Second-half goals from John Terry, the second of which came in the final minute, and Mohamed Salah earned the Blues a come-from-behind victory after AFC Wimbledon had raced into a two-goal lead before the break.
Alan Bennett – with 38 seconds played – and Matt Tubbs, from the penalty spot, gave our hosts that lead but changes in personnel and formation led to an improved second period capped by Terry’s late winner. Prior to that our captain, playing on a ground more familiar to him than most, had prodded home our first before Mohamed Salah, the only Chelsea man to play the full game, restored parity.
Like at Wycombe on Wednesday predominantly different teams were used by Jose Mourinho in either half, with the core that began the match in Buckinghamshire again starting in sunny Surrey.
Ola Aina, in place of the injured Todd Kane, was the solitary change in defence, while further up the pitch there were starts for the first team pair of Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah, as well as Jeremie Boga.
Mark Schwarzer again captained the side in the first half, with Terry taking the armband after the break.
Willing running from Matt Tubbs, the smaller member of Wimbledon’s little and large strike force that also included the considerable presence of Adebayo Akinfenwa, won the Dons a corner inside the first 30 seconds. George Francomb swung the ball over and Alan Bennett’s header rolled over the line via the inside of Schwarzer’s left-hand post.
The Australian was in action again with 10 minutes played, tipping over a ferocious volley from Sean Rigg. The assistant referee’s flag was raised anyhow, offside the verdict.
Up to that point in the match those were the only instances the home side had ventured into the Chelsea half but for all our possession James Shea in the Wimbledon goal was not tested until the 23rd minute, blocking Patrick Bamford’s close-range effort after a scooped John Swift through ball had played the forward in.
Rigg on the Wimbledon left offered a threat and it required two crunching Kurt Zouma tackles in quick succession to halt the flying winger in his tracks.
However the French defender could do nothing but bring down Tubbs as the forward superbly took a Rigg through ball into his stride. The foul was inside the box and in more competitive climes would have earned Zouma a red card. Tubbs himself stepped up to take the spot kick and clinically placed it out of Schwarzer’s reach, despite our keeper diving the right way.
Swift and then Nathan Ake were picked out in space on the left as the Blues sought a response, but the former’s shot was blocked and the latter’s drifted harmlessly wide. There could be no doubting Wimbledon merited their first-half advantage.
A much-changed Chelsea side emerged after the interval – Schwarzer, Van Ginkel and Salah the only players retaining their place – and it began, from a Chelsea perspective, much better than the first half.
Lewis Baker got his head to a Salah cross, calling Shea into action, before Izzy Brown almost picked out Branislav Ivanovic with a clever cross. The lively Brown, who netted twice at Wycombe, had an excellent chance to half the deficit moments later, but his header from Salah’s excellent delivery flashed over.
It was another header that next threatened the Dons’ goal, Van Ginkel meeting Baker’s free-kick but placing his effort too close to Shea.
A change in personnel – Mitchell Beeney for Schwarzer and Jordan Houghton for Van Ginkel – was followed by a change in formation. Romeu dropped into defence to form a three-man rearguard alongside Terry and Nathaniel Chalobah. Salah and Jay Dasilva provided the width while Ivanovic moved to centre-forward.
The intention was goals and happily three followed in the final 20 minutes. Baker whipped in another fine ball, this time from a corner with his left, and though Terry missed the initial header it fell kindly in his favour for the skipper to stab home.
It was fitting the man who had played on this ground for both our reserve team and in first-team pre-season friendlies against Kingstonian in years gone by was the first Chelsea man on the scoresheet.
A more open Chelsea approach left spaces for Wimbledon to try and exploit but it had clearly added some impetus to our attacking play, too. Ivanovic, in his unusual striking role, almost raced on to Brown’s cute header, before Baker impressively picked out Salah from deep (pictured above). The Egyptian, by now the only man in yellow still on the pitch who had featured from the start, finished well as he fell down to earth. 2-2.
Chelsea sensed blood now and continued to pour forward in numbers, pressure leading to two corners in quick succession. The second of which, put in by Baker, met the towering Terry who thumped his header into the net to the delight of Mourinho on the sideline and the 1500 or so travelling Blues fans basking in the sun.
It was a test of our resolve after a slow start but the manager will be pleased with the manner in which his team fought back to earn a second domestic pre-season win in four days. Next up is Europe – the management and squad fly to Austria on Monday morning.
First half line-up (4-2-3-1): Mark Schwarzer (c); Ola Aina, Kurt Zouma, Andreas Christiansen, Nathan Ake; Marco van Ginkel, Nemanja Matic; Mohamed Salah, Jeremie Boga, John Swift; Patrick Bamford.
Second half line-up (4-2-3-1): Mark Schwarzer (Mitchell Beeney 69); Branislav Ivanovic, Nathaniel Chalobah, John Terry (c), Jay Dasilva; Oriol Romeu, Marco van Ginkel (Jordan Houghton 69) ; Mohamed Salah, Lewis Baker, Izzy Brown; Dominic Solanke.
Goals Terry 74, 89, Salah 82
AFC Wimbledon Shea (Worner 69); Fuller, Bennett (c) (Nightingale h/t), Frampton, Smith (Kennedy 69); Moore (Pell 65), Bulman (Jacquart 69); Francomb (Sainte-Luce 65), Akinfenwa (Beere 65), Rigg (Arthur 65); Tubbs (Azeez 69).
Goals Bennett 1, Tubbs 39 (pen)