This match was another goal fest like our previous game, but this time against Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg. Frank Lampard decided to field a very strong XI, and this squad could be similar to the XI we see on the opening day against Man United. All the starters played around seventy minutes, which is very unlikely in a preseason game where players are often subbed off at half time. This provides further comprehensive evidence that our new head coach has picked his first team.
The first 45 minutes were the best we’ve played under Lampard so far. We took some time to settle into the game, but once we did, we were very clinical. Pulisic was incredible, burning his raw pace and causing the opposition defence problems. He did score a brace with two well taken finishes. He also won the penalty which Barkley converted. Barkley repaid the favour with a Fabregas-esque assist from Chelsea’s half to pick Pulisic out, who did the rest. Our midfield was well balanced and energetic, although our defence seemed shaky at times and not for the first time in pre-season. Kepa also was alert and made some crucial saves to keep us in the game.
Salzburg did not sit back and wait for us to reach their goal. They pressed impressively, which led to the ball being given away in a sloppy manner several times. The opponent’s first goal inevitably came through a corner, which has been suspect throughout. Their second goal crawled in after Kepa made the save. Azpilicueta saved a certain goal by putting his body on the line, but the hosts scored their third via a penalty.
Both our goals in the second half were spectacular, but Pedro’s clearly superior, an excellent flick from a Barkley cross. Batshuayi made the most of his twenty minutes on the pitch by grabbing a goal and hence staking his claim to be the first choice striker headed into the season.
All in all the game was an enjoyable one. Kepa was impressive as always. Our fullbacks were a constant nuisance for the Salzburg defence with their overlapping runs. Zouma and Luiz, who started the match, seemed a good pair with Zouma covering for Luiz’s defensive lapses. But the French centre back often gave the ball away when pressed robustly. Our midfield trio of Jorginho, Kovacic and Barkley were very impressive to say the least. Pedro seemed inconsistent (barring his worldie), Pulisic was bursting with pace and energy and Tammy was rarely involved in the game. Our best players, by far, were Pulisic, Barkley, Kovacic, Pedro (solely for that goal) and Emerson, who made good overlapping runs, made accurate crosses and also tracked back well to defend. If we can recreate this sort of performance week in week out, top four will be a walk in the park.