Chelsea defeats Inter Milan in Champions Cup quarterfinal
INDIANAPOLIS - Oscar and Eden Hazard scored first-half goals, leading Chelsea to a 2-0 victory over Inter Milan on Thursday night in a quarterfinal match at the Guinness International Champions Cup.
Despite not starting four of its stars that played in the Confederation Cup, including Brazil's David Luiz and Spain's Juan Mata, Chelsea nonetheless at times looked to be in midseason form in the exhibition match before a crowd of 41,983 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Hazard's came on a penalty kick in the 29th minute.
Although an exhibition, the inaugural eight-team, 12-game International Champions Cup is being staged to promote some of Europe's best while offering the teams a chance to prepare for their league seasons that begin at the end of the month.
Chelsea advances to play A.C. Milan in the semifinals Sunday at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Inter Milan will play Valencia, a 2-1 loser to AC Milan in its quarterfinal match last weekend, in the tournament's consolation semifinal earlier Sunday at Met Life.
The other clubs in the tournament are Everton, Juventus, Real Madrid and the Los Angeles Galaxy - the only MLS team participating. The Galaxy and Real Madrid played their quarterfinal Thursday in Phoenix.
The championship final is Wednesday in Miami.
As the tournament's only Midwestern venue, the match was considered groundbreaking for a city that has struggled to support professional soccer in the past.
It was the first soccer game ever held at Lucas Oil, the 5-year-old home stadium for the NFL's Indianapolis Colts. It was also the first time a natural grass surface was laid inside the stadium, thanks to more than 100,000-square feet of Kentucky Bluegrass that was trucked in last weekend.
Indianapolis will give pro soccer another try next year with the Indy Eleven joining the North American Soccer League in 2014. The team will be Indy's ninth pro or semi-pro team since 1973. On Thursday night, it proudly hung its banner in the middle of the Colts' horseshoe on the north side of the stadium.
"It's nice that people can come to downtown Indianapolis to see international quality soccer rather than have to go to New York, Chicago or Los Angeles," said Juergen Sommer, coach of the Indy Eleven. "People really get it. The fan base for soccer is undersold here."
The match featured intrigue on the sidelines with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho coaching against his former team for the first time since his two-year stint with Inter Milan from 2008-10.
Mourinho, who managed Chelsea from 2004-07, returned to the Blues on June 2 after managing Spain's Real Madrid the past two seasons. Soccer supporters in London are fond of the Portuguese coach, dubbing him "The Special One" after leading Chelsea two Premier League titles and one FA Cup in his first stint there.
They no doubt hope that Mourinho can bring the magic touch back to Chelsea this time around. Although it captured the Europa League title in May, one London daily newspaper labeled it "small beer" for a club that went into the 2012-13 season as defending Champions League winners. The Blues were eliminated in the tournament's group stage this past season.
Mourinho also didn't start Fernando Torres and Azpilicueta of Spain. All players subbed into play in the second half.
For new Inter coach Walter Mazzarri, who is trying to improve the Italian side after it finished ninth in the league last season, the game also gave him a chance to work recent acquisitions Mauro Icardi and Hugo Campagnaro into the team. Campagnaro was issued a red card in the 58th minute.
Chelsea dominated nearly from start to finish. Two minutes after Inter's Fredy Guarin almost volleyed in a shot past Chelsea keeper Petr Cech, Chelsea went up 1-0 on a goal by Brazilian star Oscar in the 13th minute after he capitalized on teammate Victor Moses' powerful run through the midfield.
The pro-Chelsea crowd roared as Oscar's shot settled into the top right-hand corner of the net after Moses slipped him the ball.
Chelsea then went up 2-0 in the 29th minute on a penalty kick by Hazard.