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With playoff positions on the line, Galaxy and LAFC end L.A. Derby with 1-1 draw

Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic tries to head the ball during a corner kick in the first half.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The Galaxy couldn’t afford a loss and the Los Angeles Football Club couldn’t accept another late-game meltdown. So neither team was especially disappointed with a 1-1 draw in the third match of their crosstown rivalry Friday, played before a noisy, sold-out StubHub Center crowd of 27,068.

But neither team was happy either.

“This game we could have won easy. It was an easy game,” said Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored the Galaxy’s only goal in the 15th minute. “We are much better than them.”

For the Galaxy the tie extended their winless streak to a season-high five games and left them unbeaten at home since May. But it also saw them drop two points at StubHub Center for a third straight game, leaving them tied for fourth in a Western Conference playoff race in which the top six advance.

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For LAFC, the draw snapped a two-game winning streak, but the point it earned lifted the team over Sporting Kansas City and into second in the standings.

“To come away with a point, fair enough,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. “Do I think it’s our best football? No.”

In the first two editions of the Southern California derby, LAFC built early leads only to see the Galaxy rally in the waning minutes to earn a win and a tie. This time it was Ibrahimovic staking the Galaxy to an early lead, although he needed helped from a video replay to do so.

LAFC midfielder Eduard Atuesta battles for control of the ball against Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the first half.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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The sequence started with Ola Kamara lobbing a soft pass across the front of the goal for Ibrahimovic, who chested the ball down to his right foot and took a shot from the edge of the six-yard box, beating LAFC keeper Tyler Miller.

Although Danilo Silva appeared to clear the ball off the line, Ibrahimovic threw his hands up in celebration and after consulting a replay referee Jair Marrufo agreed, ruling the ball had crossed the line to give Ibrahimovic the 499th goal of his career.

Twelve minutes later Silva exited with hamstring tightness but Ibrahimovic remained dangerous in a first half the Galaxy dominated, outshooting LAFC 9-6 and putting twice as many on goal.

The second half was a different story, with Carlos Vela tying the game on a penalty kick — awarded when Perry Kitchen took the LAFC captain down on a sliding tackle in the box — less than six minutes after the intermission.

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LAFC appeared to have a chance to go ahead in the 73rd minute when midfielder Benny Feilhaber brought the ball into the penalty area alone, but he took too long to shoot, allowing Galaxy keeper David Bingham to poke the ball off his boot.

“I liked the way we played tonight,” Bradley said. “A point is a point. It’s a game where we put a lot into it. There’s room for us to keep getting better.”

The Galaxy, coming off a franchise-worst 5-0 loss in Seattle, were missing four starters. But they were buoyed by a physical and tireless back line that communicated well, filling gaps as soon as they emerged, with only Kitchen’s mistake spoiling the night.

“In terms of the effort and the quality of desire that they showed, I was really pleased,” Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid said.

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There’s still much work to be done if the Galaxy are to return to the postseason. Schmid figures his team needs 13 points from its final seven games to reach the playoffs, and the schedule is not cooperating. Not only do the Galaxy (10-9-8) have the fewest games remaining of any contender, but only one of their next five opponents has a losing record entering the weekend.

And four of their final seven games are on the road.

“That’s the objective: to reach the playoffs,” Ibrahimovic said. “We have everything in our hands. Hopefully the other teams will lose points and we will make them.”

LAFC (12-7-7) is in slightly better shape. Although the team finished its regular-season series with the Galaxy without a win, it is just three points behind first-place FC Dallas. And half the team’s final eight games are at home, where LAFC has lost just once in 13 tries.

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The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department reported one arrest and 11 ejections.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com | Twitter: @kbaxter11


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