Bethlehem Steel started on the front foot, overcame a two-goal deficit to tie the game in the second half but ultimately fell 3-2 to Birmingham Legion in a game that ended with only 18 players on the field.
The Sunday evening match at Talen Energy Stadium opened with the Steel showing well with first team attackers Sergio Santos and Michee Ngalina pairing up top, but the bright attacking moments didn’t produce a final ball and the Steel found themselves down 1-0 when Akeem Ward found Prosper Kasim in the box in the 20th minute to put the visitors up.
The Steel continued to threaten after the goal with first team outside backs Olivier Mbaizo and Matt Real both getting involved in the attack and Zach Zandi patrolling the midfield but the game began its descent into ugliness moments after Zandi had a penalty shout in the box.
Zandi appeared to be knocked down by Ward on the play, but no foul was called and a couple minutes later Zandi fouled Zach Herivaux from behind. Zandi saw yellow for the challenge and then Santos and Herivaux clashed in what ended in a double red card. Herivaux went head-to-head with Santos and Santos pushed him away with a hand to the face.
Cards continued to pile up after the break with Real, Birmingham’s Eric Avila and Cole Turner all seeing yellow before the Legion doubled the lead through J.J. Williams in the 67th minute. Avila found the head of the target forward on a ball played back into the box after his initial corner kick.
The two-goal advantage didn’t last long for the visitors as Ngalina cut the lead in half two minutes later when he collected a ball from Steve Kingue in the box and fought his way through a couple defenders. The goal snapped a six-game clean sheet streak for the Legion and brought life back to a Steel side that was starting to come back to life with the substitutions of Faris and veteran James Chambers.
An equalizer nearly came moments later when Ngalina was played into the box and the ball ended up at Real’s feet with the keeper out but his shot missed the target. The equalizer did come in the 74th minute after Faris was taken down in the box on an attacking play set up by a through ball from Walter Cortes to Real out wide.
Mbaizo converted from the spot for his first Steel goal to tie things up, but the visitors jumped right back in front just two minutes later when Mikey Lopez got on the end of a deflected shot in the 18 to make it 3-2.
Faris was ejected on the play for running into the official arguing that he was fouled in the box, giving the Legion the 10v9 advantage but that also didn’t last long. Razak Cromwell saw his second yellow on a hard challenge in the 83rd minute, leaving it 10v10 for the final seven minutes of regulation and six minutes of stoppage time.
The Steel came close to finding another equalizer but the Legion defense held on for the three points to hand the Steel their 13th loss of the season.
They’ll return home to face the bottom-of-the-table Swope Park Rangers without the services of both Faris and Santos, who made his second appearance on loan from the first team and his first start in the USL Championship.