YOKOHAMA: J-League Champions Kawasaki Frontale pulled off a stunning 1-0 victory against Chelsea in friendly at Yokohama on Friday.
Kawasaki striker Leandro Damiao headed in a Kengo Nakamura cross from a close range in the 87th minute to clinch the upset in front of 61,012 spectators.
Chelsea struggled to find the net despite waves of attacks, with Kawasaki players cautious in defense, particularly before the break. A long journey and high humidity in Japan during the early days of pre-season caused “difficulties for us physically,” said Chelsea coach Frank Lampard.
“The quality of our players on the ball was not quite where we want. It’s very, very normal in pre-season. We will get there.”
“I got no fears. I was happy with (a) big part of the performance,” he added.
The Chelsea boss was tightlipped about squad selection for the upcoming season, only saying he has a “competitive” organization.
“Nobody is in or out of the squad,” Lampard said. “Everybody is competing and the squad will be picked in due time.”
Kawasaki faced pressure
Chelsea maintained pressure on the hosts throughout the match but were unable to translate that into goals.
In the 30th minute, Chelsea forward Pedro showed off his skill by zigzagging past a group of Kawasaki defenders before unleashing a long-range shot, which flew just over the bar.
Four minutes later, a similar attempt by his teammate Kenedy also went wide.
Kawasaki midfielder Akihiro Ienaga, J-League MVP in 2018, threatened the Chelsea goal in a 45th-minute counterattack, ending the move with a sizzling shot which forced a superb one-armed save by goalkeeper Willy Caballero.
After the break, Kawasaki’s Leandro Damiao dashed to meet a Kei Chinen cross, but his diving header inside the box went wide.
Chelsea are on a pre-season tour of Japan, and will play a friendly against FC Barcelona on Tuesday in Saitama, north of Tokyo.
For Kawasaki, the hard-won victory also showed the quality of the Chelsea squad.
“Honestly, the game showed us that they (Chelsea) are very strong,” Kawasaki coach Toru Oniki said after the match.
“We were not allowed play our own football. We felt a lot of pressure. It’s great that we won after having struggled so much,” he said.
“But we went into the match to win, and we won. This was big.”