With a couple of quick touches and one slick kick, Yannick Djalo and the San Jose Earthquakes put the exclamation point on a crowd-pleasing opener at the San Francisco 49ers’ new home.
Djalo scored from the edge of the box on a crisp pass from Chris Wondolowski in the 42nd minute, and the Earthquakes held off the Seattle Sounders 1-0 on Saturday night in the first sporting event at Levi’s Stadium.
“I’ve had some other great moments in my career that I’ve really enjoyed, and tonight’s going to take a special place among those memories,” said Djalo, who left in the second half with a strained right quadriceps. “It’s a fantastic stadium and a beautiful place to play.”
The red jersey-wearing Quakes (6-8-5) christened the new $1.2 billion high-tech venue with a swift and stunning goal before withstanding a flurry of shots from the Western Conference-leading Sounders (12-6-2) in the closing moments.
Wondolowski floated a pass from midfield over a defender and right onto Djalo’s feet. Djalo controlled the ball and flicked it past a charging Stefan Frei for his third goal this season, sending most of the announced crowd of 48,765 roaring out of their seats.
“It was an incredible night,” Quakes coach Mark Watson said. “Our guys were excited and they wanted to put on a good show.”
San Jose played the final sporting event at Candlestick Park last weekend – a 0-0 tie against Spanish League champion Atletico Madrid – before opening the 49ers’ plush new digs in style.
A mix of Earthquakes, 49ers and Sounders fans blended together at the Silicon Valley stadium under a setting sun that gave way to a picturesque twilight sky and an energetic crowd under the lights.
Four flag-bearing parachuters glided onto the lush green field with the ceremonial ball before the game. Fans filled most of the red seats in the two lower bowls of the stadium, where the close quarters brought them mere feet from the action – though there wasn’t much of it early, but plenty late.
San Jose contained Clint Dempsey and fellow U.S. World Cup team member DeAndre Yedlin behind a formidable, physical back line.
Earthquakes defender Victor Bernardez got a yellow card for extending his right elbow into Obafemi Martins’ face in the 19th minute. The Quakes threw an even bigger – and more stunning punch – when Wondolowski and Djalo delivered the lone goal.
Djalo missed wide left on a breakaway in the 61st minute but got tripped up at the end of the play. He walked off the field holding his right leg.
The Sounders spent the final 30 minutes attacking in waves.
Jon Busch turned back one of Seattle’s best chances when he sent Kenny Cooper’s header from the center of the box just over the crossbar for one of his eight saves. Wondolowski headed a shot by Chad Barrett off the line late.
“I think I was a little confused on what box to be in,” joked Wondolowski, who played in Brazil for Team USA this summer.
It was the second straight shutout loss for the Sounders. They lost 3-0 at home to Landon Donovan and the Los Angeles Galaxy on Monday night.
“It’s frustrating to lose,” Dempsey said. “But we had some good looks. We just couldn’t put them in the back of the net.”
It was the biggest win so far this season for the Quakes, who are last in the West, but hope they can turnaround their season.
The night still belonged to the new stadium, though for all its glitzy and grand amenities, still has kinks to work out. Some fans complained on social media of congested traffic and long lines getting into the stadium, and others reported issues with the free wireless Internet and smartphone application.
The 49ers’ first preseason game at Levi’s Stadium is against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on Aug. 17. The first regular-season game at the stadium is against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 14.