Sporting falls 2-1 to Independiente in first leg of Champions League Quarterfinals
Sporting Kansas City slipped to a 2-1 loss at Independiente in the first leg of the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinals on Wednesday at Estadio Agustin Sanchez in La Chorrera, Panama.
Ilie Sanchez buried a 51st-minute penalty kick to give Sporting an all-important away goal, but an upstart Independiente side took the lead on 39 minutes through Romeesh Ivey and pulled ahead for good when Alexis Corpas unleashed a long-range stunner near the hour mark.
The result gives Sporting a 2-1 aggregate deficit going into the decisive second leg next Thursday, March 14, at Children’s Mercy Park, slated for 7 p.m. CT. Tickets for the pivotal matchup are included in Sporting KC Season Ticket Member packages and are on sale now at SeatGeek.com.
Member packages and are on sale now at SeatGeek.com.
With his team playing an unprecedented third away match in seven days-each taking place in a different country and time zone-Manager Peter Vermes made eight changes to his lineup from Sporting’s 2-1 loss at LAFC in the MLS season opener on Sunday.
Veterans Ilie, Matt Besler and Roger Espinoza reprised their starting roles, while a host of fresh faces took the field. Goalkeeper Adrian Zendejas was shielded by a backline of Besler, debutant Rodney Wallace, Botond Barath and Jaylin Lindsey. Kelyn Rowe landed his first Sporting start in midfield, and wingers Yohan Croizet and Daniel Salloi flanked striker Erik Hurtado in a three-pronged attack.
After a cagey start to proceedings, Sporting threatened twice in quick succession at the 20-minute mark. Wallace dashed onto a looping diagonal ball from Rowe and delivered a cross from the left side that deflected narrowly wide of the near post into the side netting. On the ensuing corner, Barath rose above the rest to head Yohan Croizet’s corner kick straight at goalkeeper Jose Guerra.
Independiente responded by exploiting their pace at the opposite end. Zendejas was forced to produce two saves from close range, the first of which coming in the 23rd minute to deny Omar Browne from a tight angle. Three minutes later, Ivey was played through on goal by Juan Gonzalez only to see his low strike saved brilliantly by Sporting’s 23-year-old keeper.
Zendejas thwarted Ivey again in the 33rd minute before Browne’s dipping effort from distance missed by a matter of inches. Both chances foreshadowed Independiente’s 39th-minute opener, which saw Browne race down the right side of the box and cut back to an open Ivey near the penalty spot for his third goal of the tournament.
Having weathered the first-half storm, Sporting bounced back brightly and restored parity six minutes into the second half. An excellent passing sequence that originated deep in the visitors’ own half culminated with Lindsey drawing a foul on Gerardo Negrete along the endline of the box. Mexican referee Fernando Guerrero wasted no time pointing to the spot, and Ilie promptly dispatched the penalty into the left corner for his second Champions League goal of the campaign.
The hosts landed an impressive counterpunch in the 59th minute when Corpas, who had entered the game just three minutes earlier, picked out the top left corner with a 30-yard Wurlitzer to reignite celebrations at Estadio Agustin Sanchez.
Both sides traded half-chances over the final 20 minutes, as a counter-attack goal from Ivey was disallowed for offsides before substitute Johnny Russell’s bending attempt curled marginally wide of the far post. Sixteen-year-old Sporting midfielder Gianluca Busio entered the fray in the late stage, making a noticeable impact as the club’s youngest player to appear in an international match, but Independiente kept their 2-1 cushion to the full-time whistle.
Having logged nearly 6,000 travel miles over the last week, Sporting will finally return to Kansas City ahead of Sunday’s MLS home opener against the Philadelphia Union at Children’s Mercy Park. Tickets for the Fan Appreciation Day showdown are available at SeatGeek.com with kickoff set for 2 p.m. CT. FOX Sports Kansas City and FOX Sports Midwest Plus will televise three hours of live coverage beginning at 1:30 p.m. CT, while local radio broadcasts will air on Sports Radio 810 WHB and ESPN Deportes KC 1480 AM.
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