’s 3-1 win in the shootout came after an entertaining game finished 0-0 after 120 minutes of end-to-end action.
The defeat halted a fairytale first season in MLS for Atlanta, an expansion side who confounded expectations by reaching the playoffs at their first attempt.
But the Crew’s victory keeps alive their chances of delivering one last title to supporters before the club possibly relocates to Austin, Texas.
The Crew’s owners stunned fans of the franchise — one of 10 founding MLS members — after confirming earlier this month they were studying a possible move across country.
The prospect of relocation has added an emotional subplot to the Crew’s post-season campaign.
For long periods against Atlanta, Columbus looked the more threatening team, piling on the pressure in extra-time in search of a winner.
Ghana international Harrison Afful hit the bar with a left-footed strike in the 105th minute, shortly after Federico Higuain had spurned a golden opportunity with a free header saved by Brad Guzan.
In the closing minutes, Atlanta defender Michael Parkhust rescued his team with a goal-line clearance from Afful, sending the game to penalties.
Steffen saved both of Atlanta’s opening spot-kicks, including a superb diving one-handed stop from Julian Gressel, before Higuain’s cheeky “Panenka” gave Columbus the lead.
When Jeff Larentowicz’s fourth penalty for Atlanta hit the post, it was left to substitute Adam Jahn to ram home the decisive penalty.
In Thursday’s other playoff, Houston Dynamo squeezed past Sporting Kansas City 1-0 thanks to a 94th-minute goal from Alberth Elis.
Houston will now play the top-seeded Portland Timbers in the Western Conference semifinals.
India beats Pakistan by 8 wickets in Asia Cup
- India's opening batsmen dazzled the sold-out crowd with their positive intent and a flurry of strokes
- Pakistan coach Micky Arthur acknowledged that his side was outplayed in all departments of the game
DUBAI: India was rarely tested in a dominating eight-wicket win over traditional rival Pakistan in their group match of the Asia Cup Wednesday.
At Dubai International Stadium, captain Sarfraz Ahmed's decision to bat first after winning the toss backfired when a disciplined Indian bowling attack wrapped up the Pakistan innings for a meagre 162 in 43.1 overs.
India's reply was led by its rampant captain Rohit Sharma, who raced to 52 in just 39 balls and added 86 runs in 13 overs with Shikhar Dhawan for the opening stand. They achieved the target in the 29th over, losing just the two openers.
The result was inconsequential as both teams have already qualified for the round-robin Super Four stage following wins in their respective opening group matches against Hong Kong.
If India's opening bowling attack was sensational — Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah gave away just four runs and removed the two openers in the first five overs — the opening batsmen dazzled the sold-out crowd with their positive intent and a flurry of strokes.
"We were disciplined right from the start," Sharma said. "It was a great game for the bowling unit, especially since we knew it won't be easy in these conditions. We stuck to our plan and did what we had planned to do on this surface. The wickets in the first couple of overs were very important because of the quality of their batting. We didn't want to make things easy for them."
Sharma smashed six boundaries and three sixes, and was particularly severe on seamer Usman Khan in the bowler's fourth over. He hooked a bouncer for six, followed by a stylish pull off a no-ball on one leg for a four to the fine-leg boundary. He then pulled the free-hit delivery deep into the stand behind mid-wicket for another six.
Sharma departed soon after reaching his half-century, misreading the first ball from spinner Shadab Khan and getting bowled off his pads.
Dhawan, who scored 127 in India's opening win over Hong Kong, wasn't exactly a silent partner and he too played some audacious shots before cutting Faheem Ashraf straight into the hands of Babar Azam at backward point four runs short of a half century.
Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik (both unbeaten on 31) then saw the defending champions home.
Earlier, a third-wicket partnership of 80 between Azam (47) and Shoaib Malik (43) could not put Pakistan on the path to recovery.
Azam was bowled with the score on 85 after he tried to step out to left-arm spinner Kuldeep Yadav and missed the line completely, and the next four wickets could only put together 56 runs as they struggled against the flattish off-spin bowling of part-timer Kedar Jadhav.
Bumrah, coming back into the team after getting a rest against Hong Kong on Tuesday, did not give away a single run in his first two overs, and his partner Bhuvneshwar Kumar reaped the rewards as the suffocated Inam-ul Haq and Fakhar Zaman fell to ambitious shots.
Kumar later returned to remove the tailender Hasan Ali and finished with figures of 3-15 in seven overs. Jadhav also took three wickets for 23 in nine overs.
Pakistan coach Micky Arthur acknowledged that his side was outplayed in all departments of the game.
"We were below par today," he said. "What was very disappointing was that we batted outside our roles. It's not Imam's role to run down to Bhuvneshwar Kumar and try to hit him over the top. If Fakhar gets out that way, it's OK. Other batsmen needed to take responsibility. To have 158 dot balls out of 258 faced is just not good enough."
There was a bit of scare for India when all-rounder Hardik Pandya needed to be stretchered off the field after injuring his lower back while bowling the 18th over of the inning.
India made two changes to the team that won against Hong Kong, with Bumrah and Pandya coming in for Shardul Thakur and Khaleel Ahmed. Pakistan fielded an unchanged eleven following their eight-wicket win over Hong Kong on Sunday.