Chelsea ended our pre-season programme with a hard-fought victory in Washington DC on Saturday night, after goals from Frank Lampard and Romelu Lukaku brought us back from behind.
A lacklustre first-half display had seen us trailing to Eric Lamela’s early strike following an error by Mark Schwarzer, but after the break the Blues improved and substitute Lampard lashed home an equaliser from outside the area to draw us level.
The game was petering out to a draw, with substitute goalkeeper Jamal Blackman having made one outstanding save from Pablo Osvaldo and Roma goalkeeper Morgan de Sanctis denying John Terry, before Lukaku struck late on from close range to hand us a victory in our final game before the Barclays Premier League season begins next weekend.
Jose Mourinho was able to start David Luiz for the first time in pre-season after the defender had recovered from his hamstring problem, while Schwarzer was given the nod in goal following Petr Cech’s 90 minutes against Real Madrid on Wednesday, with a number of others who played the full game that night rested.
Juan Mata was still unavailable while Lampard, who played half the game in Miami, was on the bench among 10 Chelsea subs.
Chelsea almost opened the scoring two minutes in with a breathtaking counter-attack after Roma had threatened at a free-kick.
Franceso Totti’s deep ball into the box fell to Lamela but Michael Essien was in quickly to dispossess the midfielder, releasing Andre Schurrle down the Chelsea left. His cross-field pass was perfectly weighted for Fernando Torres, whose volleyed knock-down found Essien ready to shoot on the edge of the Roma box, his low drive tipped away by goalkeeper De Sanctis.
Anyone questioning Essien’s famed engine after a year in Madrid will have found their answer from his sprint upfield and composed shot.
At the other end Osvaldo, the centre-forward, had the ball in the net after latching onto Totti’s through ball but was clearly offside, before his side took the lead in freak circumstances.
Ryan Bertrand played a simple backpass to Schwarzer, whose control was poor due to a bobble on the RFK Stadium pitch with the ball bouncing onto the post and back out, evading the Australian and falling to Lamela to smash home from inside the six-yard box.
Osvaldo almost doubled the lead when he created space inside the box, cutting inside Cesar Azpilicueta and David Luiz and shooting low, with Schwarzer getting down well to his left to keep it out.
It had not been Chelsea’s best half of football, and it took a surge from defence by Terry to make us look threatening, the centre-back exchanging passes with Essien before unsuccessfully trying to force his way through Roma’s backline. Two minutes later it was the captain’s header that met Andre Schurrle’s corner, the effort dropping onto the roof of the net.
At the end of the half, we produced our best move since the beginning, with Kevin De Bruyne breaking quickly and feeding Schurrle out wide. The pair then exchanged passes again before the German curled just over from the edge of the box.
Mourinho made six changes at the halfway point, including the introduction of Lampard, whose long-range shot was our first of the second period, two minutes in. De Sanctis was able to pat it down without too much fuss.
His next save would be more impressive, beating away Terry’s close-range header from Schurrle’s inswinging cross shortly before the hour mark.
The second-half performance had been a huge improvement on the first, and Chelsea deservedly equalised right on the hour when nice work from replacements Oscar and Demba Ba served to release Lampard in the Roma half, and with space to shoot, he picked out the bottom corner with a crisp drive from 25 yards.
Ramires then saw a vicious shot turned behind by De Sanctis, and the Blues were well on top against a tiring opposition yet to make a change.
Totti and Osvaldo combined with a rare moment of brilliance, the captain picking out his forward with a delightful lofted ball, and the striker’s header looked to be looping over Jamal Blackman, only for the youngster to extend an arm and tip the ball over the bar. Gary Cahill then blocked a header from Mehdi Benatia
Back on the front foot, it looked like Chelsea should have had a penalty when Eden Hazard was tripped just inside the area, but nothing was awarded.
Inside the final 10 minutes there was another strong appeal from Ba, who went down close to the penalty spot, but again the crime went unpunished, with players and management equally incensed.
Inside the final few minutes Ba did manage to stay on his feet after being fed by Lampard, but saw his shot blocked by Marquinho, and it looked like the game would end in a draw.
That would change however, after magic from the mercurial Hazard, who danced around his man inside the area and cut back, the ball eventually ending up in the night via a deflected drive from Lukaku that had given the stranded De Sanctis no chance.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer (Blackman h-t); Azpilicueta (Ivanovic 57), David Luiz (Cahill h-t), Terry (Lukaku 78) (c), Bertrand; Mikel (Van Ginkel 57), Essien (Lampard h-t); Moses (Ramires h-t), De Bruyne (Oscar h-t), Schurrle (Hazard 57); Torres (Ba h-t).
Unused substitutes: Cole.
Goals Lampard 60, Lukaku 88
Roma (4-3-3): De Sanctis; Maicon (Jedvaj 78), Benatia, Castan, Balzaretti; Bradley, Strootman, Florenzi (Marquinho 69); Lamela, Osvaldo (Borriello 69), Totti (Tallo 85) (c).
Unused substitutes: Lobont, Skorupski, Dodo, Torosidis, Romagnoli, Crescenzi, Taddei, Burdisso, Ricci, Verre, Caprari.
Goals Lamela 20
Referee Armando Villareal