PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 23: Fernando Torres #9 of Chelsea FC takes part in a training session prior to the 2012 MLS All-Star Game at NovaCare Complex on July 23, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Chelsea finished up their preseason tour of the United States with a 1-0 defeat against AC Milan in Miami's Sun Life Stadium. Although Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva have gone to Paris Saint-Germain, there was still enough quality in last year's Serie A runners up to give the Blues a hard time, and so it proved as their defence proved too much for Chelsea to break down.
We started the game brightly and had complete control of the match early on, although some hilariously sloppy play prevented them from making the most of this possession. Roberto di Matteo had elected to field a 4-2-3-1 with Eden Hazard and Ramires out wide and Raul Meireles in the hole, and while that third band (and centre forward Romelu Lukaku) showed signs of promise, whenever they made any progress they gave up their gains quickly*.
*Or were fouled without it being given in Hazard's case.
Milan were also very poor -- they seemed to think that clearing the ball straight to Frank Lampard or John Obi Mikel was a good idea -- and although Chelsea did have the upper hand early it was always going to be a matter of one team tightening up their play first. That ended up being the Italians, and a flurry of attempts towards Petr Cech's goal marked a transition from Chelsea dominance to a much more testing game. Branislav Ivanovic and David Luiz in particular seemed to have issues with the Milan front line, which was led, strangely, by Kevin-Prince Boateng.
The Rossoneri's improvement didn't give them enough to break down the Chelsea back line, however, and the first half ended 0-0 without much in the way of chances for either side. A couple of shots from John Terry that went wide were the closest the Blues came to troubling Marco Amelia's goal, and although Milan managed to get some efforts on target Cech was never troubled.
Marko Marin replaced Meireles at the start of the second half, with Hazard moving to the centre. That swap immediately made an impact as Hazard blazed a path through the middle of the Milan defence (aided by a deft touch from Lukaku) before being brought down by Daniele Bonera 22 yards out. Lampard's free kick ended up blocked by the wall, but clever play from Chelsea kept the attack going, eventually resulting in a sharply-hit effort from John Obi Mikel that Amelia did well to stop.
Marin was, as always, a direct threat on the left, but his next major contribution to the game came when he accidently blocked an acrobatic effort from Ivanovic, who'd come up for a corner. At least he's learning defence, right? Speaking of defence, Chelsea's was then ripped open by a run from Urby Emanuelson, who managed to unload a dangerous shot to Cech's right, forcing the goalkeeper to push clear.
Lampard had the game's next chance, taking advantage of some excellent work from Lukaku and Hazard to smash goalwards from 25 yards. Unfortunately, the shot was too close to Amelia, who made a fairly straightforward stop. So too was David Luiz's following a corner well won by Hazard. It was time for Fernando Torres to make an appearance, and the Euro 2012 Golden Boot winner came on for Lukaku in the 59th minute.
Milan, however, struck next, with Emanuelson taking advantage of a blown offside call (Gary Cahill had stepped up) to dash towards Cech's goal. The Holland international was able to square for Stephan El-Shaarawy, and although Cech managed to block the first shot the the ball broke kindly for the attackers and Emanuelson was able to smash home the rebound despite Ivanovic attempting a goalline block.
If you were expecting a strong Chelsea response, you forgot that we were in preseason and therefore nobody gave anything approaching one flip. Except Sam Hutchinson, who always gives all of the flips, launching himself lustily into several rather fun challenges following his introduction for Ivanovic. The best chance of the rest of the game came when Bonera inexplicably knocked Torres over on the edge of the box in the 85th minute, but Hazard couldn't get his free kick down early enough and the ball whistled over Amelia's crossbar.
Anyway, Chelsea lost 1-0. Nobody got hurt though, which makes the game a preseason success in my book. Back to England we go!