A perfect quartet of shoot-out penalties brought our 2015 tour of North America to a winning close in Washington DC.
The Blues were unerring from the spot while Barcelona struck woodwork with one and were kept out by Thibaut Courtois from another, as our keeper followed up his two penalty saves on Saturday night. This was only the third shoot-out of his professional career.
Jose Mourinho billed the game itself, which was played in front of nearly 80,000 fans in the United States capital, as a step-up in training for the season ahead, and it was a step-up in Chelsea performance level too.
Eden Hazard added another eye-catching goal to his increasingly impressive collection. That came early and with the Blues playing some of our best football of the fortnight, the lead was maintained until half-time.
Barcelona were back level through Luis Suarez 12 minutes after the restart and then took the lead with a shot from Sandro Ramirez good enough to beat Courtois, who had already made a string of stops.
However the Blues pulled the game level close to the end thanks to a well-timed spring and header from Gary Cahill who took a smack in the face in the process. It was Chelsea who packed the right punches when our third game in this International Champions Cup tournament was decided from the penalty spot.
It was a largely familiar starting line-up selected by Mourinho. Kurt Zouma partnered Cahill in central defence with recently appointed vice-captain Branislav Ivanovic assumed the armband.
While Cesar Azpilicueta continued as the one ever-present in this pre-season programme of matches, with Hazard ahead of him, there was a new face on the opposite flank. Kenedy was in the team having trained with the squad during this tour. Fluminese gave permission for the 19-year-old attacker to take part in this game.
Showing good pace, he was bundled to the floor in the opening minutes to give Fabregas the chance to send a free-kick into his former club’s penalty area. Zouma towered to meet it and it needed a good save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen to prevent us taking a rapid lead.
Kenedy soon made his presence felt at the other end of the big and full arena by getting ahead of Luis Suarez to shepherd the ball back to Thibaut Courtois.
Matic headed a free-kick over before Diego Costa pulled a hole in the Barcelona defence which lead to an Oscar shot which was saved.
Chelsea, sporting the new adidas away kit for the first time, soon made the early domination pay through Hazard’s brilliance. Riding a challenge from Ivan Rakitic in trademark style, he then changed direction and went for goal, evading two other defenders before slotting the ball home low and true before a saving tackle could be made. This is what the American fans had come to see. There were just nine minutes played.
Courtois saved from Rakitic and then punched away the Croatian’s corner as Barcelona responded with their best period of the half.
Midway through the half, Diego Costa was fouled 20 yards from goal as he accepted a Hazard pass. Fabregas ran over the ball and left it for Oscar who watched his sweetly struck shot rebound off the crossbar with the keeper well beaten. Diego Costa got to the rebound but couldn’t battle through for a shot.
Matic was commanding the central area in this opening half, but he left the space clear for Hazard to give the Catalans the runaround on 28 minutes until he was hacked down. Treatment was required but no card shown.
Barcelona were next to test the opposition keeper however and Courtois needed to be sharp to keep out Suarez. He had to save again soon after from Sandro Ramirez.
On 33 minutes, all of the sizeable percentage of the crowd who were supporting Chelsea were ready to celebrate a Diego Costa goal. Fabregas spotted the simple pass to send his Spain team-mate away but having steadied himself, the striker shot wide.
Courtois saved from Suarez again in what was developing into a bit of personal duel and although Chelsea were playing well, it was inevitable Barca would create chances. Gary Cahill importantly threw himself in the path of Rakitic and the midfielder blasted over from five yards out.
Jeremy Mathieu was the latest to foul Hazard just before half-time and the referee had seen the Belgian take enough punishment. This time he waved his yellow card at the centre-back.
There were only two changes for the second period as Brazilians switched. Willian and Ramires came on for Kenedy and Oscar, with Fabregas moving more forward.
Diego Costa shot over in the opening seconds after approach play that had the crowd gasping. Munir El Haddadi then headed against the foot of the Chelsea post but only he had fouled.
The equaliser did come after 51 minutes, Suarez succeeding in scooping the ball over Courtois from inside the area and watching as Zouma failed in a valiant effort to clear the ball off the line.
Both sides made a collection of changes on the hour, with Zouma moving to left-back as Azpilicueta was given some well-earned rest. Diego Costa’s withdrawal at that point was preceded by him needing to sit down on the turf but he was able to walk down the tunnel.
It was one of the two Barcelona players who had remained on from the start who put the Spaniards ahead. Sandro Ramirez, one of their front three, stepped outside of Moses on the left of the area and clipped a shot beyond Courtois and into the far side of the net. It was a quality strike.
Falcao was introduced not long after, with recent substitute Loic Remy dropping back behind the Colombian. Jordi Alba was booked for going through the back of Moses.
There was hope of a Chelsea leveller as the final 10 minutes approached but Ramires fired wide from Moses’s square pass. The Nigerian winger then sent another ball across the face of goal but to no avail. He was causing problems but Willian couldn’t reach another low cross after good work from Moses down the right. His time to make a difference was approaching.
There were just over five minutes left on the clock when Cahill bravely nodded the Blues level. Willian had floated a testing free-kick into a crowd box and Barca dealt with it poorly. Our England international defender was first to the dropping ball thanks to a prodigious leap. He headed it in at the expense of a blooded nose from the keeper’s fist and the end to his participation.
Willian or Remy might have headed in a late winner from a Moses cross but rather got in each other’s way, and Rafinha could have grabbed it at the death for the Spaniards but half-volleyed wide.
Instead Chelsea faced a second shoot-out decider in four days.
Andres Inesta was first up and scored. Falcao, as he did against PSG, took Chelsea’s first and sent it high to the keeper’s left. Alan Halilovic went for the chip but hit the bar so when Moses netted calmly, Chelsea were 2-1 ahead.
Gerard Pique shimmied twice but there was no fooling Courtois who saved on the turf.
Ramires found the bottom corner to make it 3-1 to the Blues.
Sandro Ramirez kept Barcelona in it but the stay of execution was short. Remy kept up the 100 per cent success rate and victory was ours.
On an extremely hot and humid night, Washington DC had been served up with some great entertainment.
Chelsea Courtois; Ivanovic (c), Zouma, Cahill (Chalobah 87), Azpilicueta (Terry 60); Fabregas (Moses 60), Matic (Mikel 60); Kenedy (Willian h-t), Oscar (Ramires h-t), Hazard (Falcao 68); Diego Costa (Remy 60).
Scorers Hazard 9, Cahill 85.
Penalty shoot-out scorers Falcao, Moses, Ramires, Remy.
Barcelona Ter Stegen (Masip 60); Bartra (Pique 60), Douglas (Sergi Roberto 17), Mathieu (Vermaelen 60), Adriano (Jordi Alba 60); Rakitic (Iniesta 60), Busquets (c) (Samper 60), Gumbau (Rafinha 60); Sandro Ramirez, Suarez (Pedro 60), El Haddadi (Halilovic 73).
Scorers Suarez 52, Ramirez 65.
Penalty shoot-out scorers Iniesta, Sandro Ramirez
Booked Mathieu 43, Jordi Alba 75
Referee Allen Chapman