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Monday, July 26, 2004 - Page updated at 11:01 A.M.
By Bob Sherwin
Chelsea did not play its best players yesterday against Glasgow Celtic in the ChampionWorld match at Qwest Field. It's an unfinished team still looking for another defender. The players are not yet in condition and are just beginning to learn a new system under a new manager.
Yet Chelsea won, 4-2, exploiting the Celtic defense throughout the 90-minute match before 30,504 on a blistering hot afternoon. The Blues' dominance over the Scottish Premier League champion is an early indication this team, still in its competitive infancy, will be a soccer monster.
"They did a few things we worked on during these days together," said first-year manager Jose Mourniho, who came over to the Premier League club from Portuguese champion FC Porto. "I think they are already showing an identity. I can see it easily, things that belonged to our work."
Mourniho is one piece of a franchise makeover by new owner Roman Abramovich, a Russian oil billionaire who purchased the club last year. Abramovich's money has paid for four new players for this season, one of whom, striker Mateja Kezman a Serbian who set goal-scoring records the past four years in the Dutch League scored two goals yesterday, playing only the second half.
"This is Kezman. His percentage of scoring is really high," said Mourniho. "He is not like (striker Eidur) Gudjohnsen, who plays between lines, who has the clever pass, the clever control. Kezman plays in front of the goal always looking for penetration movements. He can arrive many times in front of the goalkeeper in one-to-one situations."
Kezman broke the game open in the 59th minute, coming down the middle unmarked. He took a pass from Gudjohnsen and flicked a 14-yard shot into the left corner past Celtic keeper Magnus Hedman, putting Chelsea up 3-1. But Hedman had little help.
"You can't play against a quality team like Chelsea and defend like that," said Celtic first-team coach Steve Walford. "We were all over the place, put it that way. There was a lack of communication among all our defenders."
Celtic made it 3-2 in the 68th minute on Craig Beattie's second goal of the afternoon, a header off a corner from Bobby Petta. But Kezman put the victory away in the 87th minute with a 17-yard rocket off a pass from defender Glen Johnson, who carried the ball more than 60 yards.
"We have one goal, and that's to bring Chelsea a championship," said Kezman, who was signed a couple of months ago. This month, striker Didier Drogba, midfielder Tiago and defender Paulo Ferriera were signed for top pound. Ferriera was the only one to play a few minutes yesterday, only because Gudjohnsen felt the heat.
"There was no chance for the keeper. Someone is guilty. It was our mistake and we have to solve this situation. You can understand why I need another center defender," added Mourniho, who, like Lou Piniella, continues to angle for more signings. "Imagine in high-level competition, this kind of situation. It's not possible. We have this place to be open."
Chelsea is rumored to be seeking Arsenal defender Sol Campbell. Mourniho doesn't think that will happen but insists that another player is necessary.
"Every player in the world has been linked to Chelsea in the past 12 months," said holdover Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole. "Everything the man (Mourniho) has done so far has been splendid. The lads are all happy and we're all responding in the right way. Hopefully, we can get a good run together and really challenge this year."
Chelsea scored the first goal in the 16th minute on a hard left footer by Russian midfielder Alexei Smertin. Striker Adrian Mutu was credited with the assist but Smertin did all the work, weaving laterally outside the box, then suddenly crushing a 25-yard riser high and right of Hedman.
Celtic, which lost to Manchester United here last summer in the inaugural ChampionWorld tour, ended its nil-for-Seattle scoring run in the 28th minute. Chris Sutton set up Beattie with a delicate pass down the right side.
Beattie, a half-stride ahead of Chelsea defender Robert Huth, unleashed a low shot that keeper Carlo Cudicini slowed down but it still slipped through. It continued with just enough pace to roll across the line on the left side for a 1-1 score at the half.
The 11-match tour runs for another 10 days. Celtic plays again tomorrow against Liverpool in Hartford, Conn. Chelsea plays Thursday against AS Roma in Pittsburgh.
Bob Sherwin: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com
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