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Henry brace enough to top late Impact surge

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The Montreal Impact began its game with the New York Red Bulls tied with its opponents and a pair of other sides atop the MLS Eastern Conference standings. The Impact ended it in fourth, albeit with a number of games in hand, after dropping a 2-1 match that would have represented something more tangible than a moral victory if a few things had worked out differently.

Two of the three goals came in added time — one in the first half and another in the second — with Thierry Henry notching both the home side’s tallies while Marco Di Vaio got one (and very nearly two) back for the visitors.

Controlling the play in the early going, New York had the first chances but couldn’t find an opening in the Impact defence. Jonny Steele tried to find Henry with a cross in the 12th minute but couldn’t connect with the former Arsenal star. Henry had a more viable chance four minutes later but rolled his shot past the far post.

The Impact showed more confidence in the middle third of the opening half and had a few chances. Sanna Nyassi, who with a bit of luck could have put his side ahead, just missed connecting with a sliding Andrew Wenger in the 19th, his cross too high for the forward to redirect into the New York goal.

Taking a lateral pass from Andres Romero, the Gambian rang his shot from just outside the box off the crossbar in the 22nd and moments later found himself in close, one-on-one with goalkeeper Luis Robles after taking a pass from Felipe. Attempting to drive the ball through Robles rather than step around the k led to a predictable outcome.

As the half hour mark approached, New York reasserted control. A Hassoun Camara foul in the 41st led to a Juninho free kick from just above the semi-circle. The 37-year-old Brazilian’s shot beat Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins but also missed the goal.

Wenger put one on target but had his shot blocked by Robles as regular time ran out.

In added time New York midfielder Eric Alexander backed Impact defender Dennis Iapichino off and had his shot find the crossbar. Fabian Espindola corralled the rebound, slipped the ball to Henry at the goalmouth and the Red Bulls walked off the pitch a goal up at the halfway mark.

New York began the second half with a bang as defender Markus Holgersson headed a Juninho cross just wide of the Impact goal, but for the most part the play went the Impact’s way. Once again, the visiting players had their chances.

Justin Mapp carried the ball up the field in the 51st, covering as much latitude as he did longitude along the way, and passed off to Nyassi. Stationary when the return came to him, his shot was handled by Robles.

A promising 55th minute construction featuring one-touch transfers between Nyassi, Felipe and Romero was broken up by a sliding Alexander and the Red Bulls had their best chance of the half’s scheduled play in the 62nd when Jeb Brovsky made one of his rare excursions beyond midfield.

The Impact defender’s harmless shot permitted Henry to launch the counterattack, his long pass finding Steele. The well-travelled midfielder’s shot posed a challenge the Perkins but the Montreal ‘keeper managed to push it away.

Coach Marco Schallibaum brought Marco Di Vaio on in the 66th minute, the Italian veteran replacing Wenger up top and being caught offside a number of times as the Impact pressed for a goal that it wouldn’t get in regulation time.

New York doubled its lead, appearing to put the win on ice in the 88th minute. A Juninho corner to the far post was redirected by a Holgersson header. One bicycle kick later and Henry had his second of the night, sixth in four MLS games against Montreal, and his side had a two-nil lead.

Three minutes of added time proved to be enough time to deny their hosts a clean sheet and end things with a heart-stopping play that unfortunately for Montreal, will not qualify for MLS Goal of the Week.

Justin Mapp, hero of recent outings against Toronto and San Jose, got a through ball to Di Vaio, earning the 50th assist of his MLS career in his 200th league start on the ensuing goal as the ball found the mesh in the lower right corner.

The two tried to rerun the same play instants later but Di Vaio was declared offside.

Seconds before referee Hilario Grajeda’s whistle blew top end hostilities, the former Bologna star rattled a shot towards the goal that managed to ricochet off both uprights and back into play without striking Robles or breaking the plane behind him.

Montreal next plays on Saturday, hosting Real Salt Lake at Saputo Stadium.

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