John Terry and Gary Cahill started, played the full 90 minutes, and failed miserably to contain a short-handed Real Madrid attack. In front of a crowd of 105,826 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, MI, the Chelsea defense conceded thrice in the first half without creating a real chance of their own. Eden Hazard scored twice late in the match, but it was too little too late for a real comeback to materialize.
Chelsea Defense Exposed in 3-2 ICC 2016 Loss to Real Madrid
Marcelo was the most dominant force on the pitch in the first half as the Brazilian scored two impressive goals and assisted on another. He also defended well on the rare occasion that the Blues were able to get forward.
His first goal came after cutting inside and launching a curling effort beyond a helpless Asmir Begovic. His second was after he created a midfield turnover. He worked a give and go with Marco Asensio, and bolted into the penalty area for the finish. He was more than just a goal scorer, though. He turned creator for the third goal. After doing the dirty work to get free along the left wing, he laid a perfect pass off to Mariano for the golazo.
Chelsea had no answer for anything Real Madrid threw at them. Even without Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, and many of their stars, Cahill and Terry still looked lost and confused throughout the first half.
Chelsea managed to turn the match around late in the second half after Real Madrid’s starters were relaxing on the bench. The main facilitators of their attacks were Michy Batshuayi and Hazard. Batshuayi did well to get himself in attacking positions through the middle. Hazard used his pace to get ahead down the wings and collect long passes. Both his late goals were the result of long passes and well timed runs.
After the match, manager Antonio Conte was optimistic about the team’s future, but stressed the importance of team play. He wants the players to be a team both on and off the pitch.
“If you want to reach your target, if you want to win, if you want to challenge for the title, you must be a team,” Conte emphasized in the post-game press conference. “You must be a team inside and outside the pitch.”
He feels that becoming like family is the key to switching over from last season.
With the disaster that was Jose Mourinho’s squad last year, one cannot fault him for this point of view. Chelsea often looked like they were a collection of individuals instead of a team of footballers. Based on their performance today, they still have a long way to go, particularly on defense.
Conte also had good things to say about Hazard. He likes the Belgian at forward and hopes to see him succeed there, possibly becoming a real solution for their attack going forward. Indeed, today he scored twice with great runs on long passes.
Batshuayi was also a bright spot. His determination in the center of the pitch was a main factor in Chelsea’s late comeback. Conte said that he was doing well to learn Chelsea’s philosophy and adapt to their style. He provided the assist on Hazard’s second goal.
Chelsea is one of the most interesting teams in the Premier League this season. If this match against Real Madrid was any indication, they still have a long way to go if they want to get back into Champions League competition. Conte may have this team on the right road, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to repair the damage from last year and get this club back to the heights it once enjoyed.