Ola Kamara’s game-winning volley seals victory over Veracruz

Ola Kamara CLBvVER

Columbus Crew SC defeated Mexican First Division side Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz 1-0 in an international friendly at MAPFRE Stadium on Wednesday night.

A close-range volley from Ola Kamara in the 17th minute was all that was needed for the Black & Gold to secure their first victory in an international exhibition since defeating Stoke City 2-1 back in 2012.

Nineteen of the 20 available players for the Black & Gold on Wednesday played in the match, including midfielders Marshall Hollingsworth, Ben Swanson, who are currently with Crew SC’s USL affiliate the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, as well as guest player Cristian Martinez. Goalkeeper Brad Stuver played the full 90 minutes, making five saves on 16 Veracruz shots.

With Crew SC controlling a majority of the possession early on, the “Red Sharks” were quiet offensively in the first 45. The best chance for the Liga MX side came in the 9th minute, when a header by midfielder Oscar Vera went just wide off the post.

Seconds later, the Black & Gold transitioned and were on the attack. A long ball from Gaston Sauro eventually fell to a streaking Kamara. The forward was one-on-one with Veracruz goalkeeper Edgar Hernandez, flicked a shot over the ‘keeper, but his attempt bounced off the woodwork.

Just eight minutes later, however, Kamara would not be denied. Midfielder Justin Meram slotted a through ball to Cedrick Mabwati, who delivered a low cross across the face of the Veracruz net. The ball met the foot of Kamara, who put away the game winner from close range to give Crew SC the 1-0 advantage.

After going ahead, the Black & Gold showed excellent chemistry in their pinpoint passing, resulting in a number of opportunities to add to their lead. The first came in the 36th minute when a Mohammed Saied through ball found Mabwati in the Red Sharks’ penalty area. The midfielder attempted to add a goal of his own to the stat sheet, but his shot was pushed away by Hernandez.

The next chance for Crew SC to add to its advantage came just before halftime, when midfielder Hector Jimenez curled a cross into the Veracruz penalty area. The ball was strongly headed towards goal by Kamara, but the striker saw his chance for a brace blocked by Hernandez.

Quickly after the break, the Black & Gold were back on the attack. In the 50th minute, Jimenez centered a pass to the top of the Veracruz penalty area to Martinez. The guest player rocketed a first-time shot towards the top right corner, but goalkeeper Sergio Garcia, who replaced Hernandez at the break, was there to fist it away.

Following that chance, Veracruz ramped up its attack and pressure for the final 40 minutes. The visitors’ best opportunity to equalize came in the 71st minute when substitute Edgar Lugo fired a shot from close range, but an excellent save by Stuver kept the Black & Gold ahead for good.

With the victory, Crew SC moved to 11-6-3 all-time in international friendlies and created positive momentum heading into Saturday’s MLS clash with the Colorado Rapids. Kickoff for the match against the Western Conference opponent is set for 7:30 p.m. at MAPFRE Stadium.

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