Chelsea eased into the final of the Barclays Asian Trophy with a 4-0 win over Kitchee in Hong Kong. A Frank Lampard penalty was followed by an own-goal and further strikes from Didier Drogba and Daniel Sturridge in a game which didn’t really test Andres Villa-Boas’ side.
Chelsea continued their warm-up to the new football season with a team consisting of Ross Turnbull, Ashley Cole, Slobodan Rajkovic, John Terry and Paulo Ferreira at the back, with Yossi Benayoun, Lampard and Yuri Zhirkov providing a midfield base behind the front three of Florent Malouda, Salomon Kalou and Drogba.
The champions of Hong Kong, Kitchee, were resplendent in near-fluorescent pink shirts but looked less than bright in the opening exchanges. A lot of their possession was made up of rushed passes and desperate clearances as Chelsea started the game with the intention to attack. Zhirkov troubled the Kitchee ‘keeper Zhen Peng Wang first, sending an impressive first-time volley just wide of the near post following a cleared corner.
Rajkovic looked shaky at the other end, botching a back-pass and escaping the referee’s attentions following a few niggly fouls, but with little in the way of any penetration from Kitchee, a defence V attack training session scenario began to unfold.
Drogba crossed from the right just after a quarter of an hour of play, with Kalou sending a header down into the ground and away from the ‘keeper. Unfortunately, the ball looped back up towards the bar and rebounded back off the woodwork.
Chances proved few and far between in the first-half however, with plenty of patient build-up play by Chelsea constantly being thwarted in the final third by some tight and compact Kitchee defending. The likes of Kalou and Ferreira were allowed time and space to cross, but ultimately their efforts were mostly in vain.
But Kitchee couldn’t keep Chelsea at bay forever, and in the 36th minute Benayoun collected a ball from Ferreira and jinked his way into the box. One drop of the shoulder later and the Israeli international had been brought down for a blatant penalty. Lampard stepped up to take it, and invariably scored, sending the ‘keeper the wrong way for a 1-0 lead.
The Blues threatened from a dead ball situation towards the end of the first 45 too, with Drogba sending a trademark long-range free-kick towards goal, but he saw his effort parried away by the Kitchee goalkeeper. Malouda also had a late chance after rounding the ‘keeper, but his shot was blocked on the line – possibly by an errant hand – by a pink-shirted defender.
The second-half didn’t see the usual raft of substitutions, indeed not a single change was made by Andres Villas-Boas. His faith in the starting XI paid off soon after the second-half got underway, as a Malouda cross from the left, low and driven into the box, was converted by Ubay Lozardo – under immense pressure from Drogba – for another pre-season own-goal to benefit Chelsea. Interestingly, the PA announcer credited the goal to the Ivorian to general delight amongst the sell-out crowd.
On the hour mark Drogba did score a genuine third for Chelsea. Some clever work from Cole and Malouda down the left led to a deflected cross finding Drogba at the back post, and his brave header, amongst high boots, found the back of the net.
The next big crowd ‘pop’ came with the introduction of Fernando Torres from the Chelsea bench, as he, Sturridge and Josh McEachran replaced Drogba, Malouda and Zhirkov. Every time the Spaniard got close to the ball, the fans in attendance exploded, regardless of the impact he made. Shortly after, Hilario took Turnbull’s place while Terry was replaced by Branislav Ivanovic and Lampard made way for John Mikel Obi. Mikel’s first touch was a threatening header which just drifted wide following a Benayoun cross.
Following the introduction of young England prospect Nathaniel Chalobah, it was another gifted home-grown player who bagged Chelsea’s fourth. Benayoun troubled the Kitchee defence in the box again, and his deflected cross found Sturridge. Some neat trickery saw the striker carve out a chance for himself, which he finished with aplomb. No doubt his eyes flickered over to the watching manager as soon as the ball whistled into the net.
There was still time left for Torres to hit the post with a long-range effort, but in the end Chelsea settled for four without reply for the second consecutive match.
The Blues’ next opponents in the Asian Trophy are the very un-Asian Aston Villa, who beat Blackburn Rovers earlier on in the day.