Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a dream debut with two goals, including the match winner

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CARSON – On Saturday, Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced his arrival in Los Angeles with a goal that should be in the clear favorite for goal of the Major League Soccer season, as the giant Swede led LA Galaxy all the way back from 3-0 down to 3-3 against LAFC as a second half substitute.

Then, Ibrahimovic headed home in the 90th minute for his second goal of the afternoon to hand the Galaxy a stunning 4-3 come from behind victory in the first ever “El Trafico.”

“The fans were demanding something, and I gave them Zlatan,” Ibrahimovic said with a slight smirk that turned into joyous laughter. 

Los Angeles Football Club may not have any histroy, but Saturday at Stubhub Center, they looked to change all that. While the LA Galaxy could point to the absense of designated players Giovanni Dos Santos, Jonathan Dos Santos and Romain Alessandrini as excuses for the massive disparity between the two sides in the first half, LAFC didn’t seem at all interested in going easy on the Galaxy.

Los Angeles Football Club

Carlos Vela scored a lovely left-footed curling strike from outside the box to the top left corner for the opening goal in the fifth minute. By halftime, the Mexican international had doubled his tally with a goal that toyed with the Galaxy defense in their own box.  LAFC looked the far superior side entering the halftime intermission.

Fewer than five minutes into the second half, LAFC had added a third goal off an own goal deflection by Daniel Steres.

As the visitors grew more and more confident, the crowd began chanting “Ole” every time an LAFC pass was made. The match seemed all but over, as LAFC had taken over Stubhub Center on the pitch and in the stands.

The Galaxy’s star signing, Ibrahimovic, had not yet even entered the fray. After a long flight from Europe, the striker had not even spent 48 hours in California by the time Saturday’s kickoff came about. The fact that he practiced on Friday morning and held a press conference on Saturday afternoon was a remarkable feat in of itself.

Just past the hour mark, though, LA Galaxy gave their home supporters a reason to cheer. Any sad soul that left this match early would truly regret the decision. Sebastian Lletget latched onto a pass from Servando Carrasco in the 61st minute, and suddenly, the score was 3-1.

The Galaxy began to gain confidence and control the game. As the Galaxy grew into the game on the pitch, the crown began chanting for Ibrahimovic. “We want Zlatan” rang out at Stubhub Center and the atmosphere was palpable. The first ever LA derby provided a memorable atmosphere few in attendence from both supporter groups will soon forget.

“This is the start, and and like I said yesterday in the press conference, I just want to be part of the history that Galaxy is doing, and the MLS,” Ibrahimovic said after the match. “A new team like LAFC is doing new things, and Galaxy has been there for many years. This is the first of many games that will come, and hopefully we [set] the bar, the level for this type of game.”

The giant Swede would finally enter the game in the 71st minute. Almost immediately, Ibrahimovic helped launch a counter attack that resulted in the Galaxy’s second goal. Chris Pontius headed home for the Galaxy at the back post in the 73rd minute, and the game notched up yet an extra level in terms of atmosphere.

At 3-2, the Galaxy had fought back valiently, but this match was far from over.

In the 77th minute, Ibrahimovic stole the show with a thunderbolt strike from 40 yards to catch LAFC keeper Tyler Miller off his line. The strike sent the stadium into a frenzy and announced Ibrahimovic’s arrival in Major League Soccer.

“I saw the goal keeper,” Ibrahimovic said after the game. “He was out. I saw him and I said ‘I will shoot it over,’ but it was all depending how do I shoot. Do I shoot it high to land in the goal or do I shoot in front to put power on it? And I choose the power way, and then it went in.”

The Swede tried to express the emotion of the moment, “And then the adrenaline starts and you don’t want it to finish. You put off your shirt, and you just want to celebrate with fans. You want to feel that vibration from them, the energy that is going through the stadium.”

The 36-year-old added, “If I would have more strength I would run all over the pitch, but I just manage one side of the field.”

On his MLS, LA Galaxy and El Trafico debut, Ibrahimovic scored what may well go down as the goal of the season.

Then, the former Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan, FC Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus, Ajax and Malmo striker scored the match winner in the 90th minute to give the Galaxy the unlikeliest of victories: 4-3.

“It’s not easy, because I can imagine LAFC winning 3-0, losing 4-3–it’s not easy,” Ibrahimovic said, paused and delivered a quote to stoke the budding LAFC versus LAFC rivalry. “But if they would have Zlatan, it would be opposite.” 

Welcome to Zlatan, LA.

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