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Crew take control of playoff after Callens red card

Crew take control of playoff after Callens red card

Oct 31, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; Center referee Ismail Elfath goes to the VAR and issues a red card to New York City FC defender Alexander Callens (6) for a foul on Columbus Crew SC forward Justin Meram (not pictured) in the second half at MAPFRE Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 31, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; Center referee Ismail Elfath goes to the VAR and issues a red card to New York City FC defender Alexander Callens (6) for a foul on Columbus Crew SC forward Justin Meram (not pictured) in the second half at MAPFRE Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - Columbus Crew took full advantage of playing with an extra man to score three second-half goals on the way to a 4-1 victory over New York City FC in the first leg of their Major League Soccer Eastern Conference semi-final showdown on Tuesday.

Trailing 1-0, New York City defender Alexander Callens was shown a red card in the 52nd minute after a video review showed he had elbowed Justin Meram in the face, and the home side spared no mercy to seize control of the contest.

Columbus had already taken an early lead when Ola Kamara netted a close-range effort in the sixth minute and the Crew pulled clear in the final 45 minutes.

Artur scored from the middle of the penalty area in the 58th minute, before Meram added a third in the 69th minute and Harrison Afful capped the rout with an injury time strike.

David Villa scored a 78th minute consolation goal for New York City, who now find themselves in a huge hole heading into the second leg on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

The Crew received a special boost from their home crowd as fans responded to reports that owner Anthony Precourt was considering moving the team to Austin, Texas.

Fans displayed "Save the Crew" signs around the Mapfre Stadium and cheered wildly.

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien)

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