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Chelsea 2-0 América CF


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Club America 0-2 Chelsea F.C.

Monday 27th July 2009, World Football Challenge, the Cowboy Stadium, Texas

America-Hutch.jpg
Sam Hutchinson challenges for the ball.

Goals from Franco di Santo and Florent Malouda saw Chelsea defeat Club America and lift the 2009 World Football Challenge.


Concluding a tour of the United States that has seen Chelsea defeat the Seattle Sounders, Internazionale Milano, AC Milan and now Mexican giants Club America - conceding just a single goal in the process - Carlo Ancelotti's side return to England after a highly successful four-game visit, after playing in front of a combined crowd of over 274,945 people in Seattle, Baltimore, California and Texas.

And inside the incredible Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, two second half goals from Franco di Santo and Florent Malouda were enough to see off the Mexican outfit, although Chelsea had twice been denied by the frame of the goal and Daniel Sturridge had earlier gone close. In reply, the Mexicans; nearing the start of their domestic campaign, offered a stern challenge for a Chelsea side that featured the likes of Sam Hutchinson and Michael Mancienne, as Ancelotti looked to give valuable minutes on the field of play to the less-utilised players in his squad.

Henrique Hilario was drafted in between the posts, replacing Petr Cech, and former Middlesbrough goalkeeper Ross Turnbull would enter the fray at half-time. The aforementioned Hutchinson and Mancienne began in the full-back positions, with Alex and Ricardo Carvalho replacing Branislav Ivanovic and club captain John Terry, who had earlier confirmed he was "100 percent committed" to Chelsea Football Club. Deco returned to the starting line-up alongside Florent Malouda, Scott Sinclair and Michael Essien, and a young strike partnership of Daniel Sturridge and Salomon Kalou meant the Blues featured plenty of firepower up front.

America looked sharp in the opening stages of the game, playing some neat one-touch football and passing the ball around confidently. With their season due to get underway on Wednesday, it was the perfect test for the Mexican giants, and as expected, they started the game the brighter of the two teams.

But it was Chelsea who looked the more menacing going forward, and but for a miscue by Daniel Sturridge, would surely have gone ahead. Neat passing between Sinclair and Deco saw the English winger break free down the right side of the Chelsea midfield, and his inch-perfect cross between the goalkeeper and defender was inch-perfect for Sturridge, who could only steer the ball wide as it approached him at pace. It was a glorious chance missed, but a warning to the America side, who too were not fielding their strongest starting line-up.

The two sides sized each other up for much of the opening exchanges as Chelsea looked to pass the ball about. Deco was excellent in the centre of midfield; his vision finding both the wingers and the full-backs as Ancelotti urged his team forward. Sturridge continued his strong start with a dazzling run before he was hacked down by Rojas inside the Mexican's half, but Alex was beaten to the ball by his marker and the ball was cleared.

Enrique Esqueda then took centre-stage with two brilliant chances for America to take the lead. The Mexican rose brilliantly to bullet a header goalwards, but was denied by a spectacular diving save by Henrique Hilario, before strong play from Pardo found the midfielder in space, but his efforts were inches wide of the far post with the goalkeeper beaten. Both teams were creating chances and in hindsight, should both have scored.

At the other end, a swinging Alex freekick went a foot or so wide of Navarrete's left-hand post, before the goalkeeper denied Kalou with a stunning reflex save. Malouda's inswinging corner was met by the forehead of the Ivorian, but a strong wrist from the goalkeeper diverted the ball onto the post and it was subsequently cleared. The best chance of the match had fallen to the Blues, but some magnificent goalkeeping had stopped them from taking a deserved lead.

In remarkable fashion, the post was struck again just 90 seconds later when another Malouda delivery was met by Chelsea's captain Ricardo Carvalho. The defender's header was true but the width of the post denied the Portuguese his first goal in Chelsea blue for almost 12 months. Navarrete then palmed away Malouda's low cross, and the following melee saw Sinclair, Alex and Kalou all try to put the ball in the net, but sheer weight of numbers ensured it remained goalless at the interval.

Ross Turnbull replaced Hilario during half-time, and Andrei Shevchenko and Franco di Santo both entered the fray, replacing Sturridge and Sinclair, both of whom had looked bright during the first half. And it was Shevchenko's industry that fashioned the first chance, as he was brought down on the edge of the area by a Club America defender, but Deco's freekick lacked the necessary trajectory to beat the defensive wall.

Enrique Esqueda tested Turnbull with a drive in what was America's first effort of the half, before di Santo did well to retrieve possession out wide before cutting inside and shooting just over. Chelsea were looking bright but the pace of the Mexican outfit was enough to cause some concern amongst the tourists.

A lull in play followed as a host of substitutions for both sides saw the game's pace gradually decrease, with some members of the Chelsea line-up looking fatigued. Claudio Pizarro joined the action, replacing Kalou, who had been disappointingly quiet during the second forty-five. Branislav Ivanovic came on for Michael Mancienne at right-back and Ashley Cole would later replace the impressive Sam Hutchinson. In between the changes, however, Pavel Pardo had hit the post for the Mexican club with Turnbull beating, but a Chelsea defender had cleared the danger.

But the game exploded into life when di Santo beat Navarrete to put Chelsea a goal to the good. Malouda received the ball from Deco, and his cute dinked ball to the far post between goalkeeper and defender allowed either one of Pizarro or di Santo the simplest of opportunities, and it was the young Argentine who beat the goalkeeper before wheeling away to celebrate.

And minutes later it was roles reversed as di Santo slid the ball into Malouda's path, allowing the Frenchman to drive the ball into the bottom corner of the net. Chelsea were good value for their lead but there was evidence of relief amongst the Chelsea squad, especially as John Terry and Didier Drogba ran to congratulate di Santo on his first goal of the tour.

The game was played at almost walking pace in the final ten minutes as Chelsea hung on to lift the 2009 World Football Challenge. It isn't the highest item on Chelsea's agenda for 2009/2010, but a trophy is a trophy!

___________________________________________________________________

The TalkChelsea.net Star Man award goes to...

America-disanto.jpg

9. Franco di Santo, Chelsea F.C.

Chelsea (4-1-3-2): Hilario (Turnbull); Mancienne (Ivanovic), Alex, Carvalho ©, Hutchinson (A Cole); Essien, Sinclair (Shevchenko), Malouda, Deco; Kalou (Pizarro), Sturridge (Di Santo)

Club America (4-1-4-1):
Navarrete; O Rojas, Mosquera (Inigo), R Rojas (Sanchez), Cerda, Reyna (Montenegro), Beausejour, Pardo (Martinez), Silva (Kontogiannis), Esqueda, Cabanas.

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