Goals from Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard saw Chelsea cruise past an indifferent Inter in their World Football Challenge match at the Rose Bowl.
The Londoners wasted no time bursting forward, a first-minute run from Florent Malouda setting up a corner from which Ricardo Carvalho headed over. Inter tried to get their passing game going from then on, but the defensive pressure in midfield made life difficult for the Italians.
Didier Drogba had a golden chance in the ninth minute, nipping a loose touch from just in front of Belec to round the inexperienced goalkeeper – but the angle was too acute, the Inter defenders got back, and his pull-back failed to find a team-mate.
However, it didn’t take the Ivorian long to fashion another chance, and this time he converted. Given too much space by his markers, he turned and unleashed a dipping shot from all of 25 yards out. A small deflection was enough to fool Belec, who could only get a finger tip on the ball as it bounded into his net.
The chances kept on coming for the Blues, with Frank Lampard at the centre of every promising attack. Having just given Belec a scare with a tearing drive from midfield, the England formulated a wonderful passing move into the box, but the resulting Drogba shot wasn’t a clean one. Roles were reversed on 21 minutes when the striker’s storming run won a free kick for ‘Lamps’, but the long-range effort went straight at the ‘keeper.
Inter’s attacks were few and far between; and when they did come, they amounted to little. Mario Balotelli looked dangerous when the ball got to him, showing some lovely feet and a good burst of pace – but Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry were always on hand to stamp out this lone threat.
It opened up again for Chelsea just as half-time approached. A rare moment of miscommunication between Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso allowed the lively Salomon Kalou to run at Ivan Cordoba, but the big Colombian put in a brilliant last-ditch tackle just when it seemed he was beaten.
Both sides made big changes at the interval, and Diego Milito got into the action instantly. A quick break forward saw the Argentine jink beautifully through the Chelsea defence, but Petr Cech did just enough to cramp him out of a shot.
And then, just minutes later, Chelsea had a penalty. Having had his initial effort blocked, Daniel Sturridge fired the rebound into Nicolas Burdisso’s arm. Lampard made no mistake with the spot-kick.
The Blues’ pace and pressure up top almost rewarded them with a third goal in the 56th minute, as a delicate chip after a series of excellent interceptions put Nicolas Anelka clean through. The Frenchman’s chest down was good, but Belec was quick enough to close down the shot.
The Pasadena crowd went wild as Zlatan Ibrahimovic came on for Thiago Motta. The Swede was quickly in amongst it, linking up well with Davide Santon before the young full-back let fly with a strong but ill-directed effort from outside the box.
Anelka’s pace continued to cause problems for the Nerazzurri defence, as he was able to break past the last line almost at will and tee-up Lampard and Deco – though neither midfielder, despite hitting solid strikes, could find the back of the net. The Blues continued to try their luck from distance, Michael Mancienne screwing a low drill just wide.
Inter had a chance to hit back late on when Ricardo Quaresma’s free kick found Ibrahimovic at the back post, but the Barcelona-bound forward bundled his shot into the side netting. He had another chance saved moments later, sub ‘keeper Ross Turnbull getting his body comfortably behind the curling dead-ball attempt.
Franco Di Santo latched onto a delightful Deco chip in injury time, but his shot flew over the bar. Thus, it ended 2-0 to Chelsea, as Inter’s pre-season woes continue.
Mike Maguire, Goal.com