Crew offense fails to appear in sloppy and physical game.
In what turned out to be a facade, the home team came out and looked dangerous early, creating a couple of half chances, both created by the rampaging runs of Justin Meram. Eddie Gaven met one of his low crosses and after being given sufficient time to line himself up, he fired at goal, but missed the target.
Chicago's response was created by Baggio Hisidic, who was given a free kick in prime real estate after a foul. The midfielder drove a powerful free kick towards the goal, and was not far off, considering the driving winds coming from north to south.
In truth, neither team looked much in the way of scoring in the first half, as most of the time was spent in the middle third due to the inability of both teams to hold possession. This gave rise to the 14 first half fouls called by referee Hilario Graejda. He did bring out his yellow card once in the first half, booking Emmanuel Ekpo close to halftime for a clumsy foul.
Young Justin Meram has shown persistence and determination after losing possession, but that may have cost him when he was dispossessed by Domonic Oduro, as the young forward slid in and caught nothing but man. An easy yellow for the referee, and that in combination with a slight knock the rookie may have picked up forced the Crew into an early sub, as Meram was taken off and replaced with Dejan Rusmir.
The first save of the match was made by the home team in minute 52 as William Hesmer was alert to the danger when Gaston Pueari fired towards the Crew number one, a nondescript save that resulted in a Fire corner which ended in nothing. Chicago and Columbus have a long history of rivalry, and the physicality was up a notch, with a yellow for Patrick Nyarko for a late high boot on Sebastian Miranda.
The Chilean fullback dusted himself off and almost gave the Crew the lead minutes later, but Jeff Cunningham could not get a touch on Miranda's driven cross into the box. It would have been a tough finish for the veteran striker, who was performing below par on this day.
Gaston Pueari was a threat all match, even as most of his teammates looked a shade off. It took a Julius James deflection to keep the clean sheet intact as the striker was looking to pounce on a Patrick Nyarko cut back just after the hour.
The game stalled after that small outburst of offense and looked destined to be an unremarkable 0-0 draw until just into stoppage time when late sub Christian Nazarit found himself in the right place at the right time after fellow sub Orr Barouch beat two Crew defenders in the box.
The striker got a shot off, with the ball going between the legs of Chad Marshall. The shot was dealt with by Hesmer, but the rebound fell right to Nazarit who banged in the winner right in front of the traveling Fire supporters. It was a dagger to the heart of Crew fans, but the joy felt by the large section of visiting Chicago fans was clear to see. Two months of endless draws came to a sudden but very fulfilling end.
Follow Goal.com on to get the latest soccer news directly. Check out Goal.com's page; be part of the best soccer fan community in the world!