Many had expected Wednesday's friendly against Austrian outfit RZ Pellets to be our re-introduction to Chelsea's World Cup players. It turned out to be no such thing, the 1-1 draw featuring exactly zero of the players who'd travelled to Brazil this summer. But it wasn't all disappointing -- Petr Cech made his first appearance of the pre-season after being sideline with a shoulder injury and new signing Filipe Luis got the start at left back.
But with Fernando Torres, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas all kept out of the match squad, the most senior attacking player around was Mohamed Salah, and it certainly showed as we struggled to break the hosts down. Despite having the best of RZ Pellets in the opening half, the youngsters didn't manage to create much. The best chance came through the combination of Patrick Bamford and Izzy Brown, the former using his strength to open up the defence for the latter to run onto the ball.
Unfortunately said chance came to nothing -- Brown's shot was far too close to Alexander Kofler to seriously trouble him -- and the rest of the half was mostly rather quiet. Chelsea had almost all of the ball but weren't doing much with it, which makes sense with a very solid, veteran back six (plus Kurt Zouma) and the kids plus Mohamed Salah up front.
The second half was slightly different. RZ Pellets started strongly, and Zouma had a game's worth of problems in about five minutes. The big centre back earned himself a booking for a robust late challenge, but worse was to come when he got sucked under a cross and let the hosts score. Kind of.
Since we don't have goalline technology or particularly great camera angles, we'll never know whether or not De Oliveira Silvio's shot actually crossed the line. And since this happened in a pre-season friendly, it's unlikely that we'll care much, either. The striker diverted a knockdown goalwards, but Cech got his leg across, kicking the ball onto the crossbar and out before the linesman decided that it was indeed a goal. The home crowd celebrated, Chelsea were thoroughly confused and life went on.
There wasn't any real urgency in the attack until 15 minutes to go, when the Blues, mimicking what they did against Wimbledon, switched to 3-5-2 and stuck Branislav Ivanovic up front. That led to an entirely unsurprising long-ball frenzy, but when the goal came it had very little to do with the big Serbian's aerial prowess.
Instead, it was all about young Jeremie Boga. On at halftime for Lewis Baker, the 17-year-old picked up the ball deep in his own half, skipped past three challenges, then passed to Ivanovic. Eventually and somewhat fortunately the ball popped back out to Boga, who proceeded to clown the Pellets' centre back and place the ball rather firmly past Kofler and in.
It was a magnificent goal, and even if the result wasn't spectacular, seeing Boga's effect would have been worth the price of admission. Let's see how Chelsea do once some of the returnees are more fully integrated with the team -- the next match on Sunday against Slovenia's Olimpija Ljubljana.