KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- Sporting Kansas City holds a three-point lead in Group 2 of the 2014/15 CONCACAF Champions League after a 3-0 victory over Real Esteli on Tuesday at Sporting Park.
Claudio Bieler scored twice and Sal Zizzo added the third for his first goal in a Sporting KC uniform, while Eric Kronberg earned a clean sheet in his return from injury.
Bieler opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a first-time finish from the top of the six-yard box on an assist from Seth Sinovic. The Argentine forward nearly added another goal in the game's 26th minute but couldn't fully connect and then saw his free kick saved by Justo Lorente in the 43rd minute.
Bieler bagged his brace in the 70th minute, earning a penalty kick on a foul by Real Esteli captain Elmer Mejia and then converting the ensuing attempt with a well-taken shot to the goalkeeper's left.
The Designated Player now has three goals in his past three appearances and 16 goals in all competition since joining Sporting KC prior to the 2013 season.
Nine minutes later, Sporting Kansas City capitalized on a corner kick from Antonio Dovale to stretch the lead to 3-0 against the Nicaraguan champions. Zizzo, a halftime substitute, was first to the delivery and flicked his header inside the far post.
Thanks to the second half goals, Sporting KC supporters can receive a buy one, get one snack size wings coupon to be redeemed at area Buffalo Wild Wings locations by texting BWWSKC to 72727. Additionally, Sporting Kansas City supporters can take advantage of 44-cent Monster Tacos at area Jack in the Box locations on Wednesday as a result of the team's four shots on goal.
Both goalkeepers made three saves on the night for their respective sides. Lorente was called into action in the 28th minute as he raced off his line to challenge Graham Zusi, whose chip was lofted just wide of the target.
The Nicaraguan's best save of the match came in the 89th minute to deny Bieler a hat trick. Dovale provided the pass for Bieler, who shielded off his mark and forced a strong stop by Lorente before sending the follow-up effort into the side netting.
Five minutes later, Lorente reacted quickly to smother Sinovic's clever flick that re-directed a shot from Jorge Claros in the game's final minute.
Kronberg, the third different Sporting KC goalkeeper to start the team's three CONCACAF Champions League matches, made his first appearance since July 6 after recovering from a fractured bone in his left hand.
His first save on Tuesday came in the eighth minute to keep Elvis Figueroa off the scoresheet, followed by an alert stop on Samuel Wilson's free kick from 25 yards out in the 19th minute.
Real Esteli, who were eliminated from the CONCACAF Champions League with their second straight 3-0 defeat, failed to convert on two other scoring opportunities in the first half.
Juan Barrera struck his shot narrowly wide from outside the penalty area in the 36th minute and Daniel Da Silva's curling effort sailed just beyond the far post on the cusp of halftime.
As part of the club's Shutout for Slices promotion with Papa John's, all Sporting KC fans can receive 50 percent off any regular price online order at local participating Papa John's retailers over the next two days by entering the code 'SPORTINGKC' online at PapaJohns.com.
Sporting KC's final match of the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League group stage will come Oct. 23 at Deportivo Saprissa in San Jose, Costa Rica and will determine which of the two teams secures a berth in the quarterfinal round.
The decisive fixture will air nationally on FOX Soccer Plus (English) and Univision Deportes Network (Spanish) in the United States.
Sporting Kansas City will advance with a draw or victory, and can also move on to the knockout round with a one-goal loss or a two-goal loss so long as Sporting KC scores two or more goals. Saprissa would advance in the following scenarios: via a 2-0 victory or with a three-goal or greater margin of victory.
A 3-1 victory by Saprissa would leave the teams deadlocked on every tiebreaker and would result in a drawing of the lots to determine the group winner.