Photo courtesy of FC Cincinnati
CINCINNATI – The environment at Nippert Stadium reached peak level with a record breaking sell-out crowd of 35,061 on hand for FC Cincinnati’s international exhibition against the English Premier League’s Crystal Palace on Saturday.
The expansion USL side showed plenty of moments playing alongside Palace, but ultimately the EPL club prevailed with a 2-0 victory. The match was streamed on Facebook Live, offering live worldwide coverage of two strong stories in soccer circles – FC Cincinnati with its robust fan base in its first USL season, going up against a Crystal Palace side that advanced to the FA Cup Final earlier this year.
Jordon Mutch opened with a massive strike from 25 yards out to put Palace on the score sheet in the eighth minute – a blast that Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt nearly put a right glove on, but it was too fast and too far out of his reach.
It stayed that way for a while, but in the 63rd minute, Crystal Palace added to its lead through some clever play from Wilfried Zaha – a rollover with his right foot and a left-footed strike from a difficult angle that snuck under the glove of new Cincinnati backup goalkeeper Dallas Jaye and inside the right post for a 2-0 advantage.
The game’s speed of play was impressive for both sides, especially in the opening half. Cincinnati had some chances and possession throughout the game, with Omar Cummings flirting with a goal in the 44th minute as his shot was parried over the crossbar.
The closest opportunity down the stretch was in the 85th minute with a free kick from about 23 yards out. Cincinnati had three players on the ball and Derek Luke took the attempt with his left foot, bending the ball around Crystal Palace’s wall, only to see it saved just in front of the goal line at the near left post.
FC Cincinnati and Crystal Palace were even with five shots on goal apiece. Cincinnati had 12 shots total compared to Palace’s 15.