Sounders and Chelsea FC clash in an action-packed friendly match
SEATTLE - Forward Romelu Lukaku scored two goals as European champions Chelsea registered a 4-2 victory over MLS side Seattle Sounders in the opening match of the 2012 Herbalife World Football Challenge on Wednesday night at Century Field.
The English giants received a solid debut from two of their high-profile newcomers, Mark Marin and Eden Hazard, who also scored as all the goals came in an explosive first half. Freddy Monterey tallied two of his own for Seattle, who had momentarily equalized at 2-2.
Chelsea came out firing from the opening whistle. Marin exposed the Sounders' right flank after just 48 seconds, forcing Sounders goalkeeper Bryan Meredith into an early save. That sector of the field would be a problem all night for Seattle.
The Chelsea breakthrough came less than three minutes into the match as Lukaku ran onto a Joshua McEachran feed, shrugged off Sounders defender Jeff Pare and blasted a left-footed shot past the goalkeeper for an early 1-0 lead.
It looked like the rout would be on when Chelsea added a second on 11 minutes. Once again it was an attack down Seattle's right side, but this time it was new Chelsea signing Hazard who easily rounded Pare, darted by Zach Scott and then finished off his penetrating run with a strong shot for a 2-0 lead.
Montero got Seattle back into it just three minutes later, intercepting a stray pass by McEachran deep in the Chelsea half and slotting it home from the top of the box to reduce the deficit.
The goal boosted the Sounders, who rattled off a series of good opportunities, two of which featured designated player Alvaro Fernandez. The Uruguayans' curling shot in the 24th minute destined for the top right corner was nicely saved by Chelsea goalkeeper Hilario and then Fernandez's header on a corner kick in the 26th minute finished wide left.
The 2-2 equalizer eventually came in the 32nd minute when Montero settled a long ball at the top right corner of the Chelsea penalty box. He evaded Chelsea's John Obi Mikel and fired a low, left-footed shot inside the far left post.
Giveaways in midfield, however, hurt the Sounders who faced the constant threat of the rapid-fire Chelsea counterattack. The visitors reestablished their lead in the 40th minute on one of those turnovers with Marin making a run down the left flank, cutting inside and blasting a shot which took a deflection off Parke and into the goal to make it 3-2.
A minute before halftime Marin turned provider as Chelsea capitalized on a Mauro Rosales turnover. Marin sprung Lukaku who rounded Seattle's keeper and finished neatly for a 4-2 result that would eventually hold up as the final.
The second half was marked by a handful of half-chances for both sides and plenty of substitutions. The most notable of the changes was Seattle veteran Roger Levesque entering the match on 65 minutes for the final time in his professional career. He was set to retire from professional soccer after the match.
Seattle, who return to MLS action on July 28, will hope midfielder Brad Evans makes a quick recovery from the apparent right knee injury which forced him out of the match in the 70th minute.
Chelsea will remain in Seattle for two days of training before heading to New York City for their second match in the World Football Challenge on Sunday, July 22 against Paris Saint-Germain in the first ever soccer match at the new Yankee Stadium (7 p.m. ET).