Loic Remy’s thunderous shot on the half-hour was enough for English champions Chelsea to see off Sydney FC in front of a record crowd at ANZ Stadium.
A strong, though somewhat short-handed, Chelsea side took to ANZ Stadium in Sydney in front of over 85,000 fans – the most to attend a football match in the post-Olympics era – and showed patches of their brilliance as they saw off home side Sydney FC 1-0.
Striker Diego Costa ignited proceedings inside the first 10 minutes with a slaloming run, beating three or four defenders on his way to firing between Vedran Janjetovic’s legs but the Sydney ‘keeper somehow managed to keep the shot out.
The ensuing 20 minutes were somewhat subdued, with Kiki Naumoff seeing his effort saved comfortably by Petr Cech – who may have been playing his last game for the Blues – while Eden Hazard’s flashes of brilliance were not matched by his teammates on the receiving end of his build-up play as Nemanja Matic and Loic Remy were both guilty of wasting chances.
With both sides struggling to inspire, the goal that the game needed arrived on the half-hour, which then saw the match spring into life as a frantic five minutes followed.
Remy made amends for his earlier misses after receiving the ball on the corner of the box following more impressive build-up play from Hazard, and the Frenchman unleashed a thunderous left-footed shot into the top corner to give Chelsea the lead.
The goal inspired a response from Sydney, and not even a minute after the restart Naumoff broke the offside trap and forced a fine one-on-one save from Cech, while Branislav Ivanovic remarkably kept the follow-up effort out. In the blink of an eye Cech’s opposite was back in the firing line, as more enterprising play from Hazard saw youngster Jeremie Boga fire over before Costa forced a fine save from the Sydney goalkeeper in the following passage of play, which proved to be the final major involvement for the Spanish international as he was substituted in the 41st minute with a sore Achilles.
The second failed to match the action-packed finish the first half, with a number of substitutions for both sides lowering the intensity of the match.
Hazard still managed a few more highlights, jinking past the Sky Blue defenders with relative ease throughout the half but his teammates lacked the composure to finish off the chances the Belgian was creating.
Sydney had one final rally towards the end of the 90 minutes, with a goal disallowed for handball after Cech made a smart point-blank save from a corner, but the English champions held on to record a 1-0 victory.
While Graham Arnold’s side failed to record a victory in either of their post-season glamour ties, the sheer interest the events generated around Australia and internationally, along with youngsters Terry Antonis, Bernie Ibini and Alex Gersbach drawing praise from the likes of Jose Mourinho and Harry Kane, make it hard to view the tours of the EPL heavyweights anything other than a win for Australian football.
Chelsea 1-0 Sydney FC
Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Terry, Ake (45′), Mikel, Matic, Remy (85′), Hazard (89′), Boga (45′), Costa (41).
Substitutions: Loftus-Cheek (on 41′ off 70′), Christensen, Solanke (on 45′ off 83′), Hougton (70′), Musonda (83′), Brown (85′), Colkett (89′)
Goal: Remy (30′).
Janjetovic, Grant (45′), Jurman (79′), Petkovic, Gersbach, Naumoff, Faty (57′), Antonis (73′), Stambolziev (45′), Brosque (70′), Smeltz (83′).
Substitutions: Ryall, Hoole (45′), Triantis (57′), Blackwood (70′), Gligor (73′), Calver (79′), O’Neill (83′).
Yellow Card: Ryall (55′)