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Lukaku lifts Chelsea, United in slim win

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SEATTLE, Washington, July 19 – European champions Chelsea opened their tour of the United States on Wednesday with a 4-2 win over the Seattle Sounders as striker Romelu Lukaku led the way with two first half goals.

The Belgian slotted home in the third and 45th minutes, while newcomers Marko Marin and Eden Hazard also scored for the Blues.

“I feel the pressure, but you play for Chelsea, there’s pressure and we won, so that’s the most important thing,” Lukaku said. “The goals were good for me, but the most important thing is the team. I enjoyed it a lot.”

It was the first match for Chelsea since they beat Bayern Munich two months ago to win their first Champions League and add to their FA Cup win.

Lukaku bulled his way past Seattle defender Jeff Parke to score his first goal then added another just before the half.

Hazard, who joined the club from Lille, scored in the 11th minute off a deflection and Marin scored in the 40th minute when his shot hit Parke and past Sounder goalkeeper Bryan Meredith.

“We were looking to (have) a good workout, good possession, some good combination play and slowly integrate new players and also see some of our younger talents that we have in the club that will hopefully be the future of the club,” said Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo.

Fredy Montero scored twice in the first half for the Sounders but they were unable to muster enough attack in the second half in front of a crowd of 53,309 at Century Field.

However, they managed to keep the score closer than their match last year with British visitors Manchester United when they were routed 7-0.

Chelsea were without five of their biggest names for the first stop on their four-game pre-season American tour.

The trip also features the first football match at the new Yankee Stadium, against Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday, before the west London side face the Major League Soccer all-stars in Philadelphia and Italian giants AC Milan in Miami.

Spanish star Fernando Torres — who helped Spain win Euro 2012 this month — will join the tour later, as will Portugal’s Raul Meireles, French midfielder Florent Malouda and England defenders Ashley Cole and John Terry.

Macheda to Man United’s rescue

Manchester United started a six-game pre-season world tour with a 1-0 win over AmaZulu before a capacity 50,000 crowd at Moses Mabhida Stadium Wednesday.

Federico Macheda scored the winner midway through the first half for the Red Devils, who came closest to increasing their lead just before time when another Italian, substitute Davide Petrucci, rattled the crossbar.

It was a closer match than anticipated, with many South Africans believing mid-table Premiership side AmaZulu would be swept aside by the former European champions even though they lacked many first choices like Wayne Rooney.

Political icon Nelson Mandela, the first democratically elected president of South Africa, was remembered before the kick-off with the teams wishing him a happy 94th birthday in song.

“My players tired during the second half which was quite even,” said United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. “I’m happy with the result and it was nice to give Nelson Mandela a birthday present of a United victory.

“I gave a few young players a chance tonight and we have high hopes for two or three of them. Jesse Lingard has got a lot of potential and Scott Wootton impressed in the heart of defence.”

United left new signing Shinji Kagawa from Japan on the bench as they started with a mix of experienced stars like captain Rio Ferdinand and youngsters Robbie Brady, Frederic Veseli, Wootton and Lingard.

The Red Devils were quick into their stride on a clear mid-winter evening in the Indian Ocean city and could have taken the lead inside two minutes had Javier Hernandez been sharper.

Goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini failed to grasp a close-range Macheda shot and the ball fell invitingly for the Mexican in front of goal, but he failed to connect and the South Africans hastily cleared.

United were dominant in the early stages against nervous opponents and the 2012 English Premier League runners-up to Manchester City would not have been flattered by a three-goal lead after 10 minutes.

Machedo broke the deadlock on 20 minutes by finishing off good work from Paul Scholes and Dimitar Berbatov with a close-range shot that touched the hand of the AmaZulu goalkeeper and the foot of a defender before crossing the line.

The goal triggered greater urgency from AmaZulu, a South African Premiership side coached by Swede Roger Palmgren, and Ayanda Dlamini twice threatened the visiting defence.

Berbatov was unlucky not to score a second goal for United before half-time as his sweetly struck volley off a corner was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Zimbabwean Kapini.

A frenetic start to the second half saw both teams come close to scoring and AmaZulu posed more of a threat as it progressed, although they were continually let down by wild shooting.

Kagawa, a June signing from German champions Borussia Dortmund, finally came on one minute from time after a prolonged wait on the touchline before the ball went out of play.

United play Ajax Cape Town Saturday before flying to China for a midweek clash against Shanghai Shenhua, the club that recently signed Chelsea Champions League hero Didier Drogba.

The Old Trafford club will also face Valerenga in Norway, Barcelona in Sweden and Hanover in Germany during a 22,000-mile (35,400-kilometre) pre-season tour before opening their Premier League campaign against Everton.

 

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