By DAN KARELL
Many wondered how New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles would overcome his serious error seven days ago.
On Saturday afternoon, Robles answered those questions in a big way.
Robles made six saves including a penalty kick stop on Federico Higuain to lead the New York Red Bulls to a 1-0 victory over the Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium. Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill scored the lone goal of the match in the 80th minute, his third in two games to lead his side to their third win in a row.
I’m very, very happy about that,” Red Bulls manager Mike Petke said following the match. “We played against a good team today, the Crew. While it probably wasn’t the most beautiful game to watch at home, I could care less, it’s three points.”
Petke choose to place Juninho back in the starting lineup after serving his two-match suspension, though he never really found his feet in the match. The Crew midfield of former Red Bulls/Metrostars players caused problems all match, and it looked like by the 70th minute, the momentum would finally swing towards the hosts.
Tireless Crew right back Josh Williams weaved his way through the Red Bulls defense around the box, feeding midfielder and former Metro Eddie Gaven into the box. Gaven, in true veteran form, flicked the ball up into the air and was met with a sliding tackle from Red Bulls defender Brandon Barklage, earning his side a crucial penalty kick.
“I feel like we definitely put them under pressure, which was something we were trying to do going into the game,” Gaven told TheCrew.com after the match. “We didn’t give them too much time or space to play.”
The Argentine forward Higuain stepped up to the spot, but his shot was seen all the way by Robles, who dove to his right and punched away in the 72nd minute. Seconds later on a free kick, Higuain nearly scored again, but somehow the 28-year-old goalkeeper got a hand to a low strike on goal, and deflected it up over the bar.
“It was a great save, a great save,” said Cahill, “and in the end to nick the win like we did, overall it was fantastic.”
Added Crew manager Robert Warzycha to TheCrew.com: “The penalty changed everything. If we scored that penalty, we would probably win the game.”
Against the run of play, halftime substitute Lloyd Sam made his first foray down the right wing for the Red Bulls since coming on. Sam sent in a floated cross to the middle in the 80th minute, which Cahill got a slight touch on to bring it to teammate Jonny Steele. Steele’s strike on goal was saved by Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, but the rebound went back into the middle of the box, where Cahill sent a floated header over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
“I saw the ‘keeper off the line, and just lobbed it over him with an instinctive header,” Cahill commented. “It’s good rewards for a hard days work.”
Cahill earned a yellow card for removing his shirt during his wild celebration, but the Australian hunkered down in the final ten minutes of the match to help defend the lead. Higuain and Arrieta each had chances to score, as did Crew centerback Glauber, but the chance was stopped by the outstretched arms of Robles, who earned his third clean sheet of the season.
“He was huge for us, even aside from the penalty kick stop, which was unbelievable,” Petke said about Robles. “He was commanding in the box, he controlled the tempo of the game at times which is huge for a goalkeeper, and I’m very happy with his performance.”
The Crew were credited with 15 attempts on goal and a majority of the possession, but were unable to translate the opportunities they had into goals.
“The defense has been incredible,” Robles said about the play of Barklage, Jamison Olave, Markus Holgersson, and Roy Miller. “As far as the effort that they’ve given for 90 minutes, the way they’ve worked for each other, the way they’ve covered for each other, and if that’s something that we can continue to produce for the rest of the season, then we’re gonna be dangerous.”
Here are the match highlights: