By DAN KARELL
HARRISON, NJ — Just days after the Major League Soccer salaries were released, Thierry Henry showed exactly why he is the highest paid player in the league.
Henry scored twice, the second goal coming off an audacious 88th minute bicycle kick, leading the New York Red Bulls to a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Impact on Wednesday night at Red Bull Arena. Marco Di Vaio scored the lone goal for the visitors as they drop just their second match of the year.
“It just takes a moment of magic from him, and he had two tonight,” Red Bulls manager Mike Petke said after the match. “That’s why he’s on the field.”
The Red Bulls came out attacking early in the match, with the combination play of midfielder Jonny Steele to Henry working well. The first chance between the two coming in the 19th minute, as Steele played a ball between two Impact defenders onto Henry’s left foot, but Henry’s weaker foot shot flew just wide of the far post.
Petke was forced to make an early change when forward Peguy Luyindula went down in the 25th minute with a hamstring injury. Fabian Espindola came on, and after a few minutes to get into the rhythm of the match, the Red Bulls were back on the attack.
“Espindola wasn’t mentally thinking about coming on early,” Petke said. “He does all the work that you need somebody to do. Sometimes I think it’s overworking but that’s a compliment to how hard he works.”
After some relentless pressure the Red Bulls finally got on the board in first-half stoppage time. Henry started the sequence, collecting a pass in the middle of the park before feeding midfielder Eric Alexander on the right. Alexander cut in and with a left footed shot hit the underside of the crossbar. Espindola arrived on the scene and dished to Henry in the middle of the box who slammed a low shot home for the lead.
The second half began just the way the first ended, with two point-blank chances for the hosts, though Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins was able to get a fist to one and another was headed away by defender Matteo Ferrari.
Impact manager Marco Schällibaum brought on Di Vaio to try and turn things in his sides favor, but defenders Jamison Olave and Markus Holgersson kept their cool and didn’t allow the Italian to find many chances on goal.
Henry, who scored his first just before halftime, seemed to put the game away two minutes from time when he took a flick from Holgersson on a corner kick and buried an impressive bicycle kick past a helpless Perkins into the top corner.
“I just stayed on the second post, hoping that someone was going to touch it,” Henry said afterwards. “It worked out. I knew we had to score the second goal, because we didn’t look like we could keep a one goal advantage.”
The Impact made matters interesting late, as Marco Di Vaio pounced on a mistake by Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles and finished to cut the deficit in half. Just seconds later, Di Vaio nearly scored again, hitting both posts on a left-footed volley that was ruled back for offside.
“We had our chances, two or three, the only thing is we didn’t do it,” Schällibaum said after the game. “If we would’ve scored the first goal it would have been a different game.
Said Di Vaio: “My goal at the end was too late.”
The visitors eventually ran out of time, as the referee ended proceedings and gave the Red Bulls win number six on the season and their fourth on the trot. Despite the win, Cahill said that he believes the team can continue their success as long as they stay humble and grounded.
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves because we’re only doing what we’re supposed to do,” Cahill said. “I suppose it’s our job to keep levelheaded and grounded. Sure we’ve won four in a row but in all honesty I expect this from our team.”
Here are the match highlights: