Hlongwane impressive for Minnesota in thrilling 4-4 draw
South African Bongokuhle Hlongwane snatched a goal and created another for a team-mate but his club Minnesota United threw away a 3-1 lead to draw 4-4 with Portland Timbers at the Allianz Field Stadium on Saturday evening.
It was the former Maritzburg United striker’s second goal in 23 matches for Minnesota which helped his side retain their unbeaten run in the last seven matches in the Western Conference table of the Major League Soccer.
Minnesota remain third with 35 points, nine behind second positioned Austin and 13 behind runaway leaders Los Angeles FC after 23 starts.
On Saturday, Minnesota were rattled by the visitors who engaged in a breathtaking passing movement right from kickoff and without a single Minnesota player touching the ball, raced into the lead in only 14 seconds through Sebastian Blanco.
Minnesota slowly regained their composure and Argentinian Franco Fragapane drew level from a sweeping move by the home side in the ninth minute. Then Hlongwane’s blistering pace and quick thinking allowed him to race onto a rebound to put his side 2-1 in the lead on 21 minutes.
It was 3-1 four minutes before the break when Hlongwane outstripped the defence and with everybody expecting him to have a crack at goals, instead cut back form Luis Amarilla to give them a deserved 3-1 lead.
But Minnesota went to sleep after the resumption and were rudely awoken from their siesta by Blanco who grabbed his brace to reduce the deficit to 3-2 in the50th minute.
Minnesota appeared to crumble three minutes later when Portland drew level in sensational fashion through Polish international Jaroslaw Niezgoda, who smashed an unstoppable shot with the Minnesota defence in sixes and sevens.
Portland appeared to have completed a turnaround when Kemar Lawrence deflected a shot into his own net in an attempt to clear, to give the visitors a 4-3 lead in the 65th minute, with the ball slipping embarrassingly between the legs of goalkeeper Dayne St Clair.
But Minnesota never stopped probing and their determination was rewarded four minutes later in the 69th minute, Amarilla pulled the match out of the fire with his second of the day to tie the clash 4-4 in an entertaining match that ended without more goals.
Wayward shooting and lack of composure let Minnesota down when they had the visitors on the back foot during the last frenetic minutes of what had been a thrilling encounter.