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Blues breeze past Vitesse Arnhem

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Dean Mouhtaropoulos

Up until Wednesday, much of Chelsea's pre-season had been something of a slog. Sure, the Blues cruised to a 5-0 win against Wycombe Wanderers back in the heady days of mid-July, but after that they'd been behind in every match, which isn't a good look when our most well-known opposition is Zombie Wimbledon.

Vitesse were a different proposition. Although they're not the best team in the Eredivisie, they represent a standard with which we're at least familiar, and the Blues duly stepped up, scoring early and never really letting their hosts get into the match. The only serious blemish was a late goal conceded after the whole defence had been changed, turning what would have been a very tidy 3-0 victory into a mere 3-1 victory.

Chelsea got started quickly. A poor header in the Vitesse midfield allowed Nemanja Matic to poke forward to complete(ly offside) striker Diego Costa, who proceeded to run at goal and square for Mohamed Salah to tap in from 12 yards. Less than four minutes had passed since kickoff.

Following the goal, the match quieted down a little. The Dutch side were happy to pass the ball around in midfield and take potshots from range. Petr Cech was forced into action a few times, once from our good friend Bertrand Traore, while Chelsea seemed willing to hold onto their lead and look for opportunities to add another without trying to hard to pick them up.

Costa was the sparkplug. The striker was denied by an excellent last-ditch tackle after a similarly-excellent last ditch pass from Matic, and eventually his direct running won him a free kick near the edge of the box. After the inevitable argument, Cesc Fabregas lifted ball over the wall, which Gary Cahill was doing his best to demolish with his bare hands, and into the back of the net via Ely Room's outstretched gloves.

Salah nearly got his second in short order after the high press had picked off the hosts trying to pass out from the back. The Egyptian cut inside, received possession and fired a shot at the bottom corner only to be denied by an excellent sprawling save from Room. The goalkeeper was called into action again early in the second half when Costa was put clean through by Fabregas, coming up with a strong save and watching with relief as Fernando Torres was crowded out before he could poke home the rebound.

Vitesse then nearly found their way back into the match via a stunning effort from Zakaira Labyad. Picking up the ball in the left channel, the 21-year-old drove forward and unleashed a swerving, vicious effort from fully 35 yards that flew past Cech and crashed off the crossbar to safety -- a timely reminder that the game can change from nowhere.

Despite the scare, Chelsea remained in control. The third was coming, and eventually it arrived via Matic, who had a magesterial game on his former stamping grounds. Winning possession high up the pitch, the Serbian quickly fed Costa, who sprinted into the box and rather than trying to round the keeper (by now it was Piet Velthuizen) reversed the ball back to Matic, who tapped it in quite happily.

Chelsea should have been able to see out the match without any problems, but the defence, in disarray following several substitutions, allowed Uros Djurdjevic to get on the end of a knockdown and head past Mitchell Beeney to make it 3-1. That goal took some of the gloss off the scoreline, but it failed to take any off the performance -- the Blues had dispatched Vitesse, and they looked very competent in so doing.