Action from the August 7, 2013, CONCACAF Champions League match between the Sporting Kansas City (blue) and host Real Esteli. (Photo: Pinolerosports)
ESTELI, Nicaragua – Ike Opara and Dom Dwyer scored in each half to lift Sporting Kansas City to a 2-0 victory over Real Esteli in the Group 2 opener of the CONCACAF Champions League at the Estadio Independencia on Wednesday.
Opara ensured the Major League Soccer squad’s first-ever Champions League match would be a successful one, scoring what proved to be the winner in the 31st minute.
The defender latched on to a curling free kick by Benny Feilhaber and beat Real Esteli goalkeeper Justo Lorente with a looping header inside the far post from the edge of the six-yard box.
Just days after scoring his first Major League Soccer goal, Dwyer gave Sporting a much-needed insurance goal in the 76th minute. The English forward won the ball in the midfield, turned a Real Esteli defender, raced into the box and put a left-footed shot into the side netting from 14 meters.
Jacob Peterson threatened to give the visitors a second goal in the 38th minute, but his low cross across the face of the goal was corralled by Lorente after brief bobble.
In the 58th minute, forward Soony Saad dribbled along the top of the 18-yard box, looking for space to shoot. The U.S.-born Lebanon international, though, put his attempt over the crossbar.
Moments after Real Esteli leading scorer Rudel Calero replaced Juan Barrera, the Nicaraguan striker nearly equalized. His deflected 61st minute header from eight meters went out of bounds.
Five minutes later, Sporting Kansas City had a pair of quality chances. A Feilhaber shot in space sailed over the bar and Saad’s effort from 22 meters was parried over the bar by Lorente for a corner kick.
Dwyer sealed the encounter with 14 minutes left in regulation, securing three road points for Sporting Kansas City, which booked its first berth in the Champions League after winning the 2012 U.S. Open Cup.
Sporting will head to Tegucigalpa to take on Honduran powerhouse Olimpia in its next match on August 27, while Real Esteli -- winless in nine all-time Champions League outings – will host Olimpia in its next Group Stage match on August 21.