WASHINGTON: Reigning English Premier League champions Chelsea and reigning European kings Barcelona exited Tuesday’s friendly showdown injured but intensely motivated as they return to Europe to defend their crowns. Chelsea captured the International Champions Cup victory 4-2 on penalty kicks after the teams were deadlocked 2-2 after regular time thanks to Chelsea defender Gary Cahill’s header in the 85th minute.
In the shootout, Alan Halilovic put Barca down with a shot off the crossbar to open the second round. In the third, Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois denied Gerard Pique and Chelsea’s Ramires and Loic Remy scored after that to settle the outcome. “The penalties mean nothing for us and I think they mean nothing for Barcelona,” said Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho. “This was not about win or lose. They were playing and training the same as us. It was not a tactical game. It was two teams looking for intensity.” They found intensity in each other in the training match before 78,914 at the home of the NFL Washington Redskins, so much so that both sides are nursing injuries with the start of a new season fast approaching. “It was a more physical game than it should be at this point of the pre-season,” said Barcelona manager Luis Enrique. “It’s not a loss. It’s a tie. Overall this was practice. We gave playing time to the players we wanted to see.” Chelsea’s Eden Hazard opened the scoring in the 10th minute.
Luis Suarez and Sandro Ramirez answered for Barcelona in the 52nd and 66th minutes respectively and Cahill nodded in a header as he took a blow in the face from substitute Barcelona goalkeeper Jordi Masip. No one wanted to see injuries but Mourinho has hamstring fears for striker Diego Costa and a possible broken nose for Cahill, who regardless will not miss Sunday’s Community Shield match against Arsenal at Wembley Stadium. “Cahill has a chance of a broken nose,” Mourinho said. “If yes, goes tomorrow to make a mask to be ready to play Sunday. Costa, he felt a little thing in his hamstring. No more than that, but we have to wait.” Barcelona fullback Douglas was hurt early and midfielder Sergi Roberto played 75 minutes in a backline role. “He can play a lot of roles. He’s definitely an option for us, Enrique said, noting that the Douglas injury was unlikely to impact a possible transfer deal involving defender Adriano and Roma. “If someone wants to pay his clause, he’ll leave,” he said. “With the (Douglas) injury it’s bad news. Ultimately, we will see what happens.” Mourinho calls Chelsea an outsider for taking the Champions League prize. “We have a team that’s going to fight for that,” he said. “There are teams with more potential but not always does the best team win. Sometimes an outsider can win it. We go as an outsider and we’re going to try.”
Barcelona, coming off an unprecedented second European treble of La Liga and the Copa del Rey plus the Champions League, was without five players, including standouts Lionel Messi and Neymar, who took part in Copa America last month. “We’ve shown an acceptable level on the field,” Enrique said. “I liked the way we played. We have five players on vacation, but the other players are ready for the season and extremely motivated.” Mourinho said he puts the Community Shield a notch above the tour friendlies. “It’s different than today. It’s a title. It’s less important but it’s the opening of the official season,” Mourinho said. “It’s still a preparation match, but the Cup is there and the Cup is always motivation so we will be going in prepared.” — AFP