Chelsea end tour with defeat to AC Milan
AC Milan 1
Roberto Di Matteo admitted that Chelsea lacked a "cutting edge" as they ended their four-match pre-season tour to the United States with a disappointing 1-0 defeat to AC Milan and amid concerns that the club still need a replacement for Didier Drogba.
The Chelsea manager won just one of the four matches of the two-week tour – the first game, against a modest Seattle Sounders side, losing to the MLS All-Stars and earning a draw against Paris St-Germain.
Against Milan Di Matteo was able to introduce Fernando Torres, playing 30 minutes in his first participation of the tour, but the striker looked short of fitness and sharpness. With Drogba having been released at the end of last season, Torres is expecting to be Chelsea’s main striker.
Indeed Torres fluffed Chelsea’s best opportunity, late on, when he tried to find room for a right-foot shot, clear on goal, instead of shooting with his left, and was dispossessed.
Nevertheless Di Matteo declared himself happy with the strikers at his disposal – even though Romelu Lukaku, who has started all four matches, again provided evidence that he is woefully short of being ready to play for the European champions.
“We’ve got good options in attack with Fernando, (Daniel) Sturridge (on Olympic duty) and Lukaku,” Di Matteo maintained before adding of the performance, in the searing Florida heat: “I was pleased with the organisation and possession but we just did not have the final pass. We didn’t have a cutting edge. Fernando has only had 30 minutes football but there was an improvement.”
In the four matches Chelsea scored seven goals and conceded six – but four of the goals scored came in Seattle. While pre-season matches are notoriously unreliable barometers what was undoubtedly worrying for Di Matteo was the lack of evidence that Chelsea’s style of play is evolving as he has been charged to achieve with so much money spent this summer on attacking midfielders.
Granted £25m Brazilian international Oscar was missing from the tour – along with Sturridge and another attacking player, Juan Mata, with the trio at the Olympics – but Eden Hazard’s influence was, at times, minimal and although Marko Marin played well he did not provide a great threat.
Even more concerning was the evidence that Kevin De Bruyne is also not at Chelsea’s level yet and needs to go out on loan, along with Lukaku, while the club has to try and finally move on Gael Kakuta. The future of Josh McEachran must also be in doubt given his minimal participation.
Milan only arrived in Miami the day before the match but controlled large parts of the contest. They are in transition in a summer which has involved the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva and the club moving on from several of its old guard – sound familiar – but had the match-winner it Urby Emanuelson.
The Dutch international scored the only goal after 68 minutes when he broke clear, played onside by Gary Cahill, and flicked a pass to Stephan El Shaarawy who cut back inside only for his shot to be blocked. The ball broke to Emanuelson and he steered it around Petr Cech.
Before that John Terry had whistled a shot over, Hazard had tricked his way into the penalty area only for his effort to be blocked but it was Milan who controlled the contest.
There were almost 58,000 people inside this American football arena, the highest attendance of Chelsea’s tour, and they saw both Bakaye Traor and Kevin-Prince Boateng poke shots narrowly wide before Emanuelson ballooned wastefully over when put clear by Boateng. The winger also forced a fine save from Cech, after Frank Lampard had given the ball away, before he finally struck to send Chelsea back to England with a second successive defeat as they prepare for the new season.