There was an improved second-half performance from Chelsea compared with the first half in our final pre-season game before the Premier League season commences, but we gave ourselves a little too much to do to turn a 2-0 deficit at half-time into victory.
Tammy Abraham and Ross Barkley, both from the penalty spot, wiped out the lead established by opposition who finished fifth in the German top-flight last season and start their Bundesliga campaign a week after we kick-off against Manchester United, but much of the reason why the Blues did not score more goals was the form of Yann Sommer between the Borussia posts.He is a keeper with a past against Chelsea having been in goal for Basel when we beat them in the 2013 Europa League semi-final and then when we lost twice to them in the Champions League the following year.Today he made a string of saves in both halves, Abraham, Mateo Kovacic and Mason Mount among the players frustrated, but it was wastefulness rather than Sommer that meant Barkley did not take a golden chance to level the scores with time running out.Thankfully there was to be one further opportunity for the substitute when Mount was fouled. It then needed a great save from Kepa to prevent a late winner for the home side and there was more good news in those closing stages with N’Golo Kante able to return to match action for the first time since our Europa League final in Baku in May.
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There was a familiarity to the side selected by Frank Lampard today with just two changes made to the team that played the first 74 minutes of the match against RB Salzburg in Austria three days earlier.One of those was in defence where Andreas Christensen was handed a start against the club that played an important part in his development between 2015 and 2017 when he was on loan in this part of Germany. Another Chelsea Academy product, Mount, was also brought into the side today in place of Ross Barkley.
In Salzburg Chelsea had looked dangerous throughout the first half with our swift counter-attacking against a high-pressing side but here in Germany against a more solid side that thrust was less frequently seen in the first 45 minutes.There were some good moves by the Blues but Gladbach were the more dangerous side and could have scored more than the one goal they did in the early stages had it not been for some inaccurate shooting by Marcus Thuram, son of France legend Lilian Thuram who unlike his father plays up front.The Borussia no.10 had a couple of early shots wide and within the first five minutes Chelsea sent a chance the wrong side of the post too, Mount heading downwards and wide after a swift move forward started by Jorginho with Pedro and Azpilicueta moving the ball on.A sharp save by the Gladbach keeper denied Abraham when he shot from close to goal but the Thuram efforts kept coming, his third the most off-target yet. However with 12 minutes played his strike partner Alassane Plea did find the bottom corner of the Chelsea net with a tidy finish.We could have hit back when we manufactured a break from our own half reminiscent of the last game with Pulisic carrying the ball much of the way, but Pedro’s attempt at the target was in contrast to his wonder goal last time out. Wayward would better describe this one.Other first-half Chelsea attacks featured Jorginho and Mount moving the ball quickly through midfield which almost gave Abraham another shooting chance, and Pulisic, well-known to today’s opponents following his Bundesliga years, was posing Gladbach defenders some problems with his close control but when he had a chance to score he shot too close to Sommer in goal.
Just past the half-hour mark the American found Abraham at the far post but the big defender’s knock-down fell to home team defenders rather than visiting attackers.A Mount free-kick from out wide was deflected across the face of goal and not far away from the target and when the midfielder made space for himself to shoot, he hit the keeper, but then Chelsea were caught out at the back by a short pass from Plea and well-timed run from Hofmann who was able to force the ball past Kepa to make it 2-0 before half-time.Kovacic looked poised to halve the deficit shortly after the restart when he surged onto a loose ball and through the Borussia backline but Sommer saved, as he did so again remarkably to prevent one of his defenders scoring an own-goal and then Abraham from burying the rebound.The Swiss was at it again to deny Mount who did not quite catch his shot cleanly enough and his next save, 10 minutes into the second half, was low down to an Abraham shot after the England Under-21 striker had out-paced his marker.
The key to beating Sommer proved to be to win a penalty, which a sprinting Kovacic did when he was tripped. Abraham beat the Borussia no.1 from 12 yards with a low shot.Substitute Barkley should have equalised from similar distance in open play when he latched onto a loose back pass but uncharacteristically for a player who has been so decisive in pre-season, he rolled the ball tamely wide.There was still time for Keaman Bennetts to clumsily catch Mount to give away another penalty which Barkley rifled in off the inside of the post.The final notable action, and another piece of good goalkeeping, was when Kepa got his leg onto a goalbound shot.
Chelsea: Kepa; Azpilicueta (c), Zouma, Christensen, Emerson (Alonso 67), Jorginho, Kovacic (Kenedy 67); Pedro (Kante 72), Mount, Pulisic (Barkley 67), Abraham (Giroud 67).Unused subs: Caballero, Ziger, Zappacosta, David Luiz, Tomori.Scorers Abraham 59 pen, Barkley 86 penBooked Emerson 8, Kovacic 24, Giroud 71
Gladbach: Sommer; Lainer, Ginter, Elvedi (Cuisance 75) Wendt (Beyer 75), Zakaria (Benes, 66), Strobl (Bennetts 75), Neuhaus (Embolo 75), Hofmann (Raffael 75), Thuram, Plea.Unused subs: Sippel, Lang, Herrmann, Johnson, Poulsen.Scorers Plea 13, Hofmann 39Booked Lainer 28, Elvedi 61