Zlatan Ibrahimovic lived up to the bravado on Friday, scoring all three goals to power the LA Galaxy to a hard fought 3-2 victory over MLS rivals Los Angeles Football Club.
The unstoppable 37-year-old showed he’s still capable of astounding feats by dominating the smaller LAFC defence and scoring when it counted the most for his second career MLS hat trick.
“When you play against a rival like that, in a full stadium, I get pumped. I get adrenaline. This is considered to be the biggest game in the league and I show up in the biggest games,” said Ibrahimovic.
Ibrahimovic, who has a flair for the dramatic since the big Swede joined the MLS in 2018, boasted prior to Friday’s game that he is “by far” the best player in the league despite Carlos Vela’s superior stats.
The pre-game hype was about the marquee matchup between Galaxy’s Ibrahimovic and LAFC’s Vela. The duo scored all five goals, but it was the Swede who delivered in the key moments, scoring in the eighth, 56th and 70th minutes.
The Galaxy depends almost entirely on Ibrahimovic for offence and he thanked them with another hat trick performance against the top-ranked team in the league. “I am in playoff mode every day,” said Ibrahimovic.
Vela scored his league-leading 20th and 21st goals in fourth and 97th minutes for LAFC, who were hoping to stake their claim to North American soccer supremacy with a win on Friday. Vela now has five more goals on the season than Ibrahimovic who is in second place.
Vela opened the scoring with his 20th goal of the season by converting a penalty kick into the bottom left corner. Vela took a pass down the wing and Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham came charging out of his net to trip him up.
Ibrahimovic tied it up four minutes later with a spectacular right-foot shot from outside the box to the bottom right corner at Dignity Health Park in south-central Los Angeles.
While in full flight, Ibrahimovic took a high pass from Julian Araujo off his chest to his right foot. He volleyed it over the head of two defenders and let it bounce once on the turf before blasting it home from long range.
He scored in the 56th minute on a header to give the Galaxy their first lead of the game. Ibrahimovic outleaped LAFC defender Jordan Harvey and lofted the ball from the right side of the box to the high centre of the goal and out of the reach of goalkeeper Tyler Miller.
LAFC, who are on pace to break MLS records for points and goals scored this season, were controlling the offence around the hour point but all it took was one chance for Ibrahimovic to pad the Galaxy’s lead.
Ibrahimovic blasted a left-footed shot from outside the box to the right corner in the 70th minute to bring the Galaxy to 3-1. It was his 520th career goal across all leagues.
Mexican international Vela rounded out the scoring in extra time by right footing a shot home but Ibrahimovic’s heroics had already taken the fire out of the LAFC offence.
Tempers flared in the hotly contested contest in the 73rd minute between LAFCs Eddie Segura and the Galaxys Rolf Feltscher. After they came together, players from both teams joined in on the mainly pushing and yelling match.
There were a total of eight yellow cards handed out Friday with five going to the Galaxy.