Following an entertaining contest at MAPFRE Stadium two weeks ago, the Columbus Eagles and Cincinnati Sirens played a rematch at Lakota East High School on Saturday night.
The first game went the way of the Eagles at home by a score of 4-2. Columbus enjoyed contributions from Corie Miller, Erin Brockway and Dani Gunderson.
With the wounds from the MAPFRE match still healing, the Sirens viewed this as a grudge match against the Eagles on its home turf and it was a much more even affair, with each side leaving with a point in a 1-1 draw.
Both the Sirens and Eagles started the match slowly, looking to exploit holes in the opposition. Cincinnati stayed compact, while Columbus opted to play down the wings.
While neither side was able to find the back in the first half, the Sirens were the more physical team and it showed. Eagles Defender Corie Moore thought her team was surprised by the Sirens new found intensity.
“We didn’t match their intensity,” she said of Cincinnati. “They came out and were strong, they had something to prove and we really didn’t. I think that’s what hurt us. Our intensity wasn’t there compared to the MAPFRE game.”
The Sirens kept up the pressure again in the second half and finally broke through late. Cincinnati’s Danielle Dixon found the scoresheet for the second time against the Eagles this season as the Sirens claimed a late advantage in the 88th minute.
Not to be outdone, Columbus midfielder Kelly DeNiro fought through the pain of an earlier injury to score an equalizer just 30 seconds later. Most midfielders prefer to attack when chasing the game, but not DeNiro. She took an entirely different approach.
“Sometimes as a midfielder I like to just take a step back. I want to try to find the right position,” DeNiro said. “That’s what I was doing there. I just took a step back and it came right to me and I missed one earlier. I told myself to focus and just hit it as hard as I could and try to stay over it.”
The Eagles draw with Cincinnati earned the team a valuable point late in the season, but the tie did come at some cost.
The Sirens physicality left a couple of Eagles worse for wear. Both DeNiro and defender Deidre Abouahmed picked up injuries in this match that required treatment from the trainer. Both return from their injuries and aren’t expected to miss any time.
There was good news for Columbus was a familiar face got some minutes Saturday night. Larissa Najjar returned to the lineup Saturday night as she was subbed in during the second half.
This was her first game action in six weeks, after she was injured against FC Pride of Indianapolis.
Najjar admitted to being “tentative” on the pitch but that it was nice to get back on the field and resume playing.
There is little time rest for Columbus as the club will be back in action Sunday in Cleveland to face the Ambassadors in a friendly at 5 pm.