Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced his arrival in Major League Soccer with two goals on his debut including an injury-time winner as the Los Angeles Galaxy fought back from three goals down to beat Los Angeles FC 4-3 on Saturday.
Ibrahimovic – who only arrived in California on Thursday – lashed home an imperious volley from 40 yards just six minutes after coming on as a second-half substitute to make it 3-3 at the StubHub Center.
The Swede then headed home Ashley Cole’s cross in injury time to put Galaxy ahead in an extraordinary finale that lived up to the hype surrounding the veteran striker’s arrival from Manchester United.
“If you look back, every team I played for, I scored in my first official game. I wasn’t going to let that stop today,” a delighted Ibrahimovic said afterwards. “I heard the crowd saying ‘We want Zlatan, we want Zlatan’ And I gave them Zlatan,” he added.
Ibrahimovic’s winner was the final act of a thrilling first ever derby between the Galaxy and expansion side LAFC, who had surged into a 3-0 lead early in the second half after two goals from Carlos Vela and an own goal from Daniel Steres.
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) March 31, 2018
Slack play from LAFC allowed Galaxy to pull a goal back through Sebastian Lletget in the 61st minute after dogged work from Servando Carrasco.
The home crowd then roared in appreciation in the 71st minute when Ibrahimovic made his entrance from the substitutes bench.
The 36-year-old star had an instant impact and was involved in the build-up which led to Galaxy’s second goal, headed in by Chris Pontius from Emmanuel Boateng’s cross.
Suddenly the Galaxy dared to dream of an improbable comeback, and when Ibrahimovic thundered home his equaliser on 77 minutes the home side had drawn level.
Los Angeles Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid hailed Ibrahimovic’s “world class” second goal.
“Ibrahimovic is the perfect definition of a guy who always dares to be brilliant,” Schmid said. “If you do that, you can pull off things. That’s a goal that will go around the world.”
LAFC had a chance to regain the lead when Costa Rican international Marco Urena hit the woodwork late on.
But instead it was Ibrahimovic who was determined to have the last word.
Former Chelsea and England left-back Cole stormed forwards down the left flank and crossed into the area, and Ibrahimovic guided home the header to launch his MLS career in the most dramatic way possible.
Ibrahimovic had talked boldly on Friday of helping restore the Galaxy to their position of dominance in Major League Soccer after a dismal 2017 campaign that saw them finish bottom of the Western Conference.
However the scale of the task facing Ibrahimovic became apparent after only 26 minutes on Saturday, with Mexico striker Vela scoring twice to give LAFC a 2-0 lead that their dominant play deserved.
Vela drew first blood after only five minutes, picking up the ball on the edge of the area and curling a magnificent strike beyond the dive of Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham to make it 1-0.
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) March 31, 2018
Los Angeles FC continued to dominate, pressing Galaxy aggressively and threatening in attack through the lively Vela, Costa Rican international Urena and Uruguayan youngster Diego Rossi.
Rossi almost doubled the LAFC lead in the 11th minute, flashing a low angled shot wide of the post.
But Los Angeles did not have to wait long for the second, with Vela beating Bingham before coolly taking his time to lift his shot into the goal off the underside of the bar.
On the bench, Ibrahimovic bowed his head in his hands, and it got worse when Steres turned in an own goal early in the second half to put LAFC 3-0 ahead.
However, Ibrahimovic had other ideas soon after coming on as a substitute with just under 20 minutes remaining.
The Philippines football team’s captain said on Wednesday he hoped their historic first-ever qualification for the 2019 Asian Cup could be a catalyst for growth of the sport in the basketball-mad nation.
Nicknamed the Azkals – slang for mongrel dogs – the Philippines secured their berth in next January’s 24-team event in the UAE with a 2-1 come-from-behind win over Tajikistan in Manila in an emotional game on Tuesday night.
“When there’s success in any sport people would talk about it and the most we can do is bring football as much success,” Azkals captain Phil Younghusband, a former Chelsea youth player, told AFP.
“Hopefully this will be the catalyst for the growth of Philippine football,” he added. “Maybe the lack of success in the last eight years has slowed down the growth.”
The Philippines had been a bit-player on the Asian stage but turned heads by reaching the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup semi-finals.
The victory sparked interest in football in the Philippines, a nation that treats basketball almost as a religion.
— CNN Philippines (@cnnphilippines) March 28, 2018
Tuesday’s game began with a goalless opening half but Kevin Ingreso later headed home to level for the Azkals who then made sure of their place in next year’s tournament with a last-minute penalty that was converted by Younghusband.
It happened to be the 50th international goal of Younghusband.
“It was so emotional because of the way the game went. It’s the happiest football moment so far in my professional career,” he said.
“All I was thinking about is we qualified for the Asian Cup. Anything else is a bonus.”
Elsewhere on a frenetic final day of qualifying, North Korea and war-torn Yemen rounded off the qualification spots.
The latter beat Nepal 2-1 and edged Tajikistan on goal difference in Group F.
North Korea secured their third-consecutive appearance in the Asian Cup after a convincing 2-0 home victory over Hong Kong to finish as runners-up in Group B behind Lebanon.
Ever dreamed of playing football in one of the most famous stadiums in the world? An Argentine designer has come up with the next best thing – by creating works of art for foosball.
The popular game is played in youth clubs, offices and everywhere in between but you’d be hard-pressed to find any tables that match the ones in the video.
Each foosball stadium is painstakingly crafted by hand, featuring Boca Juniors’ rocking La Bombonera arena among various others.
Learn about the process and cast your eye over the spectacular designs below …