Unimaginative Chelsea get a Real-ity check

Chelsea forward Eden Hazard (left) shoots and scores against Real Madrid goalkeeper Ruben Yanez during an International Champions Cup friendly loss in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Belgium international admits that Chelsea are tired after a week of manage
Chelsea forward Eden Hazard (left) shoots and scores against Real Madrid goalkeeper Ruben Yanez during an International Champions Cup friendly loss in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Belgium international admits that Chelsea are tired after a week of manager Antonio Conte's gruelling double sessions.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ANN ARBOR (Michigan) • The attendance of 105,826 was the highest to watch Chelsea in the flesh.

Alas, by the time the English football club's players rose from their slumber on Saturday, the game was beyond them.

Facing a team that bore little resemblance to Real Madrid's first-choice XI, the London outfit conceded three goals in the first half - with Marcelo (19th and 26th minutes) and Mariano Diaz Mejia (37th) scoring for the Spanish giants.

Chelsea hit back through substitute Eden Hazard in the 80th minute and stoppage time. But eventually lost the International Champions Cup friendly 3-2 at the Michigan Stadium.

Very little of what manager Antonio Conte saw of his new charges would have pleased him.

Chelsea assumed control only after he changed personnel and formation following the break when Real fielded what was almost their youth team.

Among those who came on for the Spanish giants were manager Zinedine Zidane's son Enzo and Norwegian Martin Odegaard, 17.

Real never unleashed Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Keylor Navas, James Rodriguez, Toni Kroos, Pepe or Sergio Ramos, who were either injured or holidaying.

"We were tired because we've trained so hard," said Hazard. "I tried to make a difference. It wasn't enough, but I tried. The important thing is to be ready for the season."

Chelsea may have been tired after a week of Conte's gruelling double sessions in Los Angeles.

But the lack of creativity on Saturday must have been a concern and they were over-run in midfield.

At the back, they were fragile and Asmir Begovic did not exude authority in goal as he was beaten three times before he was replaced by Thibaut Courtois.

Conte juggled his ample resources gently, but chose not to risk French midfielder N'Golo Kante, who joined the squad on Friday.

The match provided a chance for Chelsea's restless squad to settle themselves down. Instead, it revealed that Conte still has much work to do to get them playing as a united force.

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2016, with the headline 'Unimaginative Chelsea get a Real-ity check'. Print Edition | Subscribe