Chelsea hammer out 2-1 victory over Barcelona

Chelsea's Tammy Abraham scores a goal against Barcelona's goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen during their friendly soccer match in Saitama, Japan. (AP)
Updated 23 July 2019

Chelsea hammer out 2-1 victory over Barcelona

  • Prized recruits Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong make debut for Barca

SAITAMA, JAPAN: Goals from Tammy Abraham and Ross Barkley saw Chelsea grab a 2-1 victory against Barcelona on Tuesday in an exhibition match in Japan.

World Cup-winning French striker Antoine Griezmann and former Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong made their unofficial debut for the Spanish giants, pleasing some 51,126 fans who cheered every move during the star-studded game.

Chelsea striker Abraham opened the scoring in the 34th minute by pouncing on a mistake by Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets who attempted to clear the ball.

But with Chelsea midfielder Jorginho applying pressure, the ball rolled toward Abraham who only had to step past rushing goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and gently send it into the net.

Chelsea coach Frank Lampard was all praise for his young striker.

“Tammy, he is a goal scorer. He is hungry for goals,” he said.

Despite facing a transfer ban, Lampard said Chelsea’s two-game tour in Japan showed he had a “competitive” and “determined” team.

“What I have learned about players was that they are a good strong group, a determined group. I am very happy,” he said.

“There is more work to do but it’s been a good trip. It’s been positive in all senses,” he said.

Minutes after the first goal, Chelsea midfielder Christian Pulisic showed off his speed and footwork to infiltrate the Barca defense, but his left footer went just wide.

Barcelona went on the offensive in the second half, with substitute striker Carles Perez leading the way.

But superb saves by Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga repeatedly denied Barca any attempt to equalize.

In the 55th minute Perez zipped past three Chelsea defenders but his left toe kick finish was not good enough to get past Arrizabalaga.

A few minutes later, he dashed deep into the left side to feed a high-speed cross to striker Malcom, but Arrizabalaga again denied them.

Chelsea made it 2-0 with less than 10 minutes left as midfielder Barkley picked up a cross in front of the box and curled it into the net, with substitute keeper Neto getting a touch but unable to block it.

Just before injury time, Barcelona got a free kick just outside the box but midfielder Ivan Rakitic’s shot went above the bar.

Rakitic however quickly redeemed himself in injury time, picking up a cross and firing a lightning right footer that went deep into the net for a consolation goal for Barcelona.

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde, echoing Lampard, said the match was a good test that showed signs of excellence as well as areas to improve.

Valverde was tightlipped about whether they were moving to acquire Neymar from French side Paris Saint-Germain.

But he has high hopes for Griezmann, whose €120 million ($135 million) transfer was contested by Atletico.

Griezmann “needs to get used to the team and how we play.”

“But he proved himself as a dangerous player on the ball. He has a lot of ideas,” Valverde said through a translator.

“This is only his debut game. He will have to fit into Barca’s style. I am sure he will become better and better.”

Griezmann said he hoped to shine at his new club.

“Personally, I want to play in many games, score more goals than the last season, more assists than last season,” he said through a translator, adding that he had his eye on a “big title.” The Spanish giants will play a friendly on Saturday against Japan’s Vissel Kobe, who feature ex-Barca players Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Sergi Samper.


Australian Open: Top-ranked Ash Barty a step closer to ending Aussie drought

Updated 28 January 2020

Australian Open: Top-ranked Ash Barty a step closer to ending Aussie drought

  • Barty aiming to be the first Australian woman since Chris O’Neill in 1978 to win the Australian Open
  • She won her first title on home soil in Adelaide in the lead-up to this season’s first major

MELBOURNE, Australia: Top-ranked Ash Barty is a step closer to ending a long drought for Aussies at the national championship.
Barty saved set points in the 11th game and another in the tiebreaker before seizing the momentum against two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in a 7-6 (6), 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena. She next faces No. 14 Sofia Kenin, who reached the semifinals at a major for the first time with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 78-ranked Ons Jabeur.
Barty fended off eight of the nine break-point chances she faced in the first set before finally getting the upper hand when she won a 22-shot rally, defending for much of it just to stay in the point, at 3-2 in the tiebreaker.
After clinching the first set in 69 minutes, she went on a roll to take a 4-0 lead in the second and take all the momentum away from Kvitova, who beat Barty here at the same stage last year before losing the final to Naomi Osaka.
Barty rebounded from that to win her first major title at the French Open, where she beat Kenin in the fourth round. Until she arrived in Australia, Kenin’s run at Roland Garros — which included a third-round upset over Serena Williams — was her best at a Grand Slam.
There’s a lot of local expectation riding on Barty, who is aiming to be the first Australian woman since Chris O’Neill in 1978 to win the Australian Open. The first major of the decade may see the end of the 42-year wait, and an Australian man hasn’t won since 1976. Barty is already the first Australian woman since 1984 to reach the semifinals of the home Open.
Barty doesn’t expect to feel the pressure. She won her first title on home soil in Adelaide in the lead-up to this season’s first major.
“I’m not going to have anything but a smile on my face when I walk out onto this court,” Barty said of her next match.
Kenin and Jabeur were both into the quarterfinals for the first time at a major.
For Kenin, who was born in Moscow but moved to the United States as a baby and grew up in Florida, the degree of difficulty will only increase.
“I’m in the semis,” she said, when asked for her preference of semifinal rival. “Anyone I play, they’re playing really well.”
Kenin is playing her best tennis, too. Her best previous run at Melbourne Park ended in the second round, when she lost to Simona Halep last year.
She finished last year ranked 14th, and could match Barty in one category: they were tied for most hard-court wins on the women’s tour last year with 38 wins each.
Kenin’s run here included a comeback win in the third round against 15-year-old Coco Gauff, when she made only nine unforced errors across the second and third sets.
In the second set against Jabeur, she saved three break points in a long sixth game, then broke serve in the seventh game to set up the win.
“It was a tough moment,” Kenin said. “I didn’t know it was 10 minutes (but) it was pretty long, the game. After that I got my momentum.”
Jabeur, a 25-year-old Tunisian, was the first Arab woman to make it to the last eight at a major.
“Ï think I proved that I can be in the quarterfinals in a Grand Slam, even if I have a lot of things to improve probably physically and mentally,” she said. “But I’m happy that I pushed through a lot of things. I proved to myself that I could do a lot of great things.”
In later men’s quarterfinals, 20-time major winner Roger Federer was playing 100th-ranked Tennys Sandgren, and seven-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic had a night match against Milos Raonic of Canada.