KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Sporting Kansas City's defending MLS Cup champions hung in with Manchester City for nearly all of the first half. After that, Wednesday night's “Champions Shield” friendly belonged to the Premiership titlists.
City pulled away from a 1-1 deadlock with a goal in the dying minutes of the first half and two more – one of those from the penalty spot – after the break, cruising to a 4-1 victory at Sporting Park in the opening match of their North American summer tour.
The visitors – who also won the League Cup last season – wasted little time in going up 1-0, with the help of a fortunate deflection and a cool finish from Argentine midfielder Bruno Zuculini.
The game wasn't even three minutes old when a ball pinging around Sporting's penalty area popped out to Zuculini inside the arc. His left-footed half-volley found the inside of the left post and the back of the net.
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Sporting appeared to answer in the ninth minute, when Dom Dwyer put back a rebound of Benny Feilhaber's free kick, but the play was ruled offside. There was no offside when the equalizer finally came just before the half-hour mark, theugh.
Feilhaber sent in a diagonal ball from the left side, and C.J. Sapong – who hit the crossbar in the fourth minute, just after Zuculini's early strike – slipped behind the back four to take it with plenty of time and space to operate.
Sapong settled the ball off his body, took one touch to measure keeper Willy Caballero – still with no defensive help arriving for the visitors – and put a low left-footed shot inside the far post.
The deadlock only held until just before halftime, when Seth Sinovic's yellow-card tactical foul on Jesus Navas gave City a dangerous restart just outside the top right corner of the 18. Navas sent his free kick into the middle of the box, and Dedryck Boyata snapped a bouncing header past Andy Gruenebaum for the eventual winner.
City's insurance goals came after Sporting manager Peter Vermes – whose club has an important league date at Toronto FC on Saturday – pulled all of his starters at the half.
Newly-acquired midfielder Michael Kafari brought down Scott Sinclair in the box in the 72nd minute, and Aleksandar Kolarov converted the ensuing penalty into the right corner in the 73rd to make it 3-1. And in the 88th minute, Kelechi Iheanacho ran onto Navas' cross and sent a low shot past Jon Kempin for the final margin.
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.