In the first annual Champions Shield match, Manchester City of the English Premier League beat Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer 4-1. Organizers of the match would like the event to continue in future years to increase the connections between the two best leagues in America and Great Britain. Manuel Pellegrini, the manager of Manchester City, fielded a group of fringe players vying for a chance at regular first team football in the upcoming season, but was still able to sweep aside the defending MLS Cup champions with relative ease.
The star players starting for the Sky Blues were Kolarov, Jesus Navas, new signing Fernando, and Jovetic, which were mixed with a healthy dose of youth players and second-string talent. Kansas City started their best line-up minus American National Team midfielder Graham Zusi. Manchester City started out the game quickly with the £1.5 million new signing from Racing Club, Bruno Zuculini, scoring in the third minute. It was a great half-volley finish that kissed off the post and into the goal.
Defending MLS Cup Champions Sporting Kansas City did respond in the first half with an equalizer from former James Madison University striker C.J. Sapong. The team was on a six-game unbeaten streak and was not about to simply roll over in the face of tough opposition. Benny Feilhaber picked out Sapong alone in the 18-yard box. The striker settled an exquisite looping cross and slotted the ball calmly into the net. However, just before the break, Manchester City retook the lead and never looked back. Dedryck Boyata, a big young Belgian center back, made space for himself off of a free kick and headed home a Jesus Navas cross to take a halftime lead.
In the second half, Scott Sinclair was brought down in the box, which earned the Sky Blues a penalty. The captain Kolarov finished comfortably from the penalty spot with his left foot in the 73rd minute. Then, in the 89th minute, Jesus Navas turned supplier again as he raced down the right wing, cut back to his left foot, and found a streaking Kelechi Iheanacho for the fourth goal of the night. Iheanacho opened hips and fired a shot in the lower right corner of the net with equal parts power and placement to finalize the 4-1 score line for Manchester City to beat Kansas City for the Champions Shield.
In the first two friendlies of the year, versus Hearts and Dundee, Manuel Pellegrini deployed nearly wholesale substitutions at half time to give all the youngsters a run out. In this match he let some of the better players, namely Jovetic, Navas, Kolarov, and Fernando have almost an hour or more before making substitutions. This spoke to the Chileans desire to win the match, as well as to whom will be playing more first team football for the Sky Blues in the upcoming Premier League season.
Up next for City are three matches against quality competition in the Guinness International Champions Cup. They open with A.C. Milan on July 27 in Pittsburgh, then play Liverpool in Yankee Stadium on the July 30, and round out the competition in Minneapolis against Olympiacos. Many more first team players are likely to play as the World Cup Internationals return to the fold. Manchester City will look to build off their emphatic 4-1 victory over Kansas City for the Champions Shield.
Commentary by B. Taylor Rash