An entertaining friendly in the US saw Chelsea surrender a three-goal lead to lose 4-3 to Manchester City.
Having taken the lead through a Demba Ba header early in the game, Cesar Azpilicueta scored his first goal for the club from the penalty spot a minute before the break.
When Oscar made it 3-0 nine minutes after half-time, the game appeared won, but two City goals in quick succession – from Javier Garcia and Edin Dzeko – ensured there was still plenty to play for.
Dzeko scored again late on to draw City level, and in the last minute Micah Richards stole in at the far post to convert a Garcia cross.
Rafael Benitez was able to name a strong side, while also handing debuts to two of our youngsters. Andreas Christensen partnered Gary Cahill in the centre of defence, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek played alongside John Mikel Obi in midfield. There were also starts for the likes of Petr Cech, who captained the side, Ashley Cole and Juan Mata. Azpilicueta was deployed in a more advanced role on the right-hand side, while Ba started in attack.
Similarly, City named an inexperienced side, with Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez all starting.
Saint Louis had well and truly been engulfed by football fever since the Blues arrived earlier this week, and after more than 10,000 supporters came along to our open training session last night, it was no surprise the locals were in and around the area of Busch Stadium hours before kick-off.
Tickets for the match sold out within 27 minutes of going on sale, and it was Chelsea who were backed by the majority of the 48,000 inside the ground.
In what was a touching gesture, both sets of players unfurled a banner expressing support for the people of Oklahoma following Monday’s tornado, with the fans showing their appreciation. Each player also wore a black armband as a mark of respect for those who lost their lives in the tragedy.
It was the Blues who had the first sight of goal, Mata blasting over the bar after being teed up by Yossi Benayoun.
Five minutes later Cech was forced into action for the first time, saving well low down to his left from Sergio Aguero.
Aguero should have opened the scoring when he was put clean through by Tevez soon after, but the Argentine was thwarted by the feet of Cech, and it was a miss City were made to pay for in the 15th minute.
Benayoun picked the ball up deep inside the City half and fed Mata out wide; the Spaniard took one touch before delivering a teasing cross into the penalty area, and as Demba Ba and Hart challenged, it was the Chelsea man who got there first to head home.
Our joy was almost shortlived, however, when Aguero struck the post with a curling effort from the edge of the penalty area which had Cech well beaten.
After a slow start the game was developing into a decent contest, with players on both sides prepared to take risks they perhaps wouldn’t in a more competitive game.
Loftus-Cheek almost made it a debut to savour when he forced Hart into a save with a fizzing long-range effort, but after going behind it was City looking the more threatening.
Just before the half-hour mark Cech pulled off a magnificent save to preserve our lead. David Silva evaded Cole with some neat footwork before sending his cross into the path of Toure. The Ivorian swivelled and shot, and with the ball destined for the bottom corner, Cech somehow clawed it away.
Ba was unfortunate not to double our advantage eight minutes before the break when he tried to catch Hart out with an ambitious lob, but in the 44th minute the City goalkeeper was powerless to prevent us extending our advantage.
Mata smartly got beyond City’s young defender Karim Rekik, and after being pulled down the referee pointed to the penalty spot.
Azpilicueta, having never scored a Chelsea goal, was the player entrusted with taking the kick, and he calmly fired into the bottom corner to make it 2-0, sparking jubilant scenes involving his team-mates on the bench.
Benitez made five changes at the break, with David Luiz, Paulo Ferreira, Ramires, Oscar and Fernando Torres entering the fray, and nine minutes into the second half it was 3-0.
Ramires challenged Rekik inside the City penalty area, and as the loose ball ran into the path of Oscar, the Brazilian showed great feet to round Richard Wright – a replacement for Hart at the break – and roll the ball into an empty net.
Shortly after the hour mark the Blues made two more substitutions, with Marko Marin and Jamal Blackman introduced to the action.
Blackman was making his debut, but unfortunately his first task was to pick the ball out of his net after Javier Garcia had prodded home from close-range.
Worse was to come three minutes later when City reduced the deficit further, as substitutes James Milner and Edin Dzeko combined, and the Bosnian steered his strike beyond the advancing Blackman.
With Cech departing the action, the armband was handed to Ferreira, but of more pressing concern was City’s growing threat.
Blackman did well to deny Milner with his feet at the far post, and we had the young goalkeeper to thank once again when he made a smart stop from a powerful Dzeko strike.
Having made seven substitutions, it was virtually a new-look Chelsea in the second half. Oscar was now playing tucked in behind Torres with Ramires wide on the right and Marin operating down the left.
Loftus-Cheek was withdrawn with 10 minutes left to play, and the young midfielder will have been happy with his display, impressing with a composed, mature performance in the heart of midfield.
With five minutes remaining, and with the Blues seemingly heading for victory, City equalised.
Mikel’s clearance was charged down, and the ball fell into the path of Tevez. The Argentine spotted the run of Dzeko to his right, slid it into his path and the substitute fired across Blackman into the bottom corner.
In truth, it was a goal that had been coming, but Benitez will have been disappointed in the manner his side allowed a three-goal lead to slip.
What had been a disappointing second half display was compounded in the 90th minute when Richards arrived in our penalty area to volley home Garcia’s cross from the left.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech (c) (Blackman 61); Ivanovic (Ferreira h/t), Christensen, Cahill (David Luiz h/t), Cole; Mikel Obi, Loftus-Cheek (Ake 80); Azpilicueta (Ramires ht), Mata (Oscar h/t), Benayoun (Marin 61); Ba (Torres h/t).
Scorers Ba 15, Azpilicueta (pen) 44, Oscar 54
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Zabaleta (Maicon 55), Kompany (c) (Richards h/t), Rekik, Clichy; Garcia, Toure (Huws h/t); Rusnak (Milner 55), Silva (Nasri h/t), Aguero (Dzeko h/t); Tevez.
Scorers Garcia 61, Dzeko 64 and 85, Richards 90