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Niezgoda scores late winner in Timbers’ first-ever meeting with Inter Miami

The Portland Timbers win their first-ever match against Inter Miami 1-0 in Providence Park.

MLS: Inter Miami CF at Portland Timbers Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Timbers defeated Inter Miami in the clubs’ first-ever meeting courtesy of a late Jaroslaw Niezgoda winner. The Timbers extended their unbeaten run to eight games.

Fresh off of a season-sweeping 2-1 win over LAFC four days prior, the Timbers hosted Phil Neville-led Inter Miami CF for the first time in club history, looking to extend their unbeaten run to eight straight games. But after a week of turmoil in the Rose City following sexual coercion allegations against former Thorns coach Paul Riley, on-field play was the last thing on the minds of many supporters.

A protest led by the Rose City Riveters took place outside of Providence Park less than 24 hours before the start of the match and was the catalyst for a number of signs and chants appearing throughout the game.

The Timbers had to start the match with Sebastian Blanco on the bench after the Argentine Designate Player suffered a non-serious knee injury during the team’s 2-1 win against LAFC. Blanco’s absence from the starting XI contributed to a slow opening 15 minutes, which saw Inter Miami control about 60 percent of possession and out-shoot the Timbers by three shots to one.

Despite the slow start, the Timbers came closest to opening the scoring in the 20th minute. Dairon Asprilla was played in behind Inter Miami’s backline with an inch-perfect through-ball but Brek Shea was able to make a last-ditch tackle to send the ball out for a corner.

The game continued at a snail’s pace for another 10-ish minutes before Felipe Mora came to life with a couple of chances. Inter Miami goalkeeper Nick Marsman saved a right-footed shot from Mora in the 32nd minute and did the same for a Mora header just four minutes later. But although they huffed and puffed, the Timbers could not blow Inter Miami’s door down and the teams went into the locker rooms level at 0-0 at halftime.

The even nature of the first half was highlighted by the game’s statistics at the break but the Timbers were beginning to assert some attacking pressure towards the end of the half.

Steve Clark was called into action for the first time at the start of the second half, getting down quickly to deny Gonzalo Higuain from scoring the first goal of the game. The chance came after an extremely quiet first-half from the former Real Madrid, Juventus, and Chelsea striker.

The Timbers thought they had the lead in the 59th minute of the match after Felipe Mora put the ball into the back of the net but the goal was called back because Marvin Loria was offside in the build-up.

With the game in the balance and the Timbers’ attack misfiring through two-thirds of the match, Sebastian Blanco was brought on in the 67th minute in an attempt to capitalize on the pressure the team was mounting on Miami. It only took two minutes for Blanco to impose himself on the game as he sent a shot whistling over the bar from just outside the box.

Chance after chance came for the Timbers in the second half but Miami’s defense stood tall time and time again through 80 minutes of the match. But a lack of clinical finishing was the story of the day for the Timbers, who in the 82nd minute could only boast two shots on target out of a total of 16.

But just as it looked like the Timbers would be stifled on the day, Jaroslaw Niezgoda headed the ball into the net with his first touch of the game in the 83rd minute, moments after being substituted on for Asprilla. To be exact, Niezgoda’s goal came just 44 seconds after coming into the match.

Inter Miami responded to the goal by doing what the Timbers did earlier in the half: scoring a goal that would be called back for a previous infringement. Julian Carranza had the ball in the net in the 87th minute but was adjudged to have pushed Dario Zuparic from behind in the process. A call that Phil Neville was none too happy about.

The relief of the goal being called off wouldn’t last long for the Timbers, as the fourth official held up eight minutes of stoppage time at the end of the 90 minutes. And after Leandro Gonzalez Pirez sent a shot wide in the eighth minute of stoppage time, it truly was hearts-in-mouths time for the ever-present Timbers Army.

But the Timbers were able to hang on to the 1-0 lead and the referee blew the whistle for full-time, their seventh win in eight games. Despite a frustrating amount of chances missed, it was a solid win for the Timbers, which moved them seven points clear of Real Salt Lake in fifth place.

The Timbers will enjoy a much-needed two-week break before returning to action against the LA Galaxy at 7:30 PM on Saturday, Oct. 16.