Chelsea started their preseason tour on a positive note with a 1-0 win against Thailand's Singha All-Stars. It was a win that was more narrow on the scoresheet than it could have been, with the Blues comfortably dominating the match and generating a slew of chances -- the only downside from the performance is that it took a penalty to score the only goal.
Frank Lampard was a surprise absence. He'd been slated to start the first half alongside Michael Essien, but instead we saw Ramires out there. Keep your eyes peeled for injury news, although I'd have to imagine it'd be nothing major even if he does have a knock.
As far as the actual game goes, there was an early opportunities following a scramble in the box, with Michael Essien's header deflected onto the crossbar by a Singha head, but that opportunity didn't signify much of anything. The Blues were generally happy to stroke the ball about in the midfield, and Singha didn't offer much in the way of a threat. Without any moments of magic -- de Bruyne tried his luck from range, to no avail -- the Blues weren't going to get anywhere with a head-on approach.
That's when Wallace decided to change things. The right back won a free kick near the Singha box, and after some unfortunate rolling around got back up just in time to receive a disguised pass from de Bruyne. The defence was surprised, and one of the Thai players lunged in with a silly tackle, bringing down the Brazilian and leaving Chelsea with a penalty. Lukaku stepped up to the spot and lashed it into the bottom corner, sending Kritsana Klanklin the wrong way.
There were a couple of hiccups after that, but nothing major. Petr Cech dropped a corner but stood tall to ensure that Singha wouldn't be able to take advantage of his error. The back line had a couple of strange moments as well, both one on one and as a whole (Tomas Kalas should probably follow John Terry's lead on where the line should be held). But there wasn't much risk of Singha coming back.
Much more likely was a second Chelsea goal, and Lukaku was looking like the primary threat. He'd already showed off some of his speed when he turned the defence and forced a stop from Klanklin, but the warning went unheeded and de Bruyne was able to pick out his run with a great through pass. If there's a flaw in Lukaku's game, it's the finishing, and it again let him down as the goalkeeper was able to keep the ball out with what was admittedly a very good save.
That was the last major action of the half, and we got wholesale changes after that. Everyone but Ramires and de Bruyne was replaced -- the latter was always scheduled for 90 minutes while the surprise unavailability of Frank Lampard forced a central midfielder to play the full game as well. No shock that Ramires would be the one to tough it out.
Ramires was immediately involved in a chance, but it was at the wrong end of the pitch. While trying to shepherd the ball behind for a goal kick, he was bullied out of possession and conceded a corner instead. Blues debutante Marco van Ginkel briefly lost his man, but the header flashed well wide.
It was Chelsea who had the better chances though. De Bruyne and Victor Moses combined brilliantly on the right, forcing the Singha defence into a scrambled clearance, and Demba Ba nearly won a second penalty when he turned on the edge of the box and was brought down. A free kick was (correctly) given instead -- de Bruyne again tried a sneaky pass and it very nearly paid off, with Ba's shot going inches wide after a deflection.
Another deflection took the sting out of a Moses effort and let the goalkeeper collect, then another foul on Ba let Eden Hazard get a crack of his own -- this one a vicious free kick that was barely kept out by Klankin, who had to hurl himself to his left to parry. De Bruyne set up Hazard for another chance shortly thereafter with a delightful one-two, but once again Klanklin came to Singha's rescue. Branislav Ivanovic then missed a virtually open goal as Chelsea got closer and closer to their second.
Singha then threatened with a set piece of their own. A series of fouls eventually led to the ball being looped into Jamal Blackman's box, and apparently nobody was bothering to mark, because Bukasa Kasonga ended up with a completely free header three yards out. He missed, but still.
With ten minutes to play, de Bruyne followed up a well-saved free kick with a well-deserved trot off the pitch, giving Bertrand Traore a chance to get some playing time. He was reasonably impressive out there, but he did spurn a chance for to grab our second when he ballooned a shot high from a corner kick. Aside from van Ginkel nailing Jose Mourinho with what was supposed to be a cross-field ball, that was the last thing that happened in the match.
No, it wasn't a crushing win, but Chelsea were solid, held possession, created chances... and most importantly of all, they got their work in.