BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Obafemi Martins was both hero and villain as his two first-half goals laid the foundations for the Seattle Sounders’ rip-roaring 3-2 victory over the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on Saturday evening.
The talented Nigerian put the visitors 2-0 up by the 37th minute with an opportunist strike and a converted penalty, before a moment of madness saw him shown the red card by referee Chris Penso for an apparent strike on Benji Joya in the aftermath of Harry Shipp’s 41st minute response.
Lamar Neagle put the Western Conference leaders further ahead when he drove home in the 78th minute, but another superb strike from Shipp four minutes later set up an intriguing finale to what was an absorbing, action-packed encounter.
The Fire showed four changes from the midweek 0-0 tie at the Colorado Rapids, with Lovel Palmer and Gonzalo Segares returning in the fullback positions, and Shipp and Quincy Amarikwa reinstalled up top.
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The visitors made just one change from their 4-0 victory over Real Salt Lake, with former Fire center back Jalil Anibaba replacing Zach Scott at the heart of the Sounders defense.
In a fiery first half, Martins flashed a shot wide in the fifth minute after rounding Sean Johnson with the goal at his mercy, while he and Chris Ritter were both booked following a scuffle at the halfway line three minutes later.
Soon after, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado was booked for a foul on Martins, who was on the end of some overzealous defending from the home side.
But it was Martins who finally opened the scoring when he controlled, turned and finished at the near post to convert a deflected cross from Brad Evans in the 31st minute.
More drama followed six minutes later when Hurtado was correctly shown a straight red card for a dangerous two-footed lunge on Martins inside the box, and the Nigerian kept his cool to send Johnson the wrong way from the spot, slotting low to the right for his eighth goal of the season.
Just when it looked like this was going to turn into a nightmare evening for the hosts, Shipp produced a moment of magic to haul his side back into the contest.
Amarikwa gained possession in the 41st minute and fed Shipp, who weaved his way through the Seattle defense before unleashing an unstoppable left-footed shot past Stefan Frei.
And no sooner had the home fans settled their celebrations than they were given further cause to rejoice when Martins was shown a straight red card.
OPTA Chalkboard: Martins in heart of action until ejection
From there, Johnson denied Neagle early in the second half, while a Jeff Larentowicz header and Amarikwa strike forced two superb point-blank saves from Frei at the other end minutes later.
Several changes followed as both coaches retooled their formations, and the Sounders added a third when substitute Kenny Cooper headed on a right-wing cross and Neagle drove his shot past Johnson in the 78th minute.
Shipp set up a tantalizing finish to tally his second of the night with his right foot when he drove home a thundering shot from the edge of the box after being teed up by Amarikwa with eight minutes remaining.
Frei then denied substitute Juan Luis Anangono in the 88th minute as the visitors closed out the game to maintain their impressive 6-0-3 all-time record against the Fire.
Next up for the Fire is a US Open Cup tie at home to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on June 18, while the Sounders return to action when they host PSA Elite on the same day, also in the US Open Cup.