NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — It was a familiar sight for a summer Sunday in the Bronx: thousands of blue-clad fans entering Yankee Stadium — only Derek Jeter & Co. were all the way out in Oakland.
These fans were for Chelsea. And they were in for a treat.
John Terry ran onto the field in the 63rd minute, back in his familiar Chelsea uniform instead of a business suit. Thousands of Blues supporters behind the first-base dugout rose to their feet and cheered.
Nine days after his acquittal in London on racism charges, the Chelsea captain was given a warm welcome back from his club’s fans during the European champions’ 1-1 exhibition tie against Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday night in the first soccer game at new Yankee Stadium.
“It felt very good,” Terry said after the game, giving a “thumbs-up” and then walking away from media.
Terry was acquitted of a “racially aggravated public order offense” on July 13 in Westminster Magistrates’ Court, accused of making racist remarks to Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League game last October. The 31-year-old defender still could face charges from England’s Football Association.
“John will always be a hero for Chelsea fans. Quite rightly so, the way he’s done on the pitch,” midfielder Frank Lampard said.
Terry was stripped of his English national team captaincy by the FA in February after he was charged, a move that prompted national team coach Fabio Capello to quit.
“He’s come through the ranks of our club and he’s an icon. He’s just happy he can move on and play football again,” Matteo said.
A matchup of two of the world’s wealthiest clubs featured 20 substitutions and drew a crowd of 38,202 to the $1.5 billion granite-and-limestone stadium, which opened in 2009.
An overwhelming blue-clad, pro-Chelsea crowd made Yankee Stadium feel a bit like London’s Stamford Bridge, with six sections of loud Blues supporters behind the first-base dugout, opposite five rows of PSG fans at the front of the left-field bleachers.
“It felt like a home game for us,” Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo said.
Chelsea fans hung the familiar “JT Captain, Leader, Legend” and “Born Is The King” banners from the back wall of the Legends Suite section behind the Yankees dugout.
Nene put PSG ahead in the 30th minute after Javier Pastore dribbled around a defender and sent a shot off Petr Cech’s near post. The ball rebounded to Nene, whose shot went in off a leg of defender David Luiz
Lucas Piazon, an 18-year-old Brazilian forward who signed last year but has yet to play a competitive match for Chelsea, entered in the 65th and tied the score in the 82nd after exchanging passes with Ramires on a counterattack down the right flank.
“He’s definitely one to watch for the future,” Di Matteo said.
One of the world’s most expensive stadiums hosted two of the planet’s highest-spending clubs. Chelsea has won three Premier League titles since Roman Abramovich took control in 2003 and last May added its first Champions League crown.
Soccer’s ante was upped when Manchester City was bought in 2008 Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment, and that team won its first Premier League title in 40 years last season.
Then PSG was purchased last year by the Qatar Investment Authority, which last winter hired coach Carlo Ancelotti a half-season after he was fired by Chelsea.
PSG has added Ezequiel Lavezzi, Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic this summer, even as European soccer’s governing body has been phasing in Financial Fair Play rules, designed to prevent teams from operating at a huge loss.
“Chelsea was one of the best teams in Europe, and Paris Saint-Germain wants to be one of the best teams in Europe,” Ancelotti said. “To reach the highest level in Europe, you have to spend money. You have to do investment. Chelsea made this investment 10 years ago, and they are at the top. Paris Saint-Germain started last year. We want to be quickly at the top of European football.”
Only Lavezzi has appeared during the preseason, with Ibrahimovic scheduled to report Tuesday following his acquisition from AC Milan.
“It’s good for Ligue 1 and for the Champions League. I’m sure they’re going to be a force,” Di Matteo said. “These things happen to football now, and people take over and they invest a lot of money.”
With a relatively old roster, Chelsea is in transition. Eden Harzard and Marko Marin have been added while Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Jose Boswinga have departed following a sixth-place EPL finish that went along with the surprising Champions League title.
Chelsea was without Fernando Torres, Juan Mata, Raul Meireles and Daniel Sturridge, all players who figure to see regular action this season. They missed appearing on a field that was 110-by-70 yards, slightly narrow and short. The infield dirt, basepaths and mound area were covered with grass, which will be removed before the Yankees return home to start a series against Boston on Friday.
Most of the stands were 20-30 yards from the sidelines. It was strange seeing a soccer field in a stadium built for baseball.
“I couldn’t quite imagine how it was going to happen,” Lampard said.
NOTES: Injured Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera conducted the pregame coin flip. … Torres reports back to Chelsea on Monday, two days before the club plays the Major League Soccer All-Stars at Chester, Pa. … PSG is at D.C. United on Saturday. … AC Milan plays Real Madrid at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 8.
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