Romelu Lukaku netted a first-half double, with all six goals coming during the opening 45 minutes, as fellow debutant Kevin De Bruyne also impressed
Eden Hazard and Marko Marin both socred on their Chelsea debuts as the Champions League holders ran out 4-2 winners over Seattle Sounders in their opening game of the World Football Challenge pre-season tournament.A first-half double from Romelu Lukaku sandwiched the introductory goals as the English outfit lost and then restored a two-goal advantage before the half-time whistle.
In his first match as permanent manager, Robert Di Matteo gave starts to new signings Hazard and Marin, with highly-rated duo Josh McEachran and Lukaku starting in midfield and up front respectively.
And it was the latter pair who combined to give the Premier League side the lead after less than three minutes, as McEachran trotted through a backtracking Seattle midfield to send Lukaku through on goal. The Belgium international showed far superior strength to deal with lacklustre pressure from covering defender Jeff Parke before slotting past Bryan Meredith to put his side 1-0 up.
It was not all plain sailing though as Seattle could, and perhaps should, have levelled just five minutes later when Mauro Rosales took advantage of a poor punch by Hilario in the Chelsea goal to find space inside the opposition area, but the midfielder’s rushed shot failed to threaten the goalkeeper’s net.
The American opposition were to immediately rue that sloppy finishing as Hazard showed why the Premier League outfit paid out £32 million for the midfielder with a glorious solo run, evading two challenges on the way, to extend his side’s lead.
The Belgium international’s celebrations were short-lived however, as Seattle pulled one back just three minutes later when Fredy Montero intercepted a poor pass out of defence by Branislav Ivanovic to run into the penalty area and coolly finish past Hilario.
And Seattle equalised on the half-hour mark, after a period of concentrated pressure which saw Alvaro Fernandez twice go close, when Montero cut inside 20 yards out and sent a smart, low shot past Hilario for his, and his team’s, second of the night.
Despite their frailties at the back, Hazard was continuing to impress at the other end of the pitch for Chelsea though, continually outfoxing the opposition with quick feet and smart awareness.
But it was the other new boy who was to have the next telling impact as Marin cut inside from the left and curled a shot into the far bottom corner, via a sizeable deflection off Zach Scott, to restore the Blues’ lead.
And Lukaku re-established Chelsea’s two-goal advantage one minute from the break when McEachran grabbed his third assist of the game with yet another impressive through ball to allow the striker to round Meredith and pass the ball into the back of the net to end a captivating opening 45 minutes at the CenturyLink Arena.
Di Matteo made seven changes at half-time, most notably bringing Kevin De Bruyne, Michael Essien and Frank Lampard on for Marin, John Obi Mikel and Yossi Benayoun.
Lukaku went close to completing his hat-trick on the hour mark when attempting to round off a smart Chelsea counterattack, but saw his snap-shot from just inside the area blocked by the legs of the sole Seattle half-time change Josh Ford in the opposition goal, with Lampard unable to convert the follow-up.
Hazard and the striker were withdrawn minutes later, in place of Gael Kakuta and Lucas Piazon, with the Dijon loanee showing spark and vigour on the left flank during his brief cameo in the absence of the Belgium international.
There was a long gap in play soon after though when Seattle and United States midfielder Brad Evans was forced off through injury following an awkward tumble.
As the game entered the final 15 minutes De Bruyne nearly made it three debut goals out of three when he was slipped into the area by a blind-side pass from Lampard, but the former Genk man lacked the composure required to bend the ball past Ford into the far corner.
But it was the hosts who came the closest to re-opening the scoring when a lightning-quick counterattack saw Andy Rose whip in a low cross that was inches away from fan favourite, Roger Levesque’s toe and a surely certain third for Seattle.
And that was to be the last meaningful attack of a much more tepid second period, with the story of the game being Hazard and Marin both notching debut goals in impressive first-half displays.