A goal at the beginning of the game and one near the end settled Antonio Conte’s first pre-season friendly in charge of the Blues in Rapid Vienna’s favour.
Plenty of our players received valuable game time in the Austrian capital against a side who have already played a competitive game this season and returned to training five weeks ago. Rapid’s goals came from Joelinton and Tomi, while Chelsea went closest through a Diego Costa shot and a long-ranger from Ola Aina that beat everyone but hit the post.
The next step for Conte and Chelsea is Velden where pre-season preparations will continue with more training sessions and a game against WAC Pellets on Wednesday evening.
There was plenty of pre-match fanfare on display to celebrate the opening of the Allianz Stadion, a neat 28,000-capacity arena with an impressive large terrace behind one goal. Live music and a display of Harvey Davidson motorbikes were the highlights before kick-off, along with a match between Chelsea and Rapid’s disabled teams that the hosts edged 3-2.
Conte’s maiden Chelsea XI was an experienced one captained by John Terry. Asmir Begovic began in goal with Branislav Ivanovic, Baba Rahman and Papy Djilobodji also in defence. Nemanja Matic and John Mikel Obi were the central midfielders in the 4-2-3-1 formation. Willian, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Victor Moses supported Diego Costa up front.
From the very first whistle Conte paced his technical area giving his players instructions as our hosts enjoyed the majority of the initial proceedings. The first shot in anger arrived on seven minutes, Begovic getting down low to parry Philipp Schobesberger’s effort and Djilobodji sliding in to prevent any chance of a rebound.
The respite was temporary, however, as 60 seconds later Rapid took the lead. The Brazilian striker Joelinton cutely rounded Begovic and slid the ball into the empty net having been played in on goal down our left-hand side.
Those in blue faced an unusually hostile atmosphere for a pre-season friendly, and it was with a cacophony of whistles raining down on Moses that the Nigerian won our first corner after bursting down the left. From another half-cleared set-piece soon after, Willian dazzled and crossed low. Schobesburger was fortunate not to divert it past his own keeper.
By the half-hour mark Chelsea had fully settled and were retaining the ball nicely even if clear opportunities remained elusive. We did come close in the 35th minute through the twisting and turning Diego Costa, who fired a fraction wide with the whites of the goalposts in his eyeline for the first time. Willian had fed him from deep.
Either side of that chance Rapid twice went close, but that was the end of the goalmouth action in the first half so the Blues headed to the dressing rooms behind.
Oscar and Aina were the fresh Chelsea faces out for the second half, replacing Loftus-Cheek and Baba in a stadium now engulfed with green smoke from flares let off by the excitable home support.
Moses had an appeal for a penalty waved away once play restarted, the referee judging the covering defender to have won the ball first, and Oscar nearly picked Diego Costa out with a searching ball as the hour mark approached.
Conte gave Aina the thumbs up after some fine work from the Academy graduate down our left, and then from the other side of the pitch Djilobodji sent over a superb cross that Diego Costa met with his head but couldn’t keep down. The striker was then just a yard off turning in a dangerous Moses centre.
By the midway point of the second period Rapid had barely seen the ball in our half but they weren’t far off doubling their lead when Louis Schaub shot wide from outside the box. At the other end Nathaniel Chalobah – not long on for Mikel - tried his luck from a similar distance and forced sub keeper Richard Strebinger to scramble to his right and save. It was a well-hit effort.
Conte brought Loic Remy and Kenedy on with a little under 20 minutes remaining and the latter snatched at a chance when a bouncing ball in the box landed at his feet after more good work from Moses.
An Aina strike from deep then flew goalwards and crunched against Strebinger’s left—hand post. By now the Blues were playing two up front with Remy and recent sub Traore the central strikers. Christian Atsu came on for Moses for the final 10 minutes.
Rapid doubled their lead somewhat against the run of play when Tomi stroked the ball in from close range after Begovic had made a fine save with plenty of Chelsea players upfield in search of a goal that was not to arrive.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Begovic; Ivanovic, Terry (c), Djilobodji, Baba Rahman (Aina h/t); Mikel (Chalobah 58), Matic (Traore 78); Willian (Kenedy 72), Loftus-Cheek (Oscar h/t), Moses (Atsu 80); Diego Costa (Remy 72).
Unused subs Blackman, Delac, Hector, Miazga, Cuevas.
Rapid Vienna: Novota (Strebinger h/t), Schosswendter (Dibon), Schrammel (Auer 84), S.Hofmann (c) (Murg 55), Grahovac, Szanto (Nutz 81), M.Hofmann (Sonnleitner 81), Schobesberger (Entrup 84), Schaub (Schwab 77), Pavelic, Joelinton (Tomi).
Scorers Joelinton 8, Tomi 82