Piatti, Impact cruise to victory in home opener

The Sportsnet Central Montreal panel discusses what the Montreal Impact need to do to get new fans, and how the Montreal Canadiens’ struggles could work to their advantage.

MONTREAL — Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush made an unorthodox save to lead his team to victory.

The Impact beat the visiting New York Red Bulls 3-0 in Montreal’s Major League Soccer home opener at Olympic Stadium on Saturday, and a key save by Bush kept Montreal alive late in the game.

With the Impact leading 1-0 in the 71st minute, New York’s Felipe hit striker Bradley Wright-Phillips with a pass on the edge of the box. Wright-Phillips was alone in front of goal following an acrobatic first touch, and it looked like the Red Bulls would equalize.

But Bush charged out of his net and stopped the left-footed strike with his neck, to the delight of the 27,545 fans in the stands.

"It was a bobbling ball and Wright-Phillips was in a good spot," said Bush, who made three saves for his first clean sheet of the season. "I tried to make myself big and stay high. It hit me in the throat, and I’m not sure how the ball got to where it did.

"That was definitely a turning point."

Immediately after the save, Montreal stormed down the pitch on the counter-attack. A pass by Donna Toia sent Ignacio Piatti in all alone on ‘keeper Luis Robles, with the Argentine scoring his league-leading third goal of the year.

"That was huge," said midfielder Harry Shipp of Bush’s save. "It literally led directly to our second goal. It’s the difference between 1-1 and 2-0."

Added coach Mauro Biello: "Big players come up in big moments, and Evan Bush came up in a big moment today for us."

Montreal (2-0-0) added its third of the game when substitute Anthony Jackson-Hamel beat Robles in the dying seconds of stoppage time.

The Impact won their last eight home games in MLS, beating New York for the first time since March 23, 2013.

The Red Bulls (0-2-0), which lost their season opener 2-0 against Toronto FC, have yet to score a goal this year.

A giveaway by the Red Bulls led to the Impact’s first of the game in the 58th minute.

Defender Gideon Baah’s clearance up the pitch was intercepted by substitute Johan Venegas, who had come into the match just seconds earlier. Venegas then fed Dominic Oduro in the box and the Impact striker made no mistake from 10 yards out.

"It cost us," said Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch of Baah’s error. "In some ways then our mentality wasn’t strong enough. That certainly was a monumental moment in the game.

"We gave away goals. That’s a recipe for losses."

The Impact beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-2 in their season opener last week, with Piatti scoring twice for Montreal.

Biello made just one change to the starting lineup that won in Vancouver, as Calum Mallace replaced Marco Donadel (sore leg) in the midfield.

The Impact were all over the reigning Supporters’ Shield champions in the game’s first 25 minutes.

The home side controlled play in midfield and stretched New York’s defence with long balls down the wing.

Montreal’s best fist-half chance came in the 19th minute of play, when midfielder Lucas Ontivero curled his left-footed shot off the upright to Robles’ left.

"The whole team was great," said Piatti. "We’re playing with confidence. I’m having fun playing soccer right now."

When the game was still scoreless, Wright-Phillips nearly gave New York the lead in the 53rd minute when his slow dribbler beat Bush but just missed the far post.

The Impact’s Didier Drogba (sore knee) was not in the lineup as he is currently training in Sacramento, Calif.

Also absent for Montreal were Andres Romero (knee), Patrice Bernier (hamstring) and Cameron Porter (hamstring).

Notes: Former Red Bull midfielder Eric Alexander reached 10,000 career minutes in MLS. … Montreal is 3-6-2 all-time versus the Red Bulls.

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