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UK News Desk

MLS: Atlanta in pole position

Last Updated: 26/11/18 8:55am

WATCH: Highlights of the MLS Conference finals

WATCH: Highlights of the MLS Conference finals

Atlanta moved into pole position to reach the MLS Cup final with a 3-0 Conference Final first-leg win over New York Red Bulls.

Atlanta had never beaten their East Coast visitors before, but Josef Martinez and Franco Escobar put them in a fine position to do so with goals either side of half-time.

Martinez chested down Jeff Larentowicz’s powerful cross from the right to fire in the opener, before the Red Bulls had a Bradley Wright-Phillips equaliser ruled out by VAR due to Alex Muyl standing offside.

That would prove more consequential when Atlanta moved two ahead in the 71st minute, when Julian Gressel’s cutback found Escobar, who rolled the ball past Luis Robles.

Substitute Hector Villalba hit a post but would not be denied a goal, firing in from distance in injury time to set up Atlanta nicely ahead of the return leg at the Red Bull Arena on Thursday.

David Guzman (left) saw a goal ruled out for offside

David Guzman (left) saw a goal ruled out for offside

There was less excitement at Providence Park where hosts Portland Timbers played out a 0-0 stalemate with Sporting Kansas City to leave their Western Conference final finely balanced.

Portland’s Jorge Villafana struck the post early on with his weaker foot, which set the trend of the evening with Kansas under the cosh for large periods.

Timbers thought they had taken the lead when ex-Aston Villa defender Liam Ridgewell’s shot also rebounded off the woodwork and David Guzman followed up with the rebound, but the former was rightly ruled offside.

The two sides will go head-to-head once again on Thursday night in Kansas.

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