Pasadena, Calif. -- Coming off disappointing 2015-2016 seasons, Liverpool and Chelsea, two traditional English Football powerhouses, squared off in front of 53,117 fans at the Rose Bowl in a 2016 International Champions Cup match. In a game full of sloppy plays, Chelsea prevailed 1-0, with the goal coming off of Gary Cahill's header in the 10th minute.
Neither team was sharp, with lots of missed tackles that resulted in six yellow cards -- five for Liverpool and one for Chelsea. However, the most reckless tackle came from Cesc Fabregas, who received a straight red card for his late and high challenge on Ragnar Klavan in the 71st minute.
After going through last season with three different managers, Chelsea hopes it has found one that sticks in Antonio Conte. As a manager for the Italian national team, Conte had a successful Euro 2016, where he brought an overachieving Italian side to the Semifinals. This included a masterful defeat of defending Euro Champion Spain, who had eliminated Italy in the two previous Euros.
With the acquisition of arguably the best defender in Europe last year, Ngolo Kante, one could have expected Conte to employ more of a defensive posture with a counter-attacking style, something that Chelsea did well for a few years under Jose Mourinho. However, in this game, Chelsea started out as more of the attacking team.
Because a number of players, such as Eden Hazard, were missing due to the mandatory rest period after Euro 2016, Chelsea was especially keen to attack from the right side through Willian. Willian, who was the second leading scorer (11 goals) to Diego Costa (16) last season, cut inside numerous times to attack the penalty box. This resulted in Liverpool receiving two yellow cards -- one to to Alberto Moreno and one to Grujicin -- in the first 12 minutes. Chelsea's positive approach was then rewarded by Cahill's goal off of a corner kick by Fabregas, in the run of attack.
Liverpool then began to take the initiative, as they were now chasing a lead. However, most of their attacks did not produce a shot on goal. In fact, a number of counter-attacks, primarily via Willian, provided Chelsea with several additional chances. Because of likely early season rust however, the passes were not sharp enough to threaten Liverpool's goal manned by Loris Karius.
Coutinho, clearly the best Liverpool player tonight as well as last year, needed better support, especially because he handled the ball far away from the goal. Prized transfer (34 million pounds) Sadio Mane from Southhampton should help and appeared to be a good acquisition, as he provided sparks. Mane and his teammates just needed to be sharper in terms of passes and positioning.
Daniel Sturridge, who had extensive duties with England at the Euros, did not travel with the team.
With the Premiership season starting in two weeks at August 13, both teams still need to find inspiration and cohesiveness in order to get on a roll similar to the one that Leicester City took all the way to the championship. Both of these teams have very good players in a number of positions, although Chelsea probably has a few more of them. However, in the current climate, where cautious and stingy defense seem to be the recipe for success (for example, Portugal in the Euros), teamwork, coupled with glimpses of individual brilliance capable of stealing some games, becomes more valuable than ever.
By Christian Siagian
Contributing Writer for TheDailySportsHerald.com