The former Manchester United striker, who took a pay cut to join the West Coast club, came on late into the match at the StubHub Center but made an immediate impact with a long range effort to level the scores before netting a winner in stoppage time.
Ex-Arsenal forward Carlos Vela broke the deadlock for the away side in just the fifth minute before doubling Los Angeles’ advantage before the break.
A Daniel Steres own goal made it three moments after the second half got underway, as LAFC looked set to run away with the match. But two late strikes from Sebastian Lletget and Chris Pontius made the scoreline more respectable before Ibrahimovic came on to win the game for Galaxy.
Here are five talking points from the Swede’s dramatic debut.
1. He’s still got it
As if you ever doubted it.
He’s played in just about every major derby in European football.
So when Zlatan came off the bench you knew he wouldn’t be fazed.
And he didn’t disappoint.
Just his presence on the pitch gave the Galaxy players the lift they needed.
It got the crowd on their feet and within minutes they were back in the game.
Zlatan led the line superbly and gave the team the outlet they’d been sorely missing until that point.
2. The man for the big occasion
He’d flown into the country barely 48 hours earlier. He’d had one training session with his teammates and barely played much football for Man Utd for months.
But a debut in the first-ever Los Angeles derby was all the motivation Zlatan needed. As he’s done in Europe’s top leagues time and time again – Zlatan delivered on the big stage.
His first goal magnificent. But his star power drove Galaxy on to not just settle for a draw, but get the much-needed win as well.
3. Zlatan loves a wonder goal
It was a goal of sheer world class.
Zlatan had only been the pitch seven minutes but from the moment ball dropped around 35 yards out he had nothing else on his mind.
The acrobatic scissor kick that flew over the keeper’s head and into the back of the net was reminiscent of previous Zlatan wonder goals – particularly the bicycle kick lob he scored for Sweden against England in that friendly in 2012.
But this was on a more important stage, coming on 3-1 down for his debut in the first-ever Los Angeles derby. Only Zlatan would have the confidence and the technique to pull it off.
4. He’s still got a job on his hands
LA Galaxy are coming off the back of their worst-ever MLS season.
There’s been a raft of changes, not least losing two of their most senior players in Steven Gerrard and towering defender Jelle Van Damme.
And in the first half Galaxy looked like a team of strangers going backwards if anything.
Coach Schmid knows as thrilling as this victory was, the way the Galaxy conceded goals was a major concern.
Zlatan won’t be able to get them out of a 3-0 down hole every time.
But the manner of this win, against their rivals and thanks to new super-signing Zlatan, will be a huge boost to morale.
Hopefully for Galaxy, it can be a platform they build on.
5. World football has a new derby
MLS executives must be rubbing their hands with glee tonight.
This game must have surpassed all expectations as a spectacle for the first LA derby.
Afternoon matches at the StubHub have often proved to have a bit of staid atmosphere.
The scorching sunshine and the fact the stadium is on the outskirts of LA doesn’t help.
But today the stadium was packed, with the LAFC and Galaxy ‘Ultras’ competing to drown each other out from the start.
The prospect of a cross-town rival for the first time in Galaxy’s history appeared to energise the crowd.
Even at 3-0, the crowd were roaring their time on.
And once the cry of ‘we want Zlatan’ went up, the noise built to a crescendo.
The local media remarked after the game that this could well be the best game in MLS history.
It certainly had everything the league would want – big crowd, a thrilling game and the star players performing.
LAFC fans will now be hoping to get revenge once their stadium opens in downtown LA.
Will Zlatan be a success in MLS?
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