KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- Reigning English Premier League champions Manchester City opened their tour of the United States on Wednesday with a 4-1 victory over Sporting KC in an international friendly at Sporting Park.
MCFC opened the scoring courtesy of Zuculini, a 21-year-old Argentine youth international, at the game's the two-minute mark with an opportunistic finish from the top of the penalty area. His right-footed strike beat Andy Gruenebaum and kissed off the inside of the post to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead.
Playing an EPL opponent for the fourth time in four years, Sporting Kansas City nearly leveled the score just over a minute later only to see Sapong's shot strike the crossbar. In the ninth minute, Dom Dwyer was on the end of a Benny Feilhaber free kick and buried the ensuing rebound however the Englishman was ruled offside and the goal was disallowed.
Gruenebaum made four saves in his 45 minutes of first half action with three coming in a three-minute span. He twice denied well-taken attempts from the 17-year-old Iheanacho along with a stop on a long-range effort from Stevan Jovetic. His final save came on a header from Micah Richards off a corner from 2010 World Cup veteran Jesus Navas.
Sporting Kansas City weren't without chances of their own in the back-and-forth affair, including a superbly struck shot from Seth Sinovic that sailed narrowly over the crossbar in the 27th minute. Manchester City goalkeeper Willy Caballero -- one of three new signings for the club this summer -- was then beaten by Sapong three minutes later for the game-tying goal.
Feilhaber, the reigning MLS Player of the Week, delivered the perfectly placed pass from the left flank and Sapong was given ample time to settle before slotting his shot home from 10 yards out. The former MLS Rookie of the Year, who scored his first of the year a week earlier in a 2-1 win at Columbus, celebrated with an acrobatic backflip in front of the sold-out crowd of more than 18,000.
Minutes after making an important intervention on the defensive end to thwart Jovetic, MLS All-Star Aurelien Collin came close to giving Sporting KC the lead in the 41st minute but could not connect at the back post following a head from fellow centerback Matt Besler.
Manchester City would prove to be the more clinical of the two sides on the night in the remaining 45 minutes and grabbed the game-winning goal in the final minute of the first half. A Navas free kick from outside the right corner of the penalty area was met by Boyata with a powerful header as City capitalized on the set piece opportunity.
Sporting Kansas City introduced an entirely new lineup for the second half, featuring the debuts of the team's three newest acquisitions: Jorge Claros, Michael Kafari and Martin Steuble, who had arrived in Kansas City earlier in the day. The opposition, on the other hand, elected to make a single swap with Gael Clichy -- a member of France's 2010 World Cup team -- replacing Richards.
Homegrown goalkeeper Jon Kempin was forced into action in the 49th minute with an impressive save on Jovetic. Sporting Kansas City responded with a pair of scoring opportunities, first when Designated Player Claudio Bieler's snap header was directed wide of the near post in the 52nd minute and then 10 minutes later when Antonio Dovale's corner was pushed over the crossbar by Caballero.
The ensuing corner had Sporting KC poised to pull even when Jimmy Medranda found space inside the area with options to play the ball across or go it alone on goal. The 20-year-old Colombian elected to shoot and his shot sprayed wide of the far post.
Kafari, signed earlier this month, was in position to score on his debut when Sal Zizzo's cross from the right touchline was put into his path. The attempt was aimed on target but turned away by Caballero and five minutes later Kafari was whistled for a foul on Scott Sinclair inside the penalty area. Kolarov converted the penalty kick to his right to double Manchester City's lead in the 72nd minute.
Bieler would have one last look at goal in a one-on-one opportunity with Caballero, albeit from a tight angle, before MCFC added their fourth and final tally in the 88th minute. Manuel Pellegrini's squad, which scored a club record 156 goals in all competition during the 2013-14 campaign, closed out the scoring through Iheanacho.
The Nigerian youth international, the Golden Ball winner at the 2013 FIFA Under-17 World Cup, placed his first-time shot inside the near post with a left-footed strike from 20 yards out. Navas earned his second assist of the night on the goal as Manchester City picked up their second consecutive victory of their preseason.
Sporting Kansas City, atop the Eastern Conference standings, returns to MLS action on Saturday in Toronto with a 6 p.m CT kickoff at BMO Field live on KMCI 38 the Spot and SKCTV. The team's official watch parties will be held at the Johnny's Tavern locations in the KC Power & Light District (1310 Grand Blvd.) and Overland Park (6765 W. 119th St.).