Jonathan Mensah: Ghana defender powers Columbus Crew past Atlanta United

The 31-year-old Black Star put up a stellar display to propel the Black & Gold to a vital win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Ghana international Jonathan Mensah’s goal secured a vital 1-0 win for Columbus Crew against Atlanta United in a Major League Soccer match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday night.

The 31-year-old made the difference after his well-timed back-post header after a Lucas Zelarayan corner kick in the 65th minute enabled the Black & Gold to continue to climb up the Eastern Conference standings.

Zelarayan, who came on as a second-half substitute, delivered the corner from the left side and it was flicked on by Marlon Hairston to the near post, where it found Mensah, who rose higher than Atlanta defender Anton Walkes to power his finish home past goalkeeper Alec Kann.

The goal was the first for Mensah this campaign, his last goal coming in July 2018, when he scored in the 3-2 win against New York Red Bull, and Saturday’s win enabled Columbus to extend their unbeaten run to six matches.

It was Atlanta who started the game on a high note as they created the first chance in the sixth minute when Josef Martinez had a good chance to shoot for goal, but he delayed with the ball, allowing Columbus defenders to close in and take the ball away.

The visiting Columbus then created their first chance of the game in the 16th minute as Bradley Wright-Phillips set up the unmarked Erik Hurtado behind the Atlanta defence, but after calmly going past the defenders, he fired the ball off the post.

Atlanta were forced into an early substitution as Erik Lopez came on for the injured Jake Mulraney, and the new man immediately created an impact as he came close to breaking the deadlock after his powerful shot from 20 years out was neatly dealt with by Columbus custodian Eloy Room.

In the second half, Room was once again called upon to keep Columbus in the game, first, he denied Lopez, who was set through on goal, and the Curacao international then pulled off another save to deny Marcelino Moreno from point-blank range.

Atlanta were left to rue their missed chances as Mensah popped up with a thumping header to hand his side the maximum points in the 65th minute.

Mensah has managed 14 starts for Columbus this season but his Ghanaian compatriot Harrison Afful did not start in the game as he watched from the bench.

Speaking after the game, Columbus head coach Caleb Porter was impressed to have snatched a vital away win.

“[An] unbelievable road win,” Porter told the club’s official website. “I told the guys before the game that I felt like this was going to be our second win on the road. The main reason why was our confidence.

“We’re a team that’s finding ways to win get points and get results.”

Columbus will hope to build on the win when they face New York City at Yankee Stadium on Friday.

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