NEW YORK, NY - JULY 22: Fans line up to enter Yankee Stadium prior to the match between Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea FC at Yankee Stadium on July 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images)
Chelsea continued their preseason tour with a 1-1 draw against Paris Saint-Germain in Yankee Stadium. Having dispatched the Seattle Sounders earlier in the week, the Blues were ready to meet up with some old friends in New York -- former manager Carlo Ancelotti and old hands Claude Makelele and Alex were all around -- but they knew that said friends would be a fairly stern test for a side only one friendly into their preseason routine.
With last year's Ligue 1 runners up already reinforced with the arrival of Ezequiel Lavezzi from Napoli (and with Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic yet to arrive), this was always going to be a different type of game to Wednesday's. PSG began the match well, controlling possession in the early stages, and should have gone 1-0 up almost immediately after Lavezzi took advantage of confusion in the Chelsea lines to go one on one with Petr Cech. The big goalkeeper was up to the challenge, however, and blocked the Argentine's shot with his feet.
The Blues, sat in a 4-4-1-1 shape that will be familiar from the Champions League final in Europe, weren't playing badly, but they weren't playing particularly well, either. The defence in particular had problems, with the centre backs drifting too far inside and opening up gaps down the channels that PSG's frontmen, supplied by Javier Pastore, could surge through. Just when it seemed as though the Blues had recovered, however, Pastore danced through the defence, turned Gary Cahill and rifled a shot off the post. The rebound fell straight to Nene, who fired in off David Luiz to make it 1-0.
If Chelsea wanted to respond in the first half, they didn't really show it. There were a few half-chances, but when the only shot that Nicolas Douchez was forced to stop cames from a 40-yard free kick, it'd be difficult to paint the performance as anything approaching vintage. While the central players were fairly solid, the flanks looked unsurprisingly weak -- Gael Kakuta, Kevin de Bruyne, Paulo Ferreira and Sam Hutchinson aren't exactly regulars -- and that meant the attacked had virtually no outlets unless David Luiz was doing his weird David Luiz things. The half ended at 1-0.
Lampard, David Luiz, de Bruyne and Kakuta were all withdrawn at halftime, replaced by Michael Essien, Branislav Ivanovic, Marko Marin and Ramires respectively, and Chelsea looked far more composed to start the second half than they did the first. That, perhaps, was aided by the fact that PSG had made no less than seven changes over the interval.
The Blues nearly got on the scoresheet in rather strange fashion. An Eden Hazard won forced a corner, and although the Belgian's near-post delivery was nothing short of awful, it was met with an equally dire clearance from Diego Lugano. The ball eventually fell to Ivanovic's feet, but the Serbian was (not surprisingly) not expecting to receive possession on the penalty spot and scuffed his effort wide of the post.
Shortly after Ivanovic's attempts, the rest of the starters were replaced, with Ross Turnbull, Josh McEachran, Nathaniel Chalobah, Florent Malouda, Lucas Piazon, Ashley Cole and John Terry all coming in. Cole made the biggest impact -- Chelsea finally had a fullback worth talking about, and the combination of he and Malouda caused PSG a real problem on the left. That side nearly broke through the defence on the 70 minute mark, with Marin, who'd moved to the centre, playing in Malouda for an excellent cross which was just about cleared, the best chance of the game for the Blues.
Just when it looked as though we needed to brace ourselves for a loss, Chelsea drew level. Marin found the hitherto-quiet Lucas Piazon, who managed to slip Ramires in down the right. The winger found his compatriot with a great first-time ball, and the youngster was able to slot past substitute goalkeeper Alphonse Areola to bring us back to 1-1. It was Chelsea who looked more likely to score in the final nine minutes, and Malouda ought to have made it 2-1 when a good first touch led to a shot straight at the goalkeeper.
PSG had a great chance of their own after a corner wasn't properly dealt with, and Turnbull was lucky to see a point-blank shot scuffed straight into his arms, but despite an end-to-end conclusion to the game, three minutes of injury time led to no goals. The match finished 1-1, and Chelsea are one step closer to games that actually matter. Hurray!