Three goals, two scored by Ross Barkley and one by Olivier Giroud, plus over $4 million dollars raised for a range of organisations are the headline figures from our Wednesday night game in the United States.
Barkley found the net early in the encounter with a composed finish and Giroud doubled the advantage with a header before half-time. Barkley’s second, scored when a Gonzalo Higuain shot struck him, came midway through the second period and before the end there were opportunities for three of the young players who were part of the squad for this journey across the Atlantic – Conor Gallagher who replaced an injured Ruben Loftus-Cheek, plus Reece James and Trevoh Chalobah.
The match was played in the impressive Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts; the opposition was the local MLS side; and the cause an important one – to raise the profile of our Say No To Antisemitism campaign and combat all forms of discrimination.
The owners of the two clubs, Roman Abramovich and Robert Kraft, had decided to stage this fixture due to a global rise in antisemitic activity and hate crimes and backed the initiative by donating $1 million in support of the cause. Mr Abramovich had made the journey to be at the game.
He only had to wait two minutes 10 seconds to see his team take the lead. The scorer Barkley did well to make himself space and fire just inside the near post after the Revolution defence had failed to clear a Pedro cross properly.
There was a cheer as soon as Eden Hazard collected the ball for the first time just inside the opposition half and took on the versatile Brandon Bye, today selected as the home team’s right-back. Hazard on our left had been named as one of five changes from the Leicester game at the weekend. It was a strong side selected by Maurizio Sarri for this penultimate match of his first season in charge.
Davide Zappacosta, today’s right-back, tested our opponents with a cross and Pedro attempted to do the same as Barkley had for the opening goal but was blocked.
David Luiz was sporting the captain’s armband with Cesar Azpilicueta on the bench initially and a challenge by the Brazilian on the home side’s centre-forward Juan Fernando Caicedo was especially appreciated by the many Chelsea fans present.
The MLS side were posing some threats at our end of the pitch and David Luiz had to intervene close to goal before the Blues sprung forward and added goal number two.
Moments earlier, Giroud had not managed to get on the end of a ball across the six-yard box but he made no mistake when Zappacosta sent over another centre from the right on 29 minutes. The France international scored with a diving header from point-blank range.
Giroud had a low shot saved at the near post before half-time after he had won possession back inside our opponents’ penalty area. Then he collected a loose pass and set-up Pedro but the Spaniard was denied by Brad Knighton who had advanced off his line.
Pedro then scuttled a shot wide on the stroke of half-time after good work from Marcos Alonso who was frequently very advanced up the pitch. Chelsea could have been four or five goals to the good at the interval but had to settle for 2-0 at that stage.
The team given the task of adding to that score showed six changes at the start of the second half. One of those introduced, Willy Caballero, had to make an early save from Revolution’s Canadian-born Brian Wright.
His opposite number Knighton did extraordinary well to finger-tip a fierce Higuain shot onto the crossbar but he was beaten just beyond the hour-mark when Chelsea scored from a corner. Willian played the ball low into the middle, Higuain shot on target and a touch off Barkley ensured it went beyond the reach of the goalie into the net.
An injury to Loftus-Cheek 20 minutes from the end meant the introduction of Academy Player of the Year Conor Gallagher for a taste of senior football, and he was later joined by the two recently returned from loan – Wigan’s Player of the Season, right-back Reece James, and Trevoh Chalobah who was given minutes in midfield.
Willian had a run at goal from out wide inside the final 10 minutes of the match but was tackled before he shot. Pedro then hit the post and Willian put the rebound into the net from an offside position (with James and Gallagher involved in the action), so the final whistle blew on this Final Whistle of Hate match with no more goals scored, but the USA-based Blues who came to watch could go home happy with the three they had seen.
For their team there remains one more important mission before 2018/19 draws to a close – to beat London rivals Arsenal in a European final in two weeks’ time and five thousand miles east of Baku.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Arrizabalaga (Caballero h-t) (Green 88), Zappacosta (James 78), Christensen, David Luiz (c) (Azpilicueta h-t), Alonso (Emerson h-t), Barkley (Chalobah 78), Jorginho, Kovacic (Loftus-Cheek h-t) (Gallagher 69), Pedro, Giroud (Higuain h-t), Hazard (Willian h-t).
Unused subs Guehi, Ugbo,
Scorers Barkley 3, 62, Giroud 29
New England Revolution (4-5-1): Turner (Knighton 30) (Cropper 62), Bye (Firmino 30), Farrell (Delamea 30), Anibaba (Herivaux 30), Jones (Somi 30), Buchanan, Gil (c), Caldwell, Zahibo (Wright h-t), Bunbury (Penilla h-t) Caicedo.
Unused subs Mancienne, Angking, Caicedo, Agudelo, Fagundez,
Referee Nima Saghafi