Chelsea ended their preseason campaign with a narrow win against AS Roma. It wasn't a vintage performance from the Blues, who lost their 100 percent record against Real Madrid last time out, but the Blues did enough to recover from a frankly hilarious Mark Schwarzer error before going ahead at the death via a scrambled finish from Romelu Lukaku.
The game might have been a friendly, but it certainly wasn't treated like it. In the first minute, David Luiz gave Pablo Osvaldo a nasty kick for no apparent reason after misjudging a pass, and there were several other unfortunate tackles in the game, with Chelsea responsible for most of them. The worst of the lot was probably Marco van Ginkel's studs-up challenge on Kevin Strootman's shin, but thankfully everyone avoided serious injury and the business of football could continue.
Let's not pretend it was good football though. The first half -- a neat Michael Essien volley aside -- was something of a disaster. Chelsea had real trouble breaking Roma down, and the front four of Fernando Torres, Victor Moses, Andre Schurrle and Kevin de Bruyne looked utterly lost, a surprise considering how good most of that unit has been in the previous friendlies.
Despite the Blues' poor play, they probably shouldn't have been behind at the half. Eric Lamela's goal was a freak occurrence, with Ryan Bertrand giving Schwarzer a backpass which bounced over the goalkeeper's foot, off the post, back through his legs and onto Lamela's right boot. If this had been the regular season, household objects would have been broken, but in a friendly going 1-0 down was actually useful, because it forced Chelsea to try to break down a packed defence.
The second half saw the double pivot of John Obi Mikel and Essien broken up, with Ramires and Frank Lampard injecting some life into the side. It was the latter who looked most dangerous -- a clever turn and thundering shot worried Morgan de Sanctiis before the effort swerved well wide shortly after the break -- and it wasn't long until he'd found the back of the net.
Eden Hazard combined with Oscar to gallop clear down the left, and his centering pass was flicked on by Demba Ba to find Lampard in space. Roma opted not to close him down, and the club's leading scorer made them pay, lashing a low show into the bottom corner to make it 1-1.
It got a bit hectic after that. Ramires tested de Sanctiis with a thundering effort from the edge of the area before Jamal Blackman was forced into action at the other end of the pitch, tipping over an Osvaldo header that looked destined to find the back of the net. The referee then got into the thick of things, denying Hazard what looked like a clear-cut penalty before waving off Ba's less obvious claim.
As the game wore down, Jose Mourinho, looking to force the winner, took John Terry off in favour of Romelu Lukaku -- an attacking change in there ever was one. It paid off, mostly thanks to Hazard's brilliance. The Belgian picked up the ball on the edge of the box, then twisted, turned and cajoled his way around Roma's back line before playing a cut back. De Sanctiis could only parry, and Ba managed to scramble the ball to Lukaku, whose scuffed finished ensured Chelsea ended the preseason on a high.
Now it's time for real games. Who's ready for Hull City?