Jose Mourinho's former side came back to haunt him
PASADENA, Calif. -- Tuesday night's match between Chelsea and Inter Milan at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., was billed as a battle between a master and his former students, as Inter manager Jose Mourinho faced off against the team he lead to two English Premier League titles.
It was a showdown in which the students clearly came out on top.
Chelsea was quicker on the ball and far more motivated in its 2-0 win in the second game of the World Football Challenge. It capitalized on lax defending by Inter Milan, and was ultimately rewarded for playing more aggressive soccer.
Chelsea opened the game with two strikers, Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou, and the tandem paid dividends from the beginning, as balls to the pair seemed to catch Inter off guard. Drogba had a golden opportunity in an early one-on-one with Inter goalkeeper Vid Belec, only to show a bit of rust as pushed his first touch too far outside and lost the chance.
Drogba needed little time to redeem himself, although his 11th minute goal was helped by some lazy Inter marking. Receiving the ball with ample space outside the penalty area, Drogba unleashed a curling shot that was deflected slightly by Inter's Ivan Cordoba. Belec was slow to react and the ball trickled just inside the post.
While Chelsea's motivation in the match was clear, Inter looked like a team going though its preseason paces, more concerned with working on fitness than getting a win. They had few chances in the first half, often relying on Mario Balotelli to create opportunities on his own with the midfielders lagging behind.
Chelsea responded to Inter's lack of a long ball threat by maintaining a well-organized back line that responded in numbers to any Inter chances. In the 35th minute, a Balotelli run set up Patrick Vieira near the top of the penalty area, but the Blues were able to quickly snuff out the opportunity before Vieira could turn towards goal.
Much of the focus in the second half was on Inter star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose long-term status with the team remains up in the air. With talk of his imminent departure for Barcelona swirling around the Inter camp, Ibrahimovic was left out of the starting lineup. But just as he did in Inter's loss to Club America on Sunday, Mourinho brought Ibrahimovic on as a second half substitute.
AC Milan vs. Club America
Georgia Dome, Atlanta
7 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN360.com
Chelsea vs. Club America
The Swedish forward gave a jolt of energy to the crowd and a Inter offense that able to create markedly better chances in the second half. Still, it was telling that Ibrahimovic's most electric moments were a missed bicycle kick and a stinging free kick in the 86th minute that went straight to Chelsea substitute keeper Ross Turnball.
With Inter struggling to put Ibrahimovic in dangerous positions, Chelsea was able to again capitalize on its more aggressive approach. The newly acquired Daniel Sturridge, who looked confident with the ball throughout the second half, drew a handball against Cordoba in the penalty area and Frank Lampard stepped up to cleanly put the penalty kick away.
Mourinho skipped the post match press conference, instead handing off the duties to assistant coach Giuseppe Baresi. Baresi confirmed that getting a win was not a priority for the team.
"For Inter, it was the beginning of the training season," Baresi said through an interpreter. "We weren't trying to risk too much."
The crowd at the Rose Bowl was split fairly evenly between supporters of both teams, though Fernando Torres, David Beckham and Lionel Messi shirts indicated that many in the audience were content to see top teams on American soil.
Andy Firchau is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He can be reached at email@example.com.