World Football Challenge a hit in the Bronx
European clubs Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain battle to 1-1 draw
NEW YORK -- There was a festive, playoff atmosphere Sunday at Yankee Stadium, though not for October baseball, but a friendly offseason soccer match between European champions Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain.
The two sides drew, 1-1, in the World Football Challenge, which will return to the Bronx in August and feature AC Milan and Real Madrid. Chelsea were the headliners this time, two months removed from winning the UEFA Champions League, and it was clear from the sea of blue, comprising most of the 38,202 in attendance.
"It felt like a home game for us," said first-year manager Roberto Di Matteo, who led the London club to the European title under an interim tag last season.
Chelsea treated the crowd to most of its stars, only without striker Fernando Torres, who won the Golden Boot last month in Euro 2012 and has yet to arrive stateside. All 22 players Chelsea traveled with appeared over the 90 minutes, and 18-year-old substitute Lucas Piazon scored the equalizer in the 82nd minute, sliding to poke a cross from Ramires past PSG goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.
Those in attendance saw Frank Lampard begin the game in the captain's armband, representing Chelsea for the coin toss at midfield along with PSG captain Christophe Jallet and Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, and direct traffic in the midfield.
They saw defender John Terry make his first appearance since his acquittal on racism charges in London's Westminster Magistrates' Court, and greeted him with an ovation as he entered in the 63rd minute and inherited the captain's armband.
And they saw goalkeeper Petr Cech immediately called into action, denying PSG striker Ezequiel Lavezzi point blank at the 6-yard box only three minutes in.
Lavezzi was involved early and often, applying most of the pressure and earning a yellow card for a dive after he was clean through and challenged by Cech, until teammate Nene struck first in the 30th minute. Javier Pastore fought through a trio of Chelsea defenders in the box and fired a shot off the post, bouncing directly to Nene, who sent it off the leg of Chelsea defender David Luiz and into the net.
But PSG had few chances after the goal, as Chelsea began to take control of the game.
"I think it was a good match with a good intensity," said PSG manager Carlo Ancelotti, who received a warm welcome after managing Chelsea for two seasons, including a 2010 Barclays Premier League title. "I think we played a little better the first half, but the test was very good for us because we played against a very strong team. It was the first time we played against the top team in Europe."
The match was the first of two stateside for PSG, which went on an offseason spending spree, but was without marquee acquisitions Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, both of whom they acquired from AC Milan.
Chelsea beat the Seattle Sounders of the MLS, 4-2, on Wednesday at CenturyLink Field, home to the Sounders and Seattle Seahawks, and will play twice more in the U.S. Di Matteo called Yankee Stadium "a piece of art," converted to fit a soccer field with one goal down the first-base line and another in front of the left-field fence.
Sod covered most of the infield dirt and parts of the warning track that were in play, but Di Matteo said the conditions were better than he expected, and Lampard called it "very good."
"I couldn't imagine how it was going to happen today, to be honest," Lampard said. "To see the pitch so good and the stadium looking so brilliant, it was nice to see."
Steven Miller is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.