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Soccer stars honor Oklahoma victims at Busch

Tragic tornado remains a focal point as Manchester City holds off Chelsea

As lineups were announced pregame, Chelsea and Manchester City each drew impressive cheers from the 48,263 soccer fans who poured into Busch Stadium on Thursday night, but the loudest praise was reserved for when Chelsea and Manchester City met at midfield, holding up a banner that read, "Together in Support of Oklahoma."

The St. Louis Cardinals partnered with Relevent Sports and the two Premier League clubs to help children impacted by the tornado that devastated Moore, Okla., on Monday.

The Cardinals and Relevent Sports will donate one dollar for every ticket sold to Thursday's exhibition match, a 4-3 victory for Manchester City, and both soccer clubs will match the donation. The players also wore commemorative black armbands as a tribute to those affected by the tornado.

"We have all been moved by the heartbreaking images and stories coming out of Oklahoma," Cardinals president Bill DeWitt said in a statement. "Cardinals Care has established a special fund to help the many children whose lives have been forever changed by tragedy."

Chelsea took a 2-0 lead into halftime with goals from Demba Ba and Cesar Azpilicueta in the first half, and Oscar added to the lead with another score in the 53rd minute. But Manchester City stormed back with four unanswered goals in the second half, including one from Micah Richards at 90 minutes to provide a lead.

"We are a bit disappointed, of course, because we lost the game," said Chelsea goalkeeper Peter Cech. "But in terms of the football and the entertainment for the people -- it was fantastic to see so many people coming to the stadium to watch the game -- they had a pretty interesting evening."

Manchester City assistant manager Brian Kidd echoed Cech's sentiment, adding that the high-scoring affair was good for the game's U.S. exposure.

"I think if you see games like that, it definitely gives football -- soccer -- a great name. They love high-scoring games. Everything is based on that in America. … I was so pleased we had a full house, and I feel like they got a really good game. I think they got their money's worth."

The international exhibition was the first soccer game played at Busch Stadium. The mound was removed, along with a layer of dirt in the infield and around home plate. A plastic covering was placed on the remaining dirt and sod was laid on top, transforming the Cardinals' home into a soccer stadium.

Head groundskeeper Bill Findley said on Saturday that it will take two or three days to return the field to normal baseball conditions.

"It's wonderful, and I hope it continues to happen out here," said Missy Goodwin, a St. Louis native who attended the game with her daughter. "It's a little bit different to see a soccer field out there. It's amazing how they transformed it."

While there were no stakes for the friendly exhibition, the match provided an opportunity for many fans to see two of the Premier League's top clubs play closer to home.

"We get to watch the top professionals at the top of their game playing here," said Mike Dolan of Wildwood, Mo. "When my brother first got the tickets, he said, 'We're pretty far away.' I said, 'Not as far as England.'"

Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for

St. Louis Cardinals