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Aug 10, 2013

Lukaku's winner boosts Chelsea

WASHINGTON -- Even with a recovering Frank Lampard, Chelsea looks potent heading into the Premier League season.

Romelu Lukaku capped Chelsea' pre-season tour of the US with a late winner Saturday against Roma.

Romelu Lukaku scored in the 89th minute after Lampard scored a tying goal to help Chelsea to a 2-1 victory over Roma in the Blues' final tuneup before its Aug. 18 opener at Hull.

Lampard, who entered at half-time and has been rehabbing an Achilles injury, struck in the 61st minute to tie it after Eric Lamela's opportunistic 21st-minute strike for Roma, who were also in the final match of a three-game North American pre-season tour.

"I find it hard to put a percentage on it," Lampard, the club's all-time leading goal scorer, said of his fitness.

"I feel good. We've had a good, strong preseason now, lots of games, lots of training. ... I think we're ready. We'll be ready next week."

Eden Hazard and Demba Ba helped set up both Chelsea goals.

Saturday's match capped a four-game American pre-season tour for Chelsea, who won all three of their matches against Italian opposition.

The Blues defeated Inter Milan and AC Milan earlier this month, both 2-0, before falling 3-1 to Real Madrid on Wednesday.

"It's difficult to compare" the four opponents, said Lampard, who sat out the first two matches before playing the first half against Real Madrid. "In pre-season, you can't compare. I think they're all very good teams. They've got quality."

Chelsea created more chances throughout Saturday's match and were rewarded in the match's closing moments when Hazard rounded the Roma defense on the left and drove a shot into goalkeeper Morgan de Sanctis' body.

The rebound fell to Ba, who played a neat pass for Lukaku to finish into the net from about 6 yards.

It was a deserved win, with the caveat that Chelsea used 10 substitutes and perhaps wore out Roma, who played seven starters for the full 90 minutes.

Roma and United States national team midfielder Michael Bradley said fitness shouldn't be an excuse.

"We're disappointed not to win, even thought it was a preseason game," said Bradley. "It's important to develop this winning mentality -- this idea that every time you step on the field you have this confidence in the team that you're going to win."

After a string of Chelsea pressure earlier in the half, Lampard tied it after another swift attack that began when Hazard's pass from the left found Ba.

Ba played a quick touch to Lampard, who took a couple of steps and then fired a 22-yard effort inside the left post and beyond the dive of de Sanctis, sending a crowd of 25,615 at RFK Stadium that mostly wore Chelsea blue into delight.

That goal tied it after Lamela's strike that came after a nightmarish mistake from Chelsea goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.

With Roma pressuring the ball, Ryan Bertrand played a pass back to Schwarzer, who fumbled his trap attempt. Schwarzer chased the ball, but it smacked off the left post, past the goalkeeper and back in front of the goal, where Lamela sent it into an empty net.

After Lampard's goal, Roma nearly went ahead again two minutes later when Pablo Osvaldo attempted to head Francesco Totti's cross over goalkeeper Jamal Blackman, who jumped to tip the ball over for a corner kick.

The Italian side missed another chance in the 78th minute, with Osvaldo this time shooting over the crossbar on an open chance from the left.

Chelsea, meanwhile, were reduced to twice appealing for penalties from American referee Armando Villarreal before finding a bit of late magic.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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