AC Milan vs. Chelsea: 6 Things We Learned from International Champions Cup Clash
Milan's effort merited a goal, but Chelsea's defense held firm throughout, and the Rossoneri were kept out despite a second-half surge.
Kevin De Bruyne found the net in the 29th minute with a cool finish after some slick creative wing play from Eden Hazard. After a slew of changes at halftime and during the second half, substitute Andre Schurrle secured the Blues' victory with a goal in the 92nd minute.
Though this match is technically a friendly, neither team approached it as one. Let's examine six things we learned from a thrilling 90 minutes at MetLife Stadium.
Chelsea's Defense Is Extraordinarily Deep
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One of Jose Mourinho's most daunting challenges during his second stint at Chelsea will be how to rotate his defense and determining which of myriad potential arrangements is most effective.
Every one of Gary Cahill, David Luiz, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic are viable options in central defense.
Terry surely will be given preferential treatment because of his status as Chelsea's iconic captain, but Ivanovic was stellar against AC Milan, making an heroic goal-line clearance in the 27th minute and nearly scoring on several occasions.
These centre-back selections affect the rest of the defense. Cesar Azpilicueta was once again defensively solid and threatening in attack, and his inclusion almost necessitates Ivanovic playing in the center.
Add this to Ryan Bertrand's burgeoning competition with Ashley Cole and Mourinho is presented with quite a conundrum.
Keep an Eye on Chelsea's Youngsters
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Chelsea's star power in attack is as endless as their defensive depth.
But while prominent players like Eden Hazard, Oscar, Juan Mata, Victor Moses, Frank Lampard and others often hog the spotlight, letting one's attention slip from the Blues' potent core of young players is a huge mistake.
After all, Chelsea's opening goal was scored by 22-year-old Belgian international Kevin de Bruyne, whose seemingly boundless energy enabled him to be almost as omnipresent in defense as he was in attack.
Marco van Ginkel was also given the opportunity to impress from the opening whistle and made a persuasive case to Jose Mourinho that he is one to consider for inclusion in the Blues' Premier League squad.
Romelu Lukaku and Ryan Bertrand surely cannot be kept on the sideline for much longer, either. Mourinho thus must consider which of his many promising young talents deserve to be integrated with the senior squad right away.
AC Milan Just Couldn't Quite Get Creative Enough
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If Milan was going to get a goal, they probably would have done so during the first half, when both Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy were leading the forward line.
While both—especially Balotelli—showed occasional flashes of brilliance, they could not quite break down Chelsea's resolute back line.
Riccardo Montolivo, Kevin-Prince Boateng and the rest of Max Allegri's corps of attacking midfielders were not much more effective.
Yet it is difficult to say whether AC Milan's inability to ripple the back of the net was due more to their inability to loosen their creative juices or Chelsea's typically English defensive resilience.
Regardless, the Rossoneri probably do not need to worry about their ability to create chances—they were, after all, playing one of Europe's very best, and most complete, teams.
Victor Moses Is Hitting Top Form
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Victor Moses was spectacular against Inter in Indianapolis recently, and his performance against Milan's other, better, team proves that he is hitting a purple patch at precisely the right time.
The young Nigerian (who, though just 22 years old, seems to have been active for quite a while) must compete with a plethora of world-class wingers and forwards, but he looks to have the stuff to win that challenge.
After coming on at halftime, Moses was an extremely live wire on the right wing, running Kevin Constant into the ground and dribbling his way through Milan's defense multiple times.
He would be an automatic starter on almost every other English club but still might be on Chelsea's star-studded side.
Fernando Torres Has Not Changed
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As always, Fernando Torres showed that he is capable of the spectacularly skillful and the spectacularly awful.
At one point in the second half, the much-maligned Spaniard received the ball on the right wing during a promising counterattack, promptly fell over and recovered quickly enough to nutmeg his marker and skip past several more Milan players into the box.
Once there, of course, he hesitated and played a mistimed pass that led to the death of one of Chelsea's more promising attacking spells.
With both Demba Ba and the explosive Romelu Lukaku nipping at his heels, Mourinho might not be able to stick with Torres for very long.
This Is One Preseason Tournament That Players Actually Care About
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People tend to approach preseason tournaments—even those that feature very prominent clubs—with a sort of passing interest. The matches are friendlies, after all.
Fortunately, AC Milan and Chelsea did not approach this match with any desire to be amicable toward one another.
Nigel De Jong, in typical fashion, ratcheted up the intensity in just the fourth minute with a scissor-tackle. Milan continued to relentlessly press high up the pitch and force Chelsea to work to simply get the ball out of their defensive third.
Both sides kept the tempo intense throughout the match and were extremely aggressive on set pieces.
And just in case you were wondering, there was none of this sort of lollygagging from Mario Balotelli.