Football: Chelsea crash, Conte consoled

Joelinton rounding Chelsea goalkeeper Asmir Begovic to score Rapid Vienna's opener in their friendly. New coach Antonio Conte knows the Blues have a lot to do to get ready for the new season.
Joelinton rounding Chelsea goalkeeper Asmir Begovic to score Rapid Vienna's opener in their friendly. New coach Antonio Conte knows the Blues have a lot to do to get ready for the new season.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Coach unhappy with disjointed show in Austria but pleased with £32m capture of Kante

VIENNA • Antonio Conte was unhappy that his first game in charge of Chelsea ended in a 0-2 loss at Rapid Vienna, but he had reason to cheer after completing the signing of N'Golo Kante hours earlier.

France international Kante, 25, became the manager's second major buy this month, following the arrival of Michy Batshuayi from Marseille, after the Blues paid a reported £32 million (S$56.9 million) for the defensive midfielder from English champions Leicester City.

"I want to say Kante was a target and for this reason I'm very happy the club bought the player," said Conte, after watching his new side put in a sluggish display in a pre-season friendly.

"He's a good player. He has good technique, fantastic stamina and I like this type of player. If you want to win, then a team need this type of player that works hard for the team.

 

"We identified him, me and the club together, and I think he can enforce a zone which is very important if we want to play with two central midfielders."

The Italian fielded a team missing a clutch of key players who were in action at Euro 2016, and gave fringe squad members including Victor Moses, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Papy Djilobodji a chance to impress.

However, his beaten side still featured some key names, including captain John Terry, Diego Costa, Nemanja Matic, Willian and Branislav Ivanovic.

The English giants fell behind when Brazilian teenager Joelinton scored after just eight minutes.

Chelsea academy product Ola Aina fired against the post in the second half. However, Rapid struck again through Tomi Correa on 82 minutes to wrap up the victory.

"This is the first game for us but I knew it would be very difficult after three days of double training," said Conte. "I think it was a bit normal to meet these difficulties in the game, but I don't like to lose and it's the same for my players."

He added that he felt the defeat in Austria would prove "very important" in terms of learning lessons.

"It's important we now switch our minds to change. We must build through the work of our present and future. I'm unhappy with the loss and we'll work very hard."

Conte, who steered an unfancied Italy side into the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 before losing to Germany on penalties, said Chelsea's ultimate goal this season was to challenge for the title after a lowly 10th-place finish last term.

"We'll work very hard because we want to come back and compete for the title until the end of the season. I know there is a lot of work to do but we are ready," he said.

He will have plenty to ponder following the defeat before Chelsea's next pre-season game, against RZ Pellets on Wednesday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2016, with the headline 'Chelsea crash, Conte consoled'. Print Edition | Subscribe