If there was any evidence that pre-season results and form aren’t a great indication of how a team will start the season, Chelsea demonstrated it on Saturday with a 3-0 win over Huddersfield at the John Smith’s Stadium.
A rare goal from N’Golo Kante, a debut goal from the penalty spot for Jorginho, and a late goal from Pedro provided Chelsea’s margin of victory, as the Blues showed a possession-based approach that is the hallmark of new manager Maurizio Sarri.
Chelsea didn’t have it all their way, though. Clearly still adjusting to Sarri’s style of football, Huddersfield gave Chelsea quite a number of problems in the early stages, reacting quicker to win second balls and regularly dragging Chelsea’s back four out of position by getting in behind fullbacks Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta.
But despite pressuring Chelsea early and testing Chelsea’s goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga on his club debut, it was Chelsea that got the breakthrough half an hour in.
The goal came from the unlikeliest of sources after N’Golo Kante volleyed a cross from Willian into the ground and the bounce deceived Ben Hamer, looping in over his head at the far post.
Huddersfield should have equalised just minutes later from a corner when Mathias Jorgensen’s near-post flick found Steve Mounie at the back post. Mounie beat Azpilicueta in the air, only to see his header thud against the cross bar with Arrizabalaga strained on his line.
Chelsea doubled their lead just before the half after a period of good link up play saw Ross Barkley’s flick free Marcos Alonso in the area. As Alonso shaped to shoot, Christopher Schindler slid in to intervene, but caught the Spaniard’s foot, and the referee pointed to the spot.
Jorginho made no mistake from the penalty spot, displaying what can only be described as a hop and skip to force Hamer to commit before rolling the ball past the stranded keeper.
Chelsea dominated possession for most of the second half, but after 75 minutes, Huddersfield nearly pulled one back when Florent Hadergjonaj skipped down the left flank and found Laurent Depoitre unmarked near the penalty striker. Depoitre seemed to be caught off-balance and sent his first-time shot well over the cross bar.
But Chelsea put the game beyond all doubt, introducing Eden Hazard into the match just after Depoitre’s chance. Five minutes later, Pedro had Chelsea’s third goal when Hazard collected the ball in his own half, took the ball on the turn, and raced forward leaving Huddersfield players trailing in his wake.
With Alvaro Morata to his left and Pedro to his right, Hazard drew in the Huddersfield centre backs before playing a perfect pass to Pedro who was now free on the right. Pedro collected the ball and waited for Hamer to commit before simply dinking the ball over him and tucking his shot inside the far post.
A sterner test awaits Chelsea when they take on Arsenal next week, but Maurizio Sarri and Chelsea should take positives from their performance, even if it wasn’t perfect by any means.