Chelsea cruised through to the final, defeating Monterrey 3-1 in Japan
Chelsea made their Club World Cup debut against Monterrey, and they did so with a relatively convincing victory. The club managed to grab hold of my interest before the game ever kicked off by inserting David Luiz into the starting midfield, an event that bore watching even if the game itself might not. Oscar also returned to the starting eleven, it was the first time since the Manchester City draw that he had been starting alongside Juan Mata and Eden Hazard.
That trio combined to create the first chance of the game within two minutes of kickoff. Eden Hazard dummied a long throughball that Oscar picked up just outside the 18-yard box. For the first time in the game (certainly not the last), he drew a pair of defenders to him before laying the ball in front of Juan Mata. Mata's shot would be blocked, but it was a promising start for the Blues.
David Luiz also look dangerous in the games opening minutes. After pushing forward and missing just high from 25 yards out, he played one of the best throughballs I've seen this season, setting Eden Hazard free on goal. Hazard's curling shot missed just wide, but it was one-way traffic early.
Chelsea kept up the pressure, and finally found the breakthrough in the 17th minute thanks to some excellent play all around. Ashely Cole played the ball into Oscar, who again pulled several defenders out of position before backheeling the ball into the path of the sprinting Cole. Cole then played a beautiful ball to the feet of Juan Mata, who opened the scoring by finding the bottom corner. 1-0 Blues, and it looked like the rout was on.
It was a bit slow from that point until halftime, with Chelsea creating fewer chances and the Concacaf side still creating virtually nothing. Chelsea controlled the game in basically every regard, but were still very much in danger of allowing Monterrey into the game with a single mistake.
That danger was erased just after halftime, as within five minutes of kickoff, the lead was increased to three. Eden Hazard decided to remind the world why he was so sought after this summer, ripping the Monterrey defense to shreds on the left hand side. He found Fernando Torres waiting on the edge of the 18-yard box, and a deflected shot would make it 2-0 Chelsea.
Torres was given credit for the goal, though it looked to be going wide before the Mexican hand put it into the corner. At this point I'll happily take it though, as anything to get Torres taking regular shots again will work in my book.
Minutes later, Chelsea would make it three on a brilliantly flicked in own-goal. Fernando Torres repaid his luck on the goal with an excellent cross to Juan Mata, and Mata was unselfish by sliding it back across the face of goal in the direction of Oscar. Darvin Chavez must have wanted in on the action though, as he greedily stole Oscar's opportunity and put it into the net himself. That really should have been the second own-goal in three minutes, both of which were created from some excellent direct play.
From that point on, Chelsea seemed content to put it into cruise control. Frank Lampard came on for Luiz, Paulo Ferreira came on for Mata, and Victor Moses took over in the center when Torres was subbed off. Monterrey started to look sort of threatening, continually finding their way in behind Chelsea very high defensive line. They'd nab a consolation goal with a few seconds to play, meaning it would still be no clean sheets for any Chelsea center back tandem not including David Luiz this season.
All told, this was about the type of game you'd expect against vastly inferior opposition. The game was never in doubt, and Chelsea looked more than happy to try a few spectacular flicks and tricks. A fun game to watch for Chelsea fans, but the massive gulf in class that was evident is why this event just doesn't catch on with the neutrals.
It was a bit hard to really critique this performance, as Monterrey didn't really put up much of a test. I'm intrigued enough by David Luiz as a midfielder to want to see it again, and with Corinthians and Leeds as our next two opponents, it would certainly seem possible that we do.
I was a bit disappointed in the lack of direct play though, as outside of the chances mentioned above, we weren't direct at all. When going forward quickly and pushing the defense back, we looked like we could score a dozen. Far too often though, Chelsea settled for passing the ball around and trying neat little flicks or long shots. There is certainly room for those, but mixing in some quick attacks would make those more effective. That said, it's progress.
It's on to the final for Chelsea now, and they'll be facing a much better opponent in Corinthians. While still not on the level that we see in Europe, Corinthians probably won't need an absolutely perfect performance mixed in with an off day from Chelsea to have any chance at winning. They are a solid team, and they are very well organized in general. If you couldn't convince yourself to get out of bed for this one, maybe you should on Sunday.