Chelsea rounded off their tour of Japan with a deserved 2-1 victory over Barcelona to take home the Rakuten Cup in a very humid Saitama on Tuesday evening. Tammy Abraham, back from his loan spell at Aston Villa, recovered from a shocking miss early on to coolly slot home the opener after a misplaced pass by Sergio Busquets. It was the 21-year-old’s first-ever goal for the Southwest London club. Substitute Ross Barkley added a second with a curling shot into the bottom corner after the interval. Ivan Rakitic grabbed a consolation late on with a terrific strike from distance.
Barcelona Misses Messi
Playing in front of a crowd of 51,126, Chelsea were looking to recover from their 1-0 defeat to Kawasaki Frontale last week, and it was they who looked the brighter of the two teams in the first half with Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho, deployed in a double pivot, dominating in midfield. New recruit, Christian Pulisic, making his first start for the side, also impressed out wide, causing the Barcelona defence a lot of problems, while youngster Mason Mount certainly didn’t look out of place in the number 10 role.
For La Blaugrana there was no Lionel Messi or Luis Suarez, however, Antoine Griezmann did make his debut, showing flashes of his quality in the first half. Frenkie De Jong, Barca’s other big money signing this summer, came on after the break and as always looked tidy in possession, though, it was the club’s B player Carles Perez who caught the eye. Fellow B team player, Riqui Puig also stood out.
A Warm Japan Welcome
Speaking at a press conference after the game, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said he was happy with he had seen from his side in the Far East. “It’s been a good tour and it’s always good to come to Japan with the welcome we receive, and I think for the club that’s important. It’s been nice for us all as a club. Most importantly it is work and both these games have been really good exercises for us for different reasons. What I’ve learnt from the players is that they’re a good, strong group, a determined group and everything that has been asked of them they’ve done and more.”
Chelsea will now return home as they continue preparations for their opening Premier League Fixture against Man Utd. Barcelona, meanwhile, will head to Hyogo Prefecture to take on Vissel Kobe at the Noevir Stadium Kobe on Saturday. Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Sergi Samper are all expected to play against their former club. Hiroki Abe, recently signed by Barcelona from Kashima Antlers, failed to make the squad against Chelsea due to an injury, though could be fit enough to play some of Saturday’s game.