A hot summer night in Washington saw one of most intense friendlies in recent memory, as Barcelona and Chelsea battled for 90 minutes in an exciting encounter. Goals from Luis Suárez, Sandro Ramírez, Eden Hazard and Gary Cahill's bloody nose were the higlights of an exciting night, that ended with a Chelsea victory on penalty kicks to end the United States tour for both sides.
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The first fifteen minutes were a complete nightmare. The passing was as far from sharp as it could be, even for a preseason game, and no significant players were created for simple lack of accuracy in passing. And the right side of the defense was very poor. Douglas Pereira was so bad that he got injured and had to be subbed off.
And it was during that terrible start that Chelsea enjoyed its best moment in the half. Eden Hazard dribbled his way into a tremendous goal, and even though the defense didn’t properly close him down, you got to give credit when credit is due. Hazard made a sensational play, and there are very few defenders on the planet that can take the ball off him when he starts running like that. A few minutes after that goal, Chelsea created a few more dangerous chances, including a beautiful free kick taken by Oscar, that hit the crossbar as Ter Stegen just watched.
But then the Blues were content to drop back and wait for counter-attacking opportunities. Barça’s defense improved with Sergi Roberto at right-back and a more settled Gumbau protecting the backline, so those counters slowly disappeared, to the point where the Blaugrana started to dominate. Luis Suárez (who had a great half), Sandro and Munir had very good chances themselves, only to find a spectacular Courtois, who made fantastic save after another. Rakitic was amazing on offense, and he got perhaps the best chance of the first half, but couldn’t find the goal from the six-yard box.
The first half ended with a dominant Barça in the final 20 minutes, but the early defensive miscues and the ridiculous saves by Courtois were responsible for the 1-0 scoreline for Chelsea.
The first fifteen minutes of the second half were a complete opposite from the beginning of the game. Still with its first half lineup, Barça were a lot more confident, and quickly began to gain superiority in the midfield and create opportunities. Five minutes in, they got the equalizer. An errant Mathieu pass took a lucky bounce right into the feet of Luis Suárez, who showed so much composure and chipped in over the entire defense, and the ball crossed the goal line just before Zouma could clear it out.
And then, we saw a beauty. Rafinha found Sandro on the left side. The Barça B star cut to the middle and curled a spectacular right-footed shot to the Chelsea net to put the Blaugrana ahead on the score.
Following the go-ahead score, the second half team continued to dominate, conceding very few counter-attacks to the Blues, who also changed the lineup heavily. This new group had a hard time creating chances, though, and the intensity of the game went down rapidly.
Everything pointed to a great Blaugrana win, but an individual error changed the game. Third goalkeeper Jordi Masip went completely wild trying to clear a corner-kick, but he went the wrong way, and trying to clear the ball, he punched Gary Cahill's face. The Chelsea center-back still maintained his composure and headed home the equalizer. A bloody Cahill barely celebrated, and quickly was subbed out in the weirdest goal of the International Champions Cup.
Because of the competition's format, the match couldn't end in a draw, and the teams went to the spot to decide the winner on penalty kicks. Alen Halilovic tried to chip in over Courtois but hit the crossbar. The goalkeeper also made saves, and Loic Remy buried home the winner for Chelsea.
The United States tour is now over, but Barça has one last International Champions Cup match. It's in Italy against Fiorentina, on Sunday.
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