Chelsea registered an impressive pre-season victory at Arsenal this afternoon courtesy of goals from Kai Havertz and Tammy Abraham.
The German was one of seven players to get their first taste of pre-season action after this summer’s European Championships, with another, his compatriot Timo Werner, setting up our clinical opening goal midway through the first half.
Mateo Kovacic, Toni Rudiger and Kurt Zouma also played the opening 45 minutes in what was an entertaining start to The Mind Series.
Hakim Ziyech should have doubled our lead early in the second period, and Arsenal, who had threatened on occasion, levelled through a Granit Xhaka header with 20 minutes left.
However, we quickly went 2-1 up as Abraham finished with aplomb after an Arsenal error in the backline. Further chances came and went at both ends, but the Blues held on to secure another pre-season victory, and against a side containing almost all of their first XI, many of whom spent longer on the pitch than our regulars from last season.
It’s another local affair on Wednesday as we host Tottenham at the Bridge. Click here for tickets.
The contest started at a decent pace. Inside the opening five minutes, Ruben Loftus-Cheek had a goalbound effort blocked, Edouard Mendy had to be alert to stop Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s cross reaching Emile Smith Rowe, and then Kieran Tierney’s delivery narrowly evaded Alexandre Lacazette.
Rudiger’s strong but fair challenge on the French striker showed there would be no love lost in this London derby. The crowd too were excitable initially.
Slowly but surely the speed settled to something more representative of a pre-season fixture. The Blues began to look more composed in possession, and a regular menace on the break.
Werner and Havertz had already served warning of their threat when they combined to give us the lead with 25 minutes gone. With Arsenal having committed men forward, Kovacic did excellently to release Werner, who bided his time before slipping in Havertz. He controlled with his first touch and fired high past Bernd Leno with his second.
In search of an immediate second, Ziyech freed Werner with an exquisite pass. He burst clear and poked a shot into the side-netting.
Smith Rowe was closer with an effort from the edge of the box, the ball thudding onto the post and away to safety. Two Arsenal shouts for a penalty were then ignored.
With the interval approaching Callum Hudson-Odoi, deployed at left wing-back today, threatened when he drifted off the touchline, with his bending effort a little too high to trouble Leno. The keeper was well beaten when Ziyech went for goal with a swerving strike from a tight angle, but his left-hand post saved him and denied the Moroccan.
There was one more clear Chelsea chance before half-time. Again it was Hudson-Odoi driving infield that created the opening, easing past Calum Chambers before blasting a shot at Leno’s face from close range.
The latter two combined only for Arsenal sub Ben White to block Abraham’s effort. The hosts went down the other end and it needed a blue shirt to divert Pepe’s shot past the post.
Somehow, we didn’t double our lead on 54 minutes. Loftus-Cheek’s pass sprung Arsenal’s offside trap and Ziyech reached it before Leno, lifting it over the keeper who was well outside his area. Chesting it ahead of the retreating Chambers, he opted to take another three touches before shooting, and when the effort came it was blocked by White and then smothered by Leno.
Mendy hadn’t had a save of note to make but that changed before the hour as he sprung to his left to claw Lacazette’s free-kick behind.
Five more Chelsea subs followed in the 64th minute, including the arrival of N’Golo Kante and Michy Batshuayi. Immediate pressure from Kante forced a mistake in the Gunners’ backline, but Ross Barkley’s strike lacked the power or precision to test Leno.
We were punished with 20 minutes remaining. Granit Xhaka had just seen a header deflected wide when he met another corner with a downward header that found the net.
Parity didn’t last long. Arsenal made a swathe of subs and one new face, Hector Bellerin, passed straight to Abraham who controlled and slotted past Leno.
In search of a second equaliser, Aubameyang headed profligately wide from six yards out, and Joe Willock rattled the underside of the bar after Kepa had done well to force Pepe wide. Replays showed the ball had crossed the line, but no goal-line technology for this one!
The closing stages were open and entertaining, much like the start to the game. Aubameyang and Michy Batshuayi came closest to adding to the scoresheet, with Abraham also denied by Leno, but Chelsea’s work was done. Another excellent run-out at a good tempo, and a satisfying victory over local rivals to boot.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Mendy (Kepa 64); Zouma (Sterling h/t), Chalobah (Clarke-Salter 86), Rudiger (c) (Sarr h/t); Pulisic (Kante 64), Loftus-Cheek (Barkley 64), Kovacic (Drinkwater h/t), Hudson-Odoi (Baba 64); Ziyech (Batshuayi 64), Havertz (Abraham h/t), Werner (Zappacosta h/t).
Unused sub Bettinelli.
Scorers Havertz 26, Abraham 72
Booked Kovacic 42, Zappacosta 54
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Leno; Chambers (Bellerin 71), Holding (White h/t), Mari (Kolasinac 71), Tierney (Taveres 71); Elneny (Lokonga 71), Partey (Xhaka 40); Pepe, Smith Rowe (Willock 71), Aubameyang (c); Lacazette (Nketiah 71).
Unused subs Okonkwo, Willian, Maitland-Niles, Soares, Nelson.
Scorer Xhaka 69
Referee Andre Marriner