The match action is underway – and the goal that settled Maurizio Sarri’s first pre-season game as Chelsea boss came early in the game and it was scored by Pedro.
Against A-League opposition and in front of a sell-out crowd of over 55,000 for the first ever football game at the Optus Stadium, on our first visit to Western Australia since 1974, the team will be wondering a little how they did not score more. Woodwork was struck three times in the second half and the Perth Glory keeper made a series of saves, some made easier for him than they should have been.
But 19 Blues players saw action over the 90 minutes as the fitness programme intensifies and had the first chance to adapt to a new formation and new manager’s instructions.
Jorginho was handed his first start in a Chelsea shirt by a coach who knows him well. Our newest midfielder lined-up with Cesc Fabregas, captain for this game, and Ross Barkley in the centre ground. Jorginho was deployed the deepest.
Alvaro Morata led the attack, flanked by compatriot Pedro and 17-year-old Callum Hudson-Odoi who impressed at times in the 45 minutes he played. There was another 17-year-old in defence, in the shape of Ethan Ampadu who was paired with David Luiz. Davide Zappacosta and Marcos Alonso were the full-backs as the Blues lined-up in a 4-3-3 shape. Marcin Bulka, the 18-year-old Polish keeper in our Academy began between the posts.
It took Chelsea less than five minutes to score the first goal. The Blues had done some defending beforehand, Ampadu making an important sliding block to prevent a cross, but then Fabregas sprayed the ball wide to Hudson-Odoi. The youngster, operating down the left, sold his marker a smart dummy and crossed in at waist height. Pedro was there to divert the ball in from close range.
The Australian winter rain was coming down steadily as Chelsea probed for a second goal. Jorginho looked to have picked out Pedro with a great ball past two Perth players but the offside flag went up. Morata was also offside from another well-threaded ball, this one from the boot of Fabregas, and Barkley was just beaten to a pass from the same source by the goalkeeper.
Back in midfield, Barkley powered forward strongly before passing down the middle for Morata, but the centre-forward was crowded out before he could get a shot away. There were now 26 minutes gone and the score remained 1-0, although we were dominating possession. At half-time three-quarters of the ball had been ours.
We were very unfortunate not grab a second soon after when the busy Barkley sent a high ball in for a combination of Morata and Hudson-Odoi to battle it back for Fabregas, but his on-target shot was deflected over.
Pedro flashed wide and Zappacosta warmed the hands of Liam Reddy in the Perth goal with a low shot before Hudson-Odoi broke from his own half but slightly over-hit his ball aimed at putting Pedro through on goal, so 1-0 it was at the break. Bulka had been asked to do little prior to picking a cross out of the air on the stroke of half-time, the ball sent over by former Chelsea Under-21s player Fabio Ferreira.
Sarri made three subs for the start of the second half, with Emerson, Mario Pasalic and Tiemoue Bakayoko coming on, but it was one of those who had played the first half, Barkley, now wide on the left of the attack, who hit the post six minutes after the restart. In truth the 24-year-old did not strike his shot cleanly at all but it had the direction to beat the keeper’s dive.
Perth then enjoyed their best spell in attack before Fabregas hit the outside of the same post that had taken the Barkley shot.
Tammy Abraham and Tomas Kalas came on, and the first of those two burst onto a ball and had a firm shot saved by the keeper, before moments later Pasalic, a player Sarri will have known already from his loan at AC Milan, made it woodwork strike no.3 – the same right-hand upright again.
Pedro volleyed sharply but the keeper blocked this one. Somehow that 2-0 lead was proving very elusive, and that was confirmed when a blocked Pasalic shot ricocheted Barkley’s way. He spun but fired wide from a few yards out.
The home side had some chances towards the end, the pick a header from a corner nodded wide by Brendon Santalab who later shot wide when well-placed, and another when a cross into the goalmouth was headed away by Ola Aina, maintaining a clean sheet for Bulka on his first appearance with the seniors.
Next up a game against familiar opposition for Sarri - Inter Milan - who we face in Nice on the French Riviera on Saturday.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Bulka; Zappacosta (Aina 73), Ampadu (Kalas 61), David Luiz, Alonso (Emerson h-t); Fabregas (c), Jorginho (Bakayoko h-t), Barkley (Musonda 76); Pedro (Piazon 73), Morata (Abraham 61), Hudson-Odoi (Pasalic h-t).
Scorer Pedro 5,
Booked David Luiz 36
Perth Glory: Reddy; Neville, Djulbic (Chianese 67), Lowry, Franjic (Davison 67), Grant, Wilson (Juande 77), Kilkenny (Brimmer 67), Ferreira (Diego Castro 77), Keogh (c) (Santalab 67), Italiano (Howard h-t).
Booked Santalab 87
Referee Shaun Evans