Chelsea Spoil Antoine Griezmann's Barcelona Debut, Win 2019 Rakuten Cup Match

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistJuly 23, 2019

Chelsea's forward Tammy Abraham celebrates after scoring a goal during a football friendly match between Spanish Liga team Barcelona and English Premier League club Chelsea in Saitama on July 23, 2019. (Photo by Toshifumi KITAMURA / AFP)        (Photo credit should read TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)
TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/Getty Images

Chelsea beat Barcelona 2-1 in the 2019 Rakuten Cup on Tuesday to notch their first pre-season win and bounce back from Friday's disappointing defeat to Japanese minnows Kawasaki Frontale. 

Tammy Abraham scored the breakthrough following a poor mistake from Sergio Busquets in front of Barca's defence, and Ross Barkley came off the bench to add a second from just outside the box.

Ivan Rakitic came off the bench to hammer home a long-range consolation in injury time but couldn't prevent the defeat.

Antoine Griezmann made his Barcelona debut and played the first 45 minutes of Barca's defeat at the Saitama Stadium in Saitama, Japan. Frenkie de Jong also made his first appearance in Blaugrana colours and played the entire second half.

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde remains without the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, but Ousmane Dembele, Samuel Umtiti and Jordi Alba were among the stars dotted among his XI.

It took Barca just 27 seconds to win their first corner of the game, and Chelsea were initially pressed up against the wall in a bid to prevent the Catalans from imposing their will on the fixture.

Journalist Nizaar Kinsella praised manager Frank Lampard's decision to entrust academy products Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount from the first whistle:

After scoring 26 goals in 40 appearances on loan at Aston Villa last season, Abraham is in contention to lead Chelsea's line this season.

The youngster had an easy-looking attempt from six yards out go astray following some crafty work down the left flank from summer signing Christian Pulisic, making his first start for the Blues.

Abraham, 21, slotted home just after the half-hour mark. Jorginho's pressure close to the Barca box saw captain Sergio Busquets gift possession to the opposition in an awful area of the pitch.

The Englishman shimmied to the keeper's side and dispatched the ball in one slick manoeuvre to open his pre-season account with aplomb. Author Mark Worrall appeared proud of the homegrown star:

Chelsea grew into the fixture and appeared to shake off their initial state of shock, with the goal in particular signalling a shift in confidence.

Liam Twomey praised the west London outfit as the superior team by the end of the half:

Lampard made only a few changes to his team at half-time. Central defenders David Luiz and Andreas Christensen came off for Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori, respectively, while left-back Emerson Palmieri was replaced by Marcos Alonso.

Barcelona, on the other hand, changed their entire XI, as summer signings De Jong and Neto—signed from Ajax and Valencia, respectively—each came on for their unofficial club debuts.

While La Liga's champions will have enjoyed an initial advantage in stamina thanks to that straight swap, Lampard drip-fed his substitutes over the course of the half, which kept Chelsea looking spry. Barkley came on at the hour mark, while Abraham switched out for Olivier Giroud.

Jorginho enjoyed one of his more proactive attacking performances in a Chelsea jersey, and Statman Dave noted the potential improvements he's making under Lampard:

Barca's high press wasn't as effective as Valverde would have hoped, allowing Chelsea to play the possession game at times in a surprising role reversal.

Substitute striker Michy Batshuayi hoped to make an impact in an attempt to curry favour with Lampard, but the Belgian also struggled in cutting open many clear chances.

Barkley punished their inability to respond after going a goal down, steadying himself in space before beating Neto on his left foot with a whipped finish from the edge of the box.

Barkley impressed under Maurizio Sarri last season and continues to earn plaudits:

Rakitic left it until the 91st minute to get Barca on the board, linking up with fellow substitute Malcom, who put his Croat team-mate into acres of space 30 yards from goal.

The 31-year-old was encouraged to shoot and lasered a right-footed effort past Kepa Arrizabalaga—the only surviving member of Lampard's XI—into the top-left corner.

It was evident Barca were the team only just beginning their pre-season, although Valverde may still feel some concern with the lack of attacking opportunities his side managed to create.

Lampard came out as a victor and a loser against Barcelona during his career, and despite the friendly nature of Tuesday's matchup, the Chelsea chief will be elated to notch a win in his first match as manager.

      

What's Next?

Barcelona will hope to get a Rakuten Cup win on the board when they face Japanese outfit and Andres Iniesta's current club, Vissel Kobe, on Saturday. Chelsea won't be back in action until they face Reading at the Madejski Stadium in Berkshire, England, on Sunday.

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