It took less than five minutes of Saturday afternoon’s game against Brighton for Timo Werner to find the net for the first time in a Chelsea shirt.
The German’s right-foot finish from six-yards out set the tone for a solid first-half display from Frank Lampard’s team in this outing at the Amex Stadium. It needed Willy Caballero’s penalty-saving skills to prevent the home side equalising early in the second half and the Seagulls also hit the woodwork, but in the closing minutes they did convert a spot-kick, Pascal Gross making the final score 1-1.
As well as Werner, Hakim Ziyech also started the match and was involved frequently, including as the main taker of set-pieces, up until an injury led to his substitution.
This pre-season game was unusual in more ways than one. Not only has it come so soon after the end of the previous season (we played away in Munich only three weeks ago today), there was an extra spotlight on it with the event selected as a government-backed trial for supporters back inside stadiums.
There were 2,500 Brighton fans allowed in for this test event, all suitably spaced out in two of the stands. No Chelsea fans were able to attend, and several of our men’s first team squad were not present either as they are self-isolating.
The subs bench therefore contained several players from our Academy sides but the starting line-up contained familiar names, and included those new signings Werner and Ziyech. N’Golo Kante wore the captain’s armband.
It should be noted that the shirt numbers worn today do not necessarily correspond with squad numbers for the forthcoming season.
Reece James at right-back had a shot across goal in the opening few seconds and it did not take much longer for Chelsea to take the lead. Ziyech sent a long, diagonal ball into the penalty area where Callum Hudson-Odoi chested it back and Werner had a simple task to score from close-range. Not the best marking by Brighton but still good vision and presence of mind in the Chelsea play. Brighton fans believed the goal was offside, as made clear by some ironic cheers when the flag went up later on.
That opening goal came after a period of good possession but when our opponents had the ball for spells and pushed forward later in the half, we defended well. Jake Clarke-Salter, who was on loan at Birmingham last season, was in the right place to make a clearance when the Seagulls threatened to break through midway through the first half.
Soon after that, Ziyech curled in a wicked free-kick from the left but Werner could not keep his header down.
Hudson-Odoi later cut inside and forced a sharp save from Mat Ryan, and Mateo Kovacic and Kante nearly combined to work a way through the Brighton defence close to half-time, at the end of the move started by a trademark interception by the Frenchman, but we had to settle for a single-goal lead at the interval.
There were three substitutions at half-time with Cesar Azpilicueta and Toni Rudiger coming on in central defence and Willy Caballero in goal. Two of those were involved straight after the restart when Rudiger was judged to have fouled Lewis Dunk as a corner came over. The sharp Caballero saved Neal Maupay’s penalty low down to his left.
Ziyech’s game came to an end soon after. He walked off after treatment. After the game Lampard described it as a little twist to the knee that will have to be assessed.
The main story of the mid-part of the second half was Brighton skimming the crossbar when Adam Webster got his head to a free-kick before Caballero arrived with his punch, and Pascal Gross not far away with a direct free-kick for the home side, as well as plenty of substitutions made.
They included the introduction of Ethan Amapdu who was an on-loan team-mate of Werner’s last season at Leipzig, and first-year Academy scholar Harvey Vale who had a bouncing shot headed away from the goalmouth shortly after coming on.
There was one minutes of the 90 left when Brighton were awarded the second penalty of the game. Ampadu was the player penalised for stretching out a leg and making contact with Aaron Connelly. Azpilicueta was certainly displeased by the decision. This time Caballero could not reach the kick, Gross sending it the other side from the earlier saved spot-kick.
There was still time for Oliver Giroud to have a shot saved and then go off with a bandaged head before the whistle blew on a 1-1 draw.
We will be back in this stadium for the opening of our Premier League season on 14 September.
Chelsea Kepa (Caballero h-t); James (Lawrence 66), Christensen (Azpilicueta h-t), Clarke-Salter (Rudiger h-t), Alonso (Maatsen 66); Kante (Ampadu 61), Kovacic (Baker 61), Loftus-Cheek (Vale 72); Ziyech (Gallagher 54), Werner (Giroud 61) (Castillo 90+2), Hudson-Odoi (McCormick 72).
Unused subs Baxter, Peart-Harris.
Scorer Werner 4