Didier Drogba scored a hat-trick in his first start for Montreal Impact in a 4-3 win over Chicago Fire on Sunday.
Drogba signed with the Impact in late July after leaving Chelsea but was not deemed fit enough to play until August 22 and then, after a debut as a substitute, was sidelined due to a toe injury. In the interim, Montreal lost the Canadian Championship Final to Vancouver and then to Toronto FC in the league, costing coach Frank Klopas his job.
But in his first start, Drogba’s full debut proved to be worth the wait as he delivered a crucial three points for the home side.
Drogba opened the scoring in the 27th minute, collecting a cross from Nigel Reo-Coker before holding off Eric Gehrig in the area to turn and deliver a finish into the corner and open his MLS account.
The Fire equalised nine minutes later as Jeff Larentowicz scored from the penalty spot following a Maxim Tissot foul on Harry Shipp in the area, but Montreal were back in front courtesy of Wandrille Lefevre.
The scores were level again two minutes later as Gilberto found the back of the net for the Fire, who then went in front through Kennedy Igboananike in the 59th minute, before Drogba changed the game.
In the 61st minute, after a quick restart, Drogba unleashed a powerful finish into the roof of the net to equalise and four minutes later he followed up his own rebound after a great reaction save from Fire keeper Sean Johnson to give the Impact a lead they would not relinquish.
Drogba nearly scored a fourth in stoppage time as he beat two defenders near the corner flag, but his shot across the face of goal went just wide.
Despite his man-of-the-match performance, Drogba insists he is still not 100 percent fit.
“The manager asked me how I was feeling and I was a bit tired at the end; I’m working hard to get back to fitness,” he said after the game. “It’s only my second real week of work after two months of nothing so it’s a bit difficult at the end, but I’m quite happy with my physical performance today.”
Impact interim coach Mauro Biello said: “What can I say; It was an exceptional performance. He’s someone who’s really engaged. He’s won everywhere. He came here with a great desire to win and that’s what we saw tonight.”
Though his toe is still bothering him, Drogba said he does not expect to miss any more games with the Impact.
“It’s still painful, even more now,” he said. “But I’ve got a few days now to rest and get some treatment and to be ready for the next game”.
With the win, the Impact moved two points clear of Orlando City for the last spot in the Eastern Conference play-offs, with Montreal having an additional four games in hand.