RESERVE REPORT: CHELSEA 2 MANCHESTER CITY 3
A double of header of friendly fixtures against Manchester City was completed with a behind-closed-doors game at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday afternoon.
The result was a reversal of the 3-2 victory Chelsea had recorded at the City of Manchester Stadium last week, all five goals netted in a first-half in which both strike forces were allowed to enjoy themselves more that coaches generally appreciate.
Chelsea welcomed back three players who have spent considerable loan periods in the Football League Championship - Scott Sinclair (pictured above) and Ryan Bertrand, who were reunited down the left flank, and Jack Cork who played deep in midfield in the 4-2-3-1 shape currently favoured by Guus Hiddink, an observer of this game.
Franco Di Santo led the attack, Miroslav Stoch the central midfield in behind and Salomon Kalou began on the right wing.
Man City's right winger Vladimir Weiss, who was a major player in their youth side's victory over Chelsea in the Youth Cup Final a year ago, set the pattern for a half of chances when he hit the bar within the first two minutes. The shot over Hilario following a sustained City attack rebounded safely.
Bertrand looked to be harshly penalised for the opening goal when a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge with Weiss was judged illegal. David Ball rolled home the penalty with just three minutes gone.
Before Chelsea's 12th minute equaliser it took an interception from Michael Mancienne in the area to prevent another attempt but when the Blues hit back it was something special from Sinclair.
Man City centre-back Clayton McDonald, by far the heftiest player on the pitch, was left with no chance of catching our left winger once he had raced behind with the ball.
Charging in on goal but with still much to do from the tightest of angles, the 20-year-old finished across the keeper and high into the far top corner with unerring accuracy from his right boot.
Two minutes later, Di Santo made it 2-1 in what was a very good Chelsea spell. He calmly finished one-on-one with the keeper after escaping offside and running onto a good ball forward from Kalou.
It took a tackle inside the area from City defender Paul Marshall to prevent Kalou adding another in a similar move another two minutes further on but then the visitors were gifted an equaliser.
Their second goal on 25 minutes all stemmed from an ill-advised Patrick van Aanholt ball infield that was snatched upon by Weiss. Combined pressure from Mancienne and Bertrand could not prevent the finish under Hilario's dive.
The Chelsea keeper saved from lively striker Robbie Mak three minutes later before Di Santo saw a chance from the edge of the area deflected over after the industrious Bertrand dug out possession. Van Aanholt headed the corner wide.
Kalou's appearance ended just beyond the half-hour mark. He had received treatment several minutes earlier in the game but had played on without too much obvious difficulty.
However on 33 minutes the Ivorian walked off, substitute Fabio Borini coming on to play behind Di Santo with Stoch moving out to the right.
What in the end proved to be the winner came about when Mak exchanged passes with strike partner Ball inside the area to finish strongly from close range. The same player wasn't too far away from a Man City fourth eight minutes before the break as Chelsea continued to defend poorly.
Stoch curled a free-kick not too far wide four minutes before half-time with Kasper Schmeichel in goal rooted to the spot.
There was a good tempo and good movement about Chelsea's start to the second half with Stoch frequently involved. Clear chances for an equaliser were proving elusive however.
Finally, midway through the half, Stoch burst past his marker with good control of a high ball and let go with a shot that looked well on its way to the net. That was until full-back Ben Mee appeared just in time to deflect wide.
Schmeichel was the reason Sinclair, low-key since the interval, didn't score his second on 68 minutes, the keeper making a sharp save low to his left after the shot came in following an opening worked by Cork (pictured above).
Borini headed a Stoch corner narrowly wide as the game approach its final 15 minutes, the Italian's own sharpness having won the set-piece.
Man City had been quiet in attack compared with their profitable first 45 minutes, but Weiss fired across the face of goal to change that briefly.
Then another Chelsea chance to level fell on Borini's head, this time in open play but again from Stoch's right-side supply. The attempt was glanced wide of the far post.
The final hope came when Schmeichel dropped a corner but as the ball was cleared up field, the ref was putting the whistle to his lips to bring the game to a close.
'The two games were worthwhile,' decided reserve team manager Paul Clement.
'Both teams had an attack-minded plan but the first-half we were too open so we tried to secure things up a bit at half-time. We were far better in the second-half even though we didn't score. We had more of the ball and they created less against us. We were disappointed not to score again.
'We have been the same players for a long time but were a totally different team today and you lose coherence because that. Sinclair and Bertrand have played a lot together over the years and there was fantastic work between them for the first goal and Scott took it very well - but we did not have enough of that understanding over the pitch.'
Chelsea: Hilario; Bruma, Mancienne, Van Aanholt (Taiwo 82), Bertrand; Cork, Bridcutt (Ofori-Twumasi 67); Kalou (Borini 33), Stoch, Sinclair; Di Santo.