Controversy in KC can’t keep Impact from rising to top of the Eastern Conference By Mike Wyman Posted on June 2, 2013 1 0 628 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Alessandro Nesta PHOTO: CANADA SOCCER/BOB FRID In a match that featured the eruption of Mount Schallibaum, the expulsion of Alessandro Nesta and a controversial officiating decision that led to a Kansas City goal, the Montreal Impact did what its done since the beginning of the season. The team found a way to win, its 2-1 victory placing it atop the MLS Eastern Conference ladder. After an uneventful opening 45 minutes of play in which neither team managed a shot on target, things perked up in added time when an assistant drew the referee’s attention to Nesta’s grabbing of SKC forward Claudio Bieler’s jersey and sent Kansas City to the spot. Replays showed that the Impact defender had both feet inside the penalty area when he committed the foul. Bieler fell inside the area but both his feet were outside it. Protests by Montreal players were predictably futile. Bieler put the ball into the mesh behind Troy Perkins, registering his team-leading seventh of the season, and the teams went into their respective dressing rooms. Head coach Marco Schallibaum decided to prolong the debate in the tunnel and his frank, well-intentioned and probably multi-lingual analysis earned him the rest of the evening off, the second time in as many visits to Kansas City that he’s been invited to leave. Coming out for the second half under the supervision of assistant coaches Mauro Biello and Philippe Eullaffroy, and seemingly unaffected by the controversial call that put it a goal down, Montreal struck twice before fans had a chance to get settled in. A poor clearance of a 47th-minute Patrice Bernier free kick was chested down by Sanna Nyassi who shot from the top of the box, his roller eluding SKC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen and evening the match. Six minutes later, following a series of defensive lapses, the last a poor clearance attempt by defender, Ike Opara, Collen Warner found the ball at his feet just outside the small box. Two touches later the Denver native had his first MLS goal and the Impact was trying to protect a lead, something it’s had remarkably more success doing this season than last. It was a long 30 minutes to the final whistle. Kansas City came close to drawing level in the 66th minute on a long throw-in. The ball found Benny Feilhaber, who had subbed in only moments before, and the midfielder’s bicycle kick was punched away by Perkins, who would be called upon to make five saves in the second half. Bieler and Nesta had been rubbing up against each other all game and things boiled over in the 74th minute. When the Montreal defender was down on the pitch the Argentine forward appeared to give him a little kick to the forehead. Infuriated, Nesta rose and promptly head-butted his adversary, earning an ejection and, like his coach, quite possibly further discipline from the league. Juggling things to make up for the absent Italian, Montreal sent defender Jeb Brovsky in and withdrew midfielder, Felipe. Tired legs came into play for the Impact as the final minutes ticked away with Kansas City pressing and Montreal just barely holding the visitors off as the goalkeeper more than earned his money. Jacob Peterson’s shot towards the bottom left corner of the goal was covered by a diving Perkins in the 83rd minute. Two minutes later he stopped a header sent his way by Aurelien Collin, who had been fed by former Impact midfielder, Josh Gardner. Dennis Iapichino, looking more comfortable with every start at left back, made diving tackle to deny Kei Kamara a shot at the net in the 86th minute. Perkins resumed the hero’s mantle in added time, making a leaping grab on a Bieler shot from just outside the box as the home side kept challenging. It had one last chance to get a result in the final seconds when Bieler found an unmarked Kamara but the 6-foot-3 forward rushed his shot, sending the ball well over the top of the goal. The Impact next play the Crew on June 15 in Columbus.