Chelsea slumped to their third consecutive pre-season friendly defeat yesterday, going down by two goals to one in Hamburg’s Imtech Arena. The damage was done in the final twenty minutes as the Blues threw away their goal advantage.
Carlo Ancelotti fielded a strong starting eleven, indeed the one he hopes to start in Sunday’s Community Shield. Ross Turnbull returned to the side for the first time since his disastrous half in Amsterdam, and Frank Lampard also started for the first time in 2010/2011.
Chelsea began brightly, with Lampard testing HSV keeper Rost early on, while Anelka fired over from distance and Kalou couldn’t hit the target from close range, seeing his header bounce over the bar. Chelsea did open the scoring after 23 minutes. Jonathan Pitroipa’s misjudged pass let in Michael Essien and he unselfishly squared for Lampard tap in. It as no less than Chelsea deserved.
They almost threw away their lead minutes later however when Westermann flicked a near-post corner against the bar. Apart from that chance, though, Chelsea’s back four were doing a decent job of keeping Van Nistelrooy and co. quiet.
Didier Drogba made his first appearance in a blue (or should I say black and orange?) short since the World Cup after recovering from groin surgery quicker than expected. He replaced Kalou, with Anelka moving out wide. It was the Frenchman who should have doubled the visitors’ advantage early in the second half, but he could only find the feet of Rost having been put through by Drogba. He then had a goal incredibly harshly (wrongly, in fact) ruled out despite having beaten his full-back for pace and strength.
Next it was Drogba’s turn to threaten, latching onto an Essien pass but deliberating too long, thus allowing Rost to snatch the ball before he could strike. Van Nistelrooy then blazed over after good work from sub Elia, whilst the threatening Mladen Petric contrived to put the ball wide of the post after Chelsea yet again failed to deal with yet another Ze Roberto corner.
Chelsea’s downfall was once again of their own making. Turnbull’s two blunders against Ajax were followed by one for Hilario and a cheap penalty in Frankfurt. This time an underhit Zhirkov backpass let in Petric who lobbed the flapping, exposed Turnbull. Chelsea were shocked by this setback and never really got back into the game, seemingly content with a 1-1 draw.
Hamburg chose not to stick to their side of the script and, urged on by 47,000 fans, found a winner. Heung Min Son found space between Terry and Carvalho and outpaced the latter to calmly slide the ball under the unfortunate Turnbull. It was a goal out nothing and ensured that is what Chelsea took home form Germany, results-wise anyway: nothing.
It is normally argued that the results of pre-season friendlies are meaningless, and this might well be true. Yet one gets the feeling Chelsea could do with getting back into the winning habit before the ‘real’ action starts on August 14th, and what better chance than against Manchester United at Wembley on Sunday.