The playoff-bound Montreal Impact sealed a 2-1 home win over Canadian rivals Toronto FC on Sunday night courtesy of a quick spell of brilliance from Didier Drogba.
The former Chelsea striker scored twice inside a minute during the second half as the Impact came back from a goal down to secure a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference on the final day of the regular-season.
Ex-Sunderland man Jozy Altidore had given Toronto the lead just before half-time with a header from Golden Boot winner and MVP front-runner Sebastian Giovinco’s cross, before the in-form Drogba took control of the match nine minutes after the break.
The 37-year-old Ivorian, who joined Montreal in July after his contract at Stamford Bridge expired, backheeled in an Ignacio Piatti cross from the left to level the scores at Stade Saputo before producing a strikingly similar finish seconds later off Marco Donadel’s low pass.
The hosts’ victory means the two teams will meet again at the same venue on Thursday in a single-game knockout playoff game after Toronto dropped down to sixth in the East, but whether Drogba will be at full fitness remains to be seen.
The Blues legend was forced to undergo treatment in the 82nd-minute after being kicked in the right leg by TFC defender Ahemd Kantari and, while he returned to the pitch soon after, he spent the rest of the match dealing with a noticeable limp.
When asked how his leg was after the game, he told the Montreal Gazette: “Sore. It was a bad tackle but the referee did not see it so the game carries on. I hope I’m going to be ok.”
The Impact will certainly suffer if their star man is not fully firing on Thursday, having seen him net 11 goals in 11 games since his summer arrival to help turn around the club’s fortunes under interim head coach Mauro Biello.
Already their top scorer this season, the former Champions League winner’s addition has transformed the team from afterthoughts to legitimate MLS Cup contenders heading into the playoffs, where their first task will be to make it back-to-back victories over their arch rivals later this week.