Chelsea bounced back from an opening loss on its preseason tour in Japan to beat Barcelona in Tokyo.
Chelsea pulled off an impressive preseason victory, beating Spanish champion Barcelona 2-1 at Saitama Stadium in Tokyo.
It was Barcelona's first match of its preseason and despite a bright start, the lack of match sharpness gradually shone through against a Chelsea side playing a third preseason tune-up.
Barcelona, playing without Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Arthur and Philippe Coutinho as they all continue to rest following Copa America, started with intent and nearly took an early lead when Antoine Griezmann's flick-on found Oriol Busquets, but the Spaniard couldn't direct his free header on target. Chelsea slowly grew into the game and took the lead after 34 minutes.
After missing a sitter from six yards, Tammy Abraham made amends to give the Blues the lead, courtesy of an uncharacteristic error from Sergio Busquets. Jorginho deflected the midfielder's pass into the path of Abraham, and he calmly rounded the keeper to give Chelsea a 1-0 lead.
A flurry of changes followed for the second half, as the Blaugrana substituted their entire team, while Chelsea made changes gradually throughout final 45 minutes. The fluidity of the game suffered as a result, as neither side was able to force clear-cut chances. With 10 minutes to go, though, Ross Barkley found space on the edge of the box and curled in the Blues' second goal of the game.
Ivan Rakitic pulled a goal back in injury time with a brilliant long-range effort, but it did not take the shine off what was an excellent outing for Chelsea.
Key Talking Point
Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong made their debuts for the Blaugrana after big-money moves from Atletico Madrid and Ajax, respectively, and while it wasn't the dream start they would have hoped for, both players will no doubt be pleased with the way they performed.
Fans will have been encouraged by what they saw, as Griezmann linked up very well with his forward partners and was unlucky not to make a more valuable contribution to the game. De Jong passed the ball well in midfield, as he and his Barca teammates were focussed mainly on getting match fitness ahead of the new season.
Starting XI: Ter Stegen (5); Roberto (5), Pique (6), Umtiti (6), Alba (6); O. Busquets (5), Puig (7), S. Busquets (5); Griezmann (7*), Dembele (6), Collado (6).
Substitutes: Semedo (6), Rakitic (7), Todibo (6), Perez (7), Alcantara (6), Neto (5), Malcolm (6), Lenglet (6), Alena (6), De Jong (7), Jaime (6).
Griezmann was the one shining light in a fairly uninspiring Barcelona performance. The Frenchman nearly got off to a perfect start with a wonderful flicked header onto Busquets, but his attempt to turn the ball in went harmlessly over the bar.
Griezmann continued to impress with his quick feet and precise passing, shining in a front line that was without Messi and Suarez.
The Frenchman certainly gave fans a glimpse of what he can offer, and his contribution in the rest of preseason will only continue to grow.
Key Talking Point
In the first real test under Frank Lampard, Chelsea performed well. In particular, strong performances were enjoyed by Christian Pulisic, Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and Abraham, all of whom are out to prove they have what it takes to succeed at Stamford Bridge.
Many are pointing to Lampard's ability to get the best of these stars who, Pulisic and Abraham aside, failed to make much of an impression last season under Maurizio Sarri. While it's still early days, there were encouraging signs for the Blues, who are less than three weeks away from the start of their Premier League season against Manchester United.
Starting XI: Arrizabalaga (6); Azpilicueta (6), Luiz (7), Christensen (6), Emerson (6); Jorginho (7), Kovacic (6), Mount (6); Pedro (5), Pulisic (8*), Abraham (7).
Substitutes: Alonso (7), Zouma (6), Tomori (6), Barkley (6), Kenedy (5), Giroud (7), Bakayoko (6), Zappacosta (6), Batshuayi (5), Drinkwater (6).
In his first start for Chelsea, Christian Pulisic was the standout performer, as he provided a constant threat to the opposition goal. Even when the Blues found themselves under pressure, Pulisic was a brilliant outlet for his side and was the main creative influence in attack.
The USA international inspired a number of offensive moves and even came close to getting himself on the scoresheet on a couple of occasions. His performance will no doubt be of great delight to Lampard, who is unable to make any new signings of his own for the next two transfer windows.
Barcelona remains in Japan for its next friendly, as it takes on Vissel Kobe–and Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta.
Chelsea returns to England for a date with Championship side Reading at the Madejski Stadium.