Chelsea Tops AC Milan, 2-1, in Baltimore
Saturday, July 25, 2009
BALTIMORE, July 24 -- In his homecoming, Oguchi Onyewu was nearly the hero.
With his new club, AC Milan, trailing in the 90th minute Friday night at M&T Bank Stadium, the Sherwood graduate got free for a header on a corner kick.
Onyewu's bid went just wide, and the Rossoneri fell to Chelsea, 2-1, spoiling the U.S. international's return to Maryland and keeping him winless in two appearances with Milan.
"I thought I had a goal before it came off my head," Onyewu said, laughing. "It's okay. I think you guys know I don't miss those chances often and I just gotta take it in stride and hopefully put the next one behind him."
The sellout crowd of 71,203 stood and roared its approval when Onyewu's No. 14 lit up in green on the referee's glowing board at midfield signaling a substitution, and the 6-foot-2 defender entered for just his second appearance with the Rossoneri.
But just two minutes after his warm entrance, Onyewu's appearance was spoiled on a shot by Chelsea's Yuri Zhirkov following a frantic flurry of shots near the top of the box that gave Chelsea a 2-1 lead, and eventually the win.
"I always get a warm welcome whenever I play in D.C. or Maryland," Onyewu said. "Of course today was sold out so I couldn't have much better than that aside from missing that opportunity to score."
The fans came out en masse in Baltimore, arriving well before kickoff and filling the stands 90 minutes prior to the first kick.
As the two starting lineups filed into the stadium, a survey of the purple seats showed nary a supporter without a camera or cellphone raised to capture the moment. And in the first half the crowd was treated to the world class soccer they sought.
Two brilliant goals in the first 45 minutes were worth the admission alone, the first a 35-yard laser from Chelsea forward Didier Drogba that found the upper corner on the far post. The second, Milan's equalizer, was a powerful shot from the seemingly ageless Clarence Seedorf on top of the 18-yard box on a feed from Brazilian star Ronaldinho, who held off a defender and touched back to the Dutch midfielder.
Ronaldinho, who was greeted with the loudest cheers during player introductions, seemed aware of the need to entertain the fans, showing his brilliance all over the field at different moments -- a bicycle-kick attempt inside the box that caromed off a teammate and a cheeky hop-touch pass in the first half and a nutmeg of a defender and curling free kick off the crossbar in the second.
Drogba's opening goal, however, also put the crowd on its feet.
John Terry played a quick pass to the Ivory Coast native about 40 yards from net on the right side, and Drogba took two touches toward the goal before unleashing a shot to the far corner and past helpless Milan goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac, then stood straight up in admiration of his own work.
Milan pushed in search of an equalizer, and in the 20th minute Andrea Pirlo's shot forced a kick save from Petr Cech. The save left a rebound and Ronaldinho promptly sent it back toward net on a bicycle attempt that was blocked unintentionally by teammate Marco Borriello.
In the 29th minute, Seedorf chipped a shot toward the far post, but the ball caromed off the crossbar and out.
But nine minutes later Ronaldinho did well to hold off a defender and again laid a ball back into the path of the 33-year-old Seedorf. This time the veteran made no mistake, crushing a shot past Cech, who managed to get a touch on the ball but not enough to keep it out.
"If you talk about Milan I am very happy with our performance because we stayed in the match 90 minutes," AC Milan Manager Leonardo said. "The first minutes was very hard for us, the big pressure from Chelsea [gave us] some difficulties at the beginning but then I think we controlled very well the game, and then I think we created a lot of chances."
But despite Milan's entertaining play, it remained winless in the World Football Challenge thanks to Zhirkov, who found the back of the net on a rebound after shots by Andriy Shevchenko and Frank Lampard were turned away.