By DAN KARELL
HARRISON, N.J.– Back in the friendly confines of Red Bull Arena, the New York Red Bulls looked like a completely different side from the one that played nine days ago in Colorado.
Aided by two goals in the first 16 minutes and a one-goal, two-assist performance from forward Thierry Henry, the Red Bulls defeated the slumping Montreal Impact, 4-0, on Saturday night.
The result leaves both the Impact and Red Bulls atop the Eastern Conference standings with 31 points each.
“We wanted to be the dominant side today and then to get the first goal and second goal and have (Montreal) playing catch up, it was a good feeling,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke said after the match.
The match served as the latest example of Montreal’s recent defensive collapses. A team that started the year playing solid defense, and allowing 16 goals in its first 14 matches, the Impact have now allowed 12 goals in their past four matches.
“It’s not good enough and we know that,” Impact midfielder Davy Arnaud said. “That was a really big game for us and to come out and lose 4-0 is not good. There’s not a whole lot of positives to take out of it.”
Alexander was the first to take advantage of Montreal’s defensive problems early on, running past three Impact defenders inside the box before finishing calmly with his left foot in the 10th minute. Henry added the team’s second in the 16th minute, taking a great feed from Fabian Espindola and sending a first-touch shot past Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
I don’t really remember too much,” Alexander said. “I just remember getting a final touch on the inside and I was able to slide it home.”
Fatigue from the heat and heavy humidity took hold midway through the match, and the Impact looked close to cutting the deficit just after the start of the second half. Marco Di Vaio had a goal disallowed for being offside, and seconds later, an inadvertent Red Bulls handball in the box was not called by referee.
Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill effectively put the game away in the 63rd minute, placing a diving header off an Henry corner kick past Perkins to put the hosts up 3-0. The goal is the fifth of the year for the Australian star.
“I found a bit of space and got good contact,” Cahill said. “I have to wait for opportunities, it’s not a game where I need to score goals. Overall I’m just buzzing for the boys.”
Substitute Peguy Luyindula added the icing on the cake for the Red Bulls, scoring his first goal of the season on a penalty kick in the 88th minute after Lloyd Sam was taken down in the box. When the final whistle blew, the Red Bulls earned a standing ovation from the 17,235 fans in attendance.
“I’m very happy playing with a smile on my face and so are a lot of the other lads, and I suppose it’s a good day for the Red Bulls,” Cahill said.
Montreal will look to regroup next week when they take on FC Dallas, while the Red Bulls will look to take sole possession of first place when they head up north to take on Toronto FC.
Here are the match highlights:
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