An opener from Bertrand Traore and an Oscar brace were enough to claim victory at the opening of the US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Wednesday night.
Burkinabe forward Traore nodded us in front from a rebound halfway through a competitive first half before Giacomo Bonaventura curled home a stunning free-kick to level the scores before the break.
The pace slowed in the second half as a number of substitutions broke up the play, but one of them, Oscar, took the limelight when he first placed a penalty into the top corner after a Milan player had handled, and then powered a low drive into the bottom corner after good work by Juan Cuadrado.
Another South American born forward, Diego Costa, had returned to action from the start of the game following a short injury lay-off while Nemanja Matic came back into the 11 with Thibaut Courtois starting his first game of pre-season. N’Golo Kante was on the bench alongside Eden Hazard, who had netted twice against Real Madrid on Saturday.
It was less than 90 seconds before Courtois was getting to work, denying Ignazio Abate’s close-range header after he had stolen in behind Cesar Azpilicueta at the far post.
Inside five minutes there was action at the other end as Alessio Romagnoli got himself into a muddle near the corner and was dispossessed by Traore, stopping the youngster in his tracks with a pull which ripped the fabric of the youngster’s shirt. Less than a minute later Diego Costa had suffered the same treatment inside the box, his jersey also torn, but no penalty was given to the Spaniard.
The returning number 19 had his first look at goal when Willian crossed from the right, jumping well but heading high over 17-year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma’s crossbar.
Milan forged an opening when M’Baye Niang raced onto Luiz Adriano’s through ball which had split Gary Cahill and Ola Aina, but the pacey Frenchman could not beat Courtois, who diverted the ball wide with his legs.
Traore, sitting a little deeper than his strike partner when without the ball, hit the target with a decent drive, and then Fabregas expertly picked out Costa before his path to goal was blocked by Gabriel Paletta, but we would not need to wait much longer for our opening goal.
Matic found space in the centre and laid off to Victor Moses, whose low drive was palmed upwards by Donnarumma and into the path of Traore, who instinctively stooped to head home.
By this stage midway through the first half the Blues were well in control, dominating possession and territory. Azpilicueta almost finished a tidy move involving Costa, Moses and Matic whenhe received possession 25 yards out, his drive arrowing just past the post.
Seven minutes before the break Milan were given a free-kick from a similar position, and though Andrea Pirlo has long left the San Siro club, they clearly still possess a dead-ball specialist, as Bonaventura stepped up to curl over the wall and into the bottom corner, beyond Courtois’ outstretched arms.
Neither side made changes at the break, meaning this Chelsea back four would be starting its sixth consecutive half of football together.
They were kept busy at the start of the second half too, as Niang worked Courtois once more and then Cahill blocked from Davide Calabria.
Five minutes into the second period Antonio Conte made his first changes – introducing Kante, for his Chelsea debut, and Hazard in place of Moses and Traore. The change hinted at a change of shape with Kante dropping deep in front of the defence to make a 4-3-3 shape.
Hazard was quickly into the thick of things, coming inside and releasing Willian in the right channel, the Brazilian’s powerful shot beaten away at the second attempt by Donnarumma.
More changes followed with Branislav Ivanovic, back after a shoulder injury, Oscar and Michy Batshuayi all introduced.
With both sides making substitutions the action suffered a little, but the Chelsea fans in the stadium would have more to cheer when we were awarded a penalty 20 minutes from time.
Hazard’s intended cross was handled by Andrea Poli, and Oscar took the responsibility of side-footing the spot kick beyond the keeper’s reach to restore our lead.
The Belgian was suffering more than a little rough treatment from the Italian defenders since his introduction, becoming the third Chelsea player in need of a jersey change after one overzealous challenge.
Four minutes from time another substitute, Juan Cuadrado, attracted two Milanese defenders down the right flank before supplying the unmarked Oscar with a well weighted pass, allowing the No. 8 to smash his second of the night into the bottom corner and put the game beyond our opponents’ reach.
Conte will take plenty of positives from the victory, while as a club we can be proud of our involvement in opening this incredible new arena, in the process attracting the biggest crowd ever for a football match in Minnesota.
The squad flies home to England on Thursday, before jetting to Germany to complete our pre-season calendar against Werder Bremen on Sunday. There remains work to do before we face West Ham on 15 August, but things are coming together.
Chelsea (4-2-4): Courtois; Aina (Ivanovic 59), Terry (c), Cahill, Azpilicueta; Matic (Chalobah 29), Fabregas (Oscar 59); Willian (Cuadrado 79), Traore (Hazard 52), Costa (Batshuayi 59), Moses (Kante 52).
Scorer Traore 24, Oscar (pen) 70, 87
AC Milan (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Abate (Montolivo 60), Paletta, Romagnoli (Vergara 67), Calabria (Vido 81); Kucka, Poli, Bonaventura; Suso (Zanellato 81), Luiz Adriano (Honda 67), Niang (Matri 81).
Scorer Bonaventura 38
Booked Romagnoli 5, Calabria 64
Referee Edvin Jurisevic
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