Zhirkov goal gives Chelsea 2-1 win over AC Milan
BALTIMORE: It was a rare post-game news conference: Both coaches sitting at the same table after a game that both men treated with the utmost importance.
Fortunately, Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti and Leonardo of AC Milan are anything but antagonistic.
Yuri Zhirkov scored the tiebreaking goal in the 69th minute, and Chelsea defeated AC Milan 2-1 Friday night to provide their new coach a satisfying victory over his former team in the World Football Challenge.
"It was a difficult game because Milan played so well," said Ancelotti, who quit as coach of the Italian team in May and promptly signed a three-year contract with Chelsea. "I'm happy for the victory, but we have to improve."
Ancelotti won two Champions League titles and one Serie A championship with AC Milan. During that time he coached Leonardo, who is now the team's coach.
"I lost my voice. I'm not used to being a coach," Leonardo said. "To play against Carlo is very, very special. We're still good friends. That's why it was very special today, this match between two of the best teams in the world."
With the score 1-all, Chelsea fired two close-range kicks at goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac before Zhirkov's low-flying attempt from 19 yards landed in the left corner of the net.
AC Milan had two excellent chances to tie it during stoppage time, but Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech tipped away one attempt before another shot went wide.
The World Football Challenge is a four-team round robin tournament. Chelsea has also beaten Inter Milan, and AC Milan has also lost to Club America.
Didier Drogba also scored for Chelsea, and Clarence Seedorf had the lone goal for AC Milan.
Oguchi Onyewu, who earlier this month became the first American-born player to sign a contract with AC Milan, entered in the 67th minute. The defender (who's from Olney, Md.) received cheers from many in the sellout crowd of 71,203 at the home stadium of the Baltimore Ravens.
"Gooch today showed a different style," Leonardo said. "He's a very smart guy."
Drogba gave Chelsea a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute, shooting from the right side with his right foot and sending a rising shot into the left corner of the net. The goal was set up by a pass from John Terry.
AC Milan missed a chance to draw even in the 19th minute, when Andrea Pirlo fired a shot that was deflected by Cech to Ronaldinho, who was denied on a bicycle kick.
But the Italian team drew even in the 38th minute on a goal by Seedorf, who broke free at the penalty arc and sent a shot past the outstretched arms of Cech. Ronaldinho received credit for the assist.
Midway through the second half, however, Seedorf left with a leg injury.