Chelsea contrived to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as Arsenal prevailed via a penalty shootout win after a 1-1 draw in the Community Shield preseason curtain-raiser at Wembley.
Victor Moses gave Chelsea the lead early in the second half and despite the narrow margin, the Blues looked to be coasting to victory until Pedro needlessly scythed down Mohamed Elneny with 10 minutes left. Cesc Fabregas negligently played Arsenal’s forward players onside at Granit Xhaka’s resultant free kick, and Sead Kolasinac headed home past Thibaut Courtois to equalise.
The game went to penalties. Just why Courtois took Chelsea’s second after Gary Cahill scored their first is a mystery. It was a shocker. New boy Alvaro Morata missed the next kick and that was pretty much the end of that. Arsenal won the shootout 4-1.
Chelsea’s starting XI boasted no new faces and consequently there was a cohesive look to the team. Gary Cahill, now installed as club captain after the departure of John Terry, gave a commanding performance as skipper, which suggests the Blues will not lack direction as they bid to defend their Premier League title.
Pedro’s ill discipline was as infuriating as Fabregas’ lapse of concentration and Antonio Conte’s curious approach to the penalty shootout. Cahill first, Courtois second — really! Hopefully such a comedy of errors will not be repeated when the serious football business starts next week.
Manager rating out of 10
7 — Credit to Conte for giving Michy Batshuayi the opportunity to start the game. The Belgium international has had a decent preseason to date and deserved a chance ahead of club-record signing Morata. The Italian cannot be held accountable for Pedro’s rush of blood to the head which transformed the game, although he may wish he’d given more thought to the eventuality of the new format penalty shootout which was an utter disaster for Chelsea.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 7 — Had little to do in the first half and much of the second period right up until a breathtaking save from Xhaka kept the scores level. Unfortunately, such quality will be forgotten as replays of a failed penalty that went high over the bar are screened for everyone’s amusement apart from the Belgian’s.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 7 — Typically versatile and solid performance from Azpilicueta which commenced in familiar centre-back territory and concluded at left wing-back when Conte sent on new signing Antonio Rudiger. A sign of things to come perhaps? Whatever the case maybe, “Dave” won’t let Chelsea down.
DF David Luiz, 8 –– On his day, Luiz with his silky samba skills is a joy to watch. This was such an occasion and Wembley was the perfect venue to showcase his Brazilian box of tricks. Flicks, a deft back-header and shimmies were the order of the day against Arsenal — the fact he can defend as well is simply a bonus.
DF Gary Cahill, 9 — Cahill may never be spoken of in the same “captain, leader, legend” terms as John Terry, but the Chelsea skipper bears all the hallmarks of JT. From galvanising the back line, to creating the Blues goal and blasting home his spot-kick, Cahill’s commitment to the cause was unshakable, and he will be a huge asset to Conte in the season ahead.
DF Victor Moses, 8 — Football is full of delicious ironies, and Victor Moses underlined this fact today. Sent off in the FA Cup final against Arsenal in May, Moses atoned by being in the right place at the right time to leather the ball past Petr Cech to put Chelsea in front. The Nigeria international also worked hard in defence and will not give up his place easily should Conte bring in right-sided reinforcements before the transfer window closes.
DF Marcos Alonso, 7 — A measured performance at left wing-back that yielded little in the way of creativity. Wasn’t unduly troubled in defence, but will be alarmed that Conte opted to replace him with Rudiger and field Azpilicueta in his position at left wing-back.
MF N’Golo Kante, 7 — A hive of industry in Chelsea’s engine room. Being partnered with Fabregas meant more defensive responsibility, but Kante never shirked his duties and stuck doggedly to the task, ensuring that Arsenal got little change out of their midfield endeavours.
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MF Cesc Fabregas, 6 — Overshadowed by Kante’s work rate and given little freedom to move by Arsenal’s midfield, Fabregas was a peripheral figure for much of the contest, although there were occasional flickers of life and a couple of sweet balls to remind spectators of his undoubted quality.
FW Pedro, 5 — Chelsea’s latest in a long line of masked marauders, Pedro looked every inch a cavalier highwayman galloping down the flanks at Arsenal’s often-pedestrian defence. Brought a decent save out of Cech 10 minutes before the break but later blotted his copybook with a cynical challenge on Elneny that got him a red card and effectively cost his team the game.
FW Willian, 7 — An effervescent performance from the Brazilian who was the focal point of the first half’s big incident when going to ground in the Arsenal box with Gunners defender Hector Bellerin in close attendance. If you’re a Chelsea supporter, it was a penalty, it you’re an Arsenal fan or indeed referee Robert Madley, it wasn’t. Willian was booked for simulation and late on was replaced by Charly Musonda.
FW Michy Batshuayi, 6 — Deservedly given an opportunity to start by Conte, Batshuayi saw little of the ball early on in the contest and never really got involved as the game progressed. Replaced by Morata for the final phase of the match, and the bench could be where the Belgium international unfortunately finds himself sitting for much of the coming season.
FW Alvaro Morata, NR — An inauspicious Wembley baptism in the Blue of Chelsea as a late substitute for Batshuayi culminated in a poor spot-kick in the penalty shootout. Nothing to be concerned about. Next week the season starts for real, and so will Morata.
DF Antonio Rudiger, NR — Certainly looked a robust and mobile proposition when entering the fray late on, Rudiger should be a great addition to Chelsea’s squad.
MF Charly Musonda, NR — Replaced Willian late on, but did not have the opportunity to make an impact on the game.