There was an international footballing party at Stamford Bridge on Monday night as Brazil and Russia played out an entertaining draw.
It took a late equaliser from striker Fred for the Brazilians, after Victor Fayzulin had smashed the Russians ahead midway through the second half.
Sadly only two of Chelsea’s three Brazilians could feature. Ramires, despite hard work to be ready, was unfit for the game the day after his 26th birthday.
Available though were David Luiz and Oscar, and both started for the Seleçao, with the younger man operating on the right flank in the number seven jersey, Neymar and Kaka alongside him where Stamford Bridge has grown accustomed to seeing Juan Mata and Eden Hazard. David Luiz relinquished the captain’s armband to Thiago Silva.
Elsewhere in the line-up there were familiar names, QPR’s Julio Cesar in goal, Real Madrid’s Marcelo at left-back with Barcelona’s Dani Alves on the right. For Russia, former Blue Yury Zhirkov was among the substitutes.
Off the field too there was intrigue, with former Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari leading the Brazilians, and ex-England manager Fabio Capello now in charge of the Russians.
Despite the glamour of the Brazilians, who boasted much of the support inside Stamford Bridge, it was Russia who made the early running. Scolari rose to his feet from his former seat in the home dugout to berate his men. Across the way Capello sat keenly observing every kick, surely pleased with his side’s commanding start.
It took a monumental block from Hernanes at the far post to prevent Alex Kerzhakov giving Russia the lead, but after picking up a loose ball Oscar delivered a near-perfect cross for Neymar, only for a red-shirted Russian to divert the ball clear at the last moment. David Luiz repeated the trick within a minute, but the same outcome applied.
The balance of the game was gradually beginning to shift to the Brazilians, and Neymar shot wide when well placed just before the half-hour, while at the other end Fayzulin’s rocket shot was palmed into the side-netting by Cesar, who was fortunate to be awarded a goal kick.
At the break, Zhirkov was among three Russian changes. Brazil stayed the same.
Thirteen second-half minutes had passed when Oscar was fouled 30 yards from goal. It was Dani Alves territory, but on his home ground, nobody was going to deny David Luiz the kick. Unfortunately, he slammed it hard into the Russian wall.
Marcelo then brought a save from Vladimir Gabulov with a low strike after Neymar had almost found his way in with a header.
Oscar’s night came to an end on 66 minutes when he was replaced by Hulk. It had been a tidy if unspectacular performance from the 21-year-old.
Shortly afterwards Neymar showed why he is so hyped by cutting inside and bending an effort on goal, but it was easy pickings for Gabulov, and it would not be long before Russia went in front.
Having worked the ball into the Brazilian area, one chance to shoot, then another, went begging. Then one shot was cleared off the line before the ball fell to Fayzulin and he slammed it home through the legs of Cesar.
In response Hulk pulled back for Marcelo but he drove wide, and as the clock ticked away Hernanes wastefully bent a free-kick over the bar from a near-impossible angle, but a late leveller would come courtesy of Fred, who was on hand to tap home after Hulk had squared.
It was a fair result on the night, with both sides having contributed to the occasion. Russia will now hope to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil, while the hosts continue their global tour. Chelsea’s men in yellow will be back at Cobham on Thursday morning, with Southampton and Manchester United on their minds.