No substitute for class as Kalou and Alex rescue Chelsea

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The Independent Online

Pre-season friendly matches may be about building fitness, bedding in new players and trying out some new systems, but it never looks good to fans for any team to lose to supposedly inferior opposition.

So it must have come as a relief to Chelsea that they finally made their superior class tell with two late goals to force a 2-2 draw at Championship side Reading yesterday.

Defeat would not have impressed Chelsea fans on a day when Milan rejected as too low the west London club's offer of £6.5 million plus striker Claudio Pizarro for midfielder Andrea Pirlo. The manager Carlo Ancelotti had to make do with a starting midfield of Deco, Lampard, Mikel and Essien at the Madejski Stadium.

Despite their quality Chelsea found themselves 2-0 down courtesy of sloppy work in defence. Jimmy Kébé scored Reading's first after Hal Robson-Kanu's shot had been deflected to him and Scott Davies netted a low free-kick after Shane Long's run was cut short on the edge of the area.

But much of the match was played out in front of the home goalkeeper Adam Federici, who denied Chelsea until added time loomed. Then the substitute Salomon Kalou broke through to beat him one-on-one and Alex, also a substitute, headed home John Obi Mikel's free-kick.

Arsenal left it late to beat Atletico Madrid in an all-action last five minutes of their opening match of the Emirates Cup. Substitute Andrey Arshavin put Arsenal ahead after being set up by Cesc Fabregas, but German Pacheco equalised almost immediately. Arshavin was not finished, however, and the Russian pounced on a poor back header to net the winner.

Today Rangers, who edged Paris St-Germain 1-0, provide the opposition for Arsenal, who benefited from a fine second-half display by Jack Wilshere and welcomed back Tomas Rosicky from a 19-month absence. "I am pleased but cautious," Arsenal's manager Arsène Wenger said of Rosicky. "If he gets through the next two months without set-backs, then we have won the battle, but it is not won yet."

Blackburn Rovers had to settle for a 2-2 draw at Sheffield Wednesday, where Ryan Nelson and Jason Roberts put them 2-0 up. Akpo Sodje pulled one back from Jermaine Johnson's pass and Marcus Tudgay equalised from a corner.

Birmingham City went down 2-1 at Nottingham Forest, who were impressive after last week's derby defeat by Notts County. David McGoldrick put Forest ahead from Dexter Blackstock's nod-down, but Birmingham looked set for a draw when Lee Carsley equalised in the 80th minute from Damien Johnson's cross. Forest secured the win they deserved when Rob Earnshaw created space to score three minutes later.

Sunderland won 2-1 at Celtic, who may have had their minds on the second leg of their Champions' League qualifier against Dynamo Moscow on Wednesday. Goals either side of the break from Kieran Richardson and Kenwyne Jones gave the visitors a deserved lead. Marc Crosas pulled a goal back.

Stoke were denied their first pre-season victory by a late equaliser at Derby, where Arnaud Mendy, who came on only moments earlier, made it 2-2 with a stunning scissor-kick.

Burnley found Leeds United too hot to handle, losing 2-1 to the League One side at Turf Moor. The American striker Mike Grella gave the visitors the lead six minutes before the interval and substitute Andy Johnson made it 2-0 in the 69th minute with an angled shot. David Edgar pulled one back with his first Burnley goal.

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