The Rafa Beitez era is over, with his Chelsea side sending him off with a whimper. Ironically, Rafa chose his final game in charge to run out something other than a 4-2-3-1 formation for the first time I can recall in his lengthy managerial career.
Since Thursday night's game didn't give us enough lol-worthy defending, Chelsea picked right up where they left off just minutes into Saturday's contest. Oscar placed a picture perfect pass to Sergio Aguero, and despite saving the initial shot, Henrique Hilario was left for dead on the Gareth Barry rebound.
Chelsea settled into the game shortly after the opener, with the midfield duo of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and John Obi Mikel looking especially impressive during the next 20 minutes or so. City would strike again on the counter though, with Samir Nasri making it 2-0 City. Loftus-Cheek came off before the half, with the legendary Paulo Ferreira coming on to replace him. Ferreira slotted in at left back, with Nathan Ake sliding into the midfield.
The second half started at 2-0, with Chelsea making only a single change. Petr Cech entered the game for Chelsea, replacing Hilario in goal. Seconds later David Luiz laid a ridiculous ball on the feet of a breaking Ramires, and Chelsea had cut the deficit to 2-1. Chelsea missed out on another pair of excellent chances, and James Milner made it 3-1 just 10 minutes into the second half. It was some fantastic play from City's attackers, but was likely helped by very little effort on the defensive side from Chelsea.
At 61 minutes, Juan Mata came on for David Luiz, with Nathan Ake dropping into the center of the defense. Four minutes later, we were treated to a Yossi Benayoun for Oscar swap, with Benayoun taking over the left midfield position occupied by the Brazilian. Shortly after the change it was 3-2, as Fernando Torres picked out Ramires with a beautiful cross that was subsequently buried. Demba Ba was also making an excellent run onto the ball, continuing to look pretty good paired with the Spaniard up top.
Chelsea continued to apply the pressure to City, but Samir Nasri made it 4-2 with about 20 minutes left to play. Edin Dzeko played provider for the second time on the evening, combining well on a give and so with the full-throttle Frenchman. Nasri then chipped the ball comfortably over Cech, making it back to back friendlies in which Chelsea conceded four (or more).
Demba Ba missed an excellent chance to cut it to 4-3 on 75 minutes, as the ever-brilliant Juan Mata played him free on goal. Ba shot wide of the net though, keeping the Blues' deficit at 4-2.
In the 80th minute, Ramires earned yet another dangerous free kick for Chelsea. Juan Mata then proceeded to do something silly good with the free kick, and the City keeper couldn't do anything about it. 4-3 City, and the game was defense-free at this point.
City only took a few second to add a fifth, as Edin Dzeko bounced one in front of Petr Cech from about 30 yards away. Cech looked like he struggled to read the hop, and the ball scooted under him into the back of the net. City came close to adding a sixth just seconds later, but a last ditch stop by Petr Cech kept the score at 5-3.
The final minutes played out with more end to end stuff, with even the hobo getting into the action and trying a silly backheel shot. The backheel was saved easily by Richard Wright, but Yossi would have a much better effort with his head just a few seconds later. That was the last real attempt for either side, with the US tour ending in a second straight high-scoring loss.
Here are a few thoughts I had as this one was unfolding:
- I like the blue shirt, blue shorts, blue socks look for Chelsea. It's not the traditional home color pattern, but it looks great.
- Seeing Fernando Torres wearing the captain's armband was just strange, especially with David Luiz on the pitch at the same time. Say what you will about Torres' play during his time at the club, but I've never seen anything from him that would make me think of him as a Chelsea captain.
- The two-striker formation today was kind of fun to watch. It's really impossible to take much away from a game in which both teams were more concerned with entertaining than securing a result, but it was certainly different.
- I know I just said it's hard to take much away from a game like this, but it's easy to forget just how deep that Manchester City is at times. They're bringing in one of the best tacticians the game has to offer in Pellegrini, and they're going to be a very scary side to watch next year.
- Andreas Christensen looked a little lost out there tonight, but the two other teenagers starting for the Blues were among the best players on the pitch tonight. Ruben Loftus-Cheek is going to be a household name before he reaches the age of 20, and Nathan Ake looked fantastic in all three positions he played this evening. The youth talent we have at the moment is just ridiculous, I wouldn't swap our current setup with any other side on the planet.
- I'm so glad the Rafa Benitez era is over. He wasn't good, he wasn't horrible, and he certainly didn't do enough to make me feel any differently about him than I did when he was hired. All in all, I'm just to be excited to be turning the page and hope that the Chelsea board has learned from this move. Listen to the fans, don't let them make the decisions about who the club hires, but don't hire another manager that the supporters absolutely loathe. It certainly makes writing about the team less fun when you don't care for the man in charge, and I'm really looking forward to the second coming of The Special One just because of that.
- Speaking of departures, I'd have to assume that tonight was Paulo Ferreira's last appearance as a Chelsea player. I'm really going to miss the Portuguese, and I'll actually miss Hilario as well. It was fun guys, you'll both be missed by this fan.