Manchester City kicked off their summer tour of the United States with a 4-1 victory over Major League Soccer champions Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday. In a match dubbed the "Champions' Shield," the Premier League giants got off to a flying start and really sort of cruised to victory.
Youngster Bruno Zuculini scored barely two minutes in before C.J. Sapong equalized for SKC. But goals from Dedryck Boyata, Aleksandar Kolarov and Kelechi Iheanacho settled the score.
City were without Samir Nasri, who was included in the squad list for this trip but didn't appear at an open training session Tuesday. The lineup they did put out featured some decent star power mixed with a healthy dose of youth:
CITY STARTING XI: Caballero, Richards, Kolarov, Boyata, Rekik, Navas, Fernando, Zuculini, Kelechi, Sinclair, Jovetic #cityontour— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) July 24, 2014
Sporting, meanwhile, did feature the likes of Matt Besler and Dom Dwyer but decided to rest star midfielder Graham Zusi. Aside from the missing USA international, they put out as strong a starting lineup as they might be capable of:
City got the ball rolling to start the match and wasted no time making an impression on the local fans.
Some good attacking play down the left saw the ball pop up just outside the top of the 18-yard box. From there, Zuculini ripped a half-volley past a despairing Andy Gruenebaum. The young Argentine had a solid all-around game, though he was reckless in a few challenges.
Sporting had an equalizer disallowed on 10 minutes as Dwyer was caught offside following a free-kick routine. The "Blue Hell" behind the goal erupted, and confetti flew everywhere before the flag was noticed by the home fans.
The home side would eventually get their equalizer on the half-hour, as Sapong controlled a lofted ball well before lashing past Willy Caballero. Unfortunately for Peter Vermes' side, the deadlock would be broken before the half.
Jesus Navas, who was back to his usual dynamic self on the right, whipped in a free kick from just outside the area. Boyata escaped his marker and slammed his head into the ball, giving City a 2-1 lead at the interval.
The second half saw the hosts bring out an entirely new XI, while City merely withdrew Micah Richards for Gael Clichy.
The flow of the match didn't change much, with City controlling much of the ball and Sporting having the odd break, though less often than in the first half.
City's two goals in the second half came largely as a result of some stellar play from the 17-year-old Iheanacho. His excellent run and pass sent Scott Sinclair through, and the former Swansea man was felled in the box to allow Kolarov to score from the spot.
Then late on, the young Nigerian was rewarded for his excellent performance with a goal of his own.
Among the takeaways that we can get from this match was the great play from some of City's younger and lesser-known players. Zuculini, Iheanacho and Boyata were among City's top performers overall—not just because they each had a goal.
Karim Rekik, who partnered Boyata in the middle of the back line, looked pretty solid as well. It seems as though his year playing regularly in his home nation has given him a boost, though we'll see if he sticks around or gets loaned out again.
Navas returned to his dynamic form of old in this encounter. He had missed out on Spain's World Cup squad as he didn't quite recover fully from the injury that cost him the rest of his club season, but he showed no signs of rust here.
Stevan Jovetic had a solid game, with his movement proving an issue for the likes of Besler and Aurelien Collin. He blew a big first-half chance, though, when, clean through on goal, he waited two seconds too many to prepare himself to allow Collin to fly in with a clearance.
Should his services be required in the absence of the injured Alvaro Negredo, the Montenegrin looks to be up to the challenge.
All in all, this was a solid way for City to get the ball rolling on their American adventure. Strong opposition and a small-but-raucous crowd set the stage for a great evening. And in the end, City will take home their first piece of (unofficial) silverware of the 2014-15 season:
With a squad this rich in depth, it looks like this won't be the last piece.
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