There was an electrifying buzz around the Vitality Stadium as AFC Bournemouth played host to European Champions Chelsea in a pre-season friendly, despite being on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat.
New signing Emiliano Marcondes put the Cherries in front with a goal on his home debut, but a quick turnaround from Chelsea saw the Blues score two in the space of four minutes, giving Thomas Tuchel his first pre-season win.
Both starting line-ups showed the manager’s approach to evaluate squad depth and give some fringe players the chance to impress ahead of the new season.
Scott Parker gave young Kyle Taylor his first start of pre-season, after an impressive brace in Bournemouth’s 4-2 victory versus Real Balompédica Linense. The game also saw 20-year-old Zeno Ibsen Rossi start for the Championship side.
Chelsea explored their squad as they started with a very youthful back three of Malang Sarr, Dujon Sterling and Lewis Baker, with Danny Drinkwater featuring in midfield alongside Conor Galagher as several of the Blues first team regular’s were being rested following this summer’s Euro’s
The Cherries kicked off the game brightly, putting pressure on Chelsea and threatening from the wide areas. The ‘Kings of Europe’ title clearly did not frighten Parker’s men in their first home game under the new manager.
Bournemouth’s best chance of the half fell to former Chelsea man Dominic Solanke 15 minutes in. Receiving a through ball into the penalty area, the striker was unable to get his shot on target thanks to a last-ditch tackle from Baker. The Blues were close to punishing the home side as they replied with a counter-attack, but Callum Hudson-Odoi was denied by Mark Travers.
As the half continued, the London side began to control the game. The large majority of their success coming from the flanks with wing-backs Marcus Alonso and Hudson-Odoi constantly on the move.
The best chance of the half fell to Tammy Abraham in the 25th minute. Hudson-Odoi again being a nuisance from the right, creating a first time shot for Abraham from four yards out, but it was saved well by Travers.
The Cherries looked to take the lead right before half-time, but Philip Billing couldn’t poke it home at the back post following a corner from Marcondes and the sides went in at half-time all-square.
The second half saw Chelsea switch formation from a 3-4-3 into a 3-5-2 with an overhaul of changes, whereas Bournemouth made only the one substitution, with trialist Kyle Edwards coming on for Kyle Taylor.
Straight away, David Brooks was gifted a golden opportunity just minutes after the restart. The Welsh winger stole the ball from Conor Gallagher on the halfway line and ran through on goal. Edouard Mendy was called into action straight away after replacing Kepa during the break, forcing Brooks to miss the one-on-one who dragged his shot wide of the left post.
Bournemouth were the more threatening side in the second half and eventually got the breakthrough in the 65th minute. A brilliant passage of play on the right flank between Jack Stacey and Brooks created the opportunity for Stacey to cross into the Chelsea box. Summer signing Marcondes was able to react quickly and met the cross with a powerful header to give the home side the lead.
The goal certainly changed the game as Chelsea were forced to go onto the front foot. Substitute Baba charged down the left wing for the Blues, ending the run with a cross that perfectly found the feet of Armando Broja in the box. The young striker stayed composed and tucked the ball away to equalise with just under 20 minutes to go
It only took four minutes for Chelsea to stick their noses in front as they gained momentum from Broja’s goal. A corner from Ross Barkley was headed in by Ike Ugbo at the front post and Chelsea would now see the lead out.
Despite a loss for the Cherries, many positives were to be taken in their preparations for the upcoming season. Speaking after the game, Scott Parker shared his thoughts on the performance:
“I thought we played very well against a very good opposition. We looked a real threat with high energy, being a team on the front foot, which was brave of us.
“The two goals we were disappointed with. There were some very good things tonight, and some poor things. That is to be expected four weeks into pre-season. They are a group of players who are now listening to a new voice, and new styles of playing.”
Bournemouth now face MK Dons in the Carabao Cup on Saturday at the Vitality before newly relegated West Brom visit the South coast for the Championship Opener on August 6.