Antonio Conte gets off to losing start with Chelsea in Austria

Rapid Vienna 2-0 Chelsea
Italian hails signing of N’Golo Kanté from Leicester

Antonio Conte

Antonio Conte’s first game in charge of Chelsea ended in a low-key 2-0 defeat after his new side put in a sluggish pre-season display at Rapid Vienna.

Hours after completing the signing of the Leicester City midfielder N’Golo Kanté, Conte fielded a team missing a clutch of key players who were in action at Euro 2016, and gave fringe squad members including Victor Moses, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Papy Djilobodji a chance to impress. However, his beaten side still featured some key names, including captain John Terry, Diego Costa, Willian and Branislav Ivanovic.

The Brazilian teenager Joelinton opened the scoring early on before Tomi sealed the win with a late goal following an error by Ivanovic.

Chelsea improved in the second half as Conte replaced Loftus-Cheek and Baba Rahman with Oscar and the academy graduate Ola Aina, but still failed to create real chances until Costa nodded a Djilobodji cross over the bar. With 20 minutes left the manager introduced Loïc Rémy and Kenedy, and the latter failed to connect with a good chance created by Moses late on.

The performance left Conte with plenty to ponder before Chelsea’s next pre-season friendly, against RZ Pellets on Wednesday, though the Kanté arrival took the edge off the disappointment.

“I’m very happy the club bought the player,” he said. “He has good technique, fantastic stamina and I like this type of player. We identified him, me and the club together, and I think he can enforce a zone which is very important if we want to play with two central midfielders.”

Conte said he felt the defeat in Austria would prove “very important” in terms of learning lessons. “It’s important we now switch our minds to change. We must build through the work of our present and future. I’m unhappy with the loss and we’ll work very hard, because we want to come back and compete for the title.”

Before the match Rapid had staged a lively opening ceremony for their new Allianz Stadion, including a display of Harley Davidson motorbikes and operatic classics from a naval cadet choir.

Elsewhere, Stoke’s opening pre-season game ended in a 3-0 defeat against Championship newcomers Burton Albion. Chris O’Grady scored twice in the second half and Lucas Akins completed the scoring at the Pirelli Stadium. However, the Stoke manager Mark Hughes will have been heartened by the return of goalkeeper Jack Butland and defenders Glen Johnson and Marc Wilson after long-term injury lay-offs.

Saido Berahino appeared unmoved by the latest speculation about his future with two goals as West Bromwich Albion beat Kidderminster 2-1. The striker – linked again with a move to Crystal Palace – scored in each half for the Baggies, who also gave a run-out to their new signing Matt Phillips.

Stewart Downing and Alex Pattison scored in Middlesbrough’s 2-0 win over Doncaster. “With a lot of new players it was hard to focus on tactics,” said the manager, Aitor Karanka. “This was more about the physical side.”

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