FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Chelsea brought its A-team to play the New England Revolution for a friendly at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday night, and won 3-0 despite only moving at half-speed.
The match – called “The Final Whistle on Hate” – was a way for Revolution owner Robert Kraft and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who are both Jewish, to raise awareness on antisemitism and support nonprofits that track and fight hate crimes.
Regardless, Wednesday’s contest interrupted both teams’ competitive schedules. Chelsea arrived in Boston on Monday after playing their last game of the Premier League season on Sunday and still have to play Arsenal in the Europa League final on May 29. The Revolution visit the Montreal Impact for a match Saturday evening.
Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri and interim Revolution manager Mike Lapper proceeded accordingly, as a mix of substitutes and reserves started getting swapped in after the 31st minute, when Chelsea was up 2-0.
The Blues opened the scoring in the third minute as Ross Barkley blasted a shot from inside the 18 past Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner following an errant headed clearance by Jalil Anibaba, who redirected a cross by Pedro straight to Barkley.
“In every game, a fast start can be really good for the look of things,” Barkley said. “I thought we played really well after the first goal, so it’s positive. Now we can all focus on the Europa League final.”
Olivier Giroud doubled Chelsea’s lead in the 29th minute when he headed in a feed from Davide Zappacosta, who advanced into the attack seconds after Revolution striker Juan Fernando Caicedo entered the box and held off on shooting on net despite a seemingly open angle.
Lapper made five changes between the 31st and 36th minutes as Brad Knighton replaced Turner in net, Antonio Delamea came on for Anibaba in central defense and Gabriel Somi replaced Brandon Bye for his 2019 debut.
Nicolas Firmino also made his professional debut by going in for Andrew Farrell, while Juan Agudelo entered for Tajon Buchanan, who had some success going at Chelsea’s David Luiz, but appeared to sustain an arm injury after a clash with Giroud.
Teal Bunbury fired wide of Kepa Arrizabalaga’s far post in the 42nd minute after taking possession from Carles Gil. Just before halftime, Knighton stuffed Pedro on a breakaway (43rd) while Mateo Kovacic scuffed a shot wide from a tight angle.
Diego Fagundez, Cristian Penilla, and Brian Wright came on at halftime for Gil, Bunbury, and Fernando Caicedo, respectively.
Chelsea made wholesale changes as well with Willy Caballero replacing Kepa in net and Willian, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Gonzalo Higuain, Emerson Palmieri, and Cesar Azpilicueta coming on for Eden Hazard, Kovacic, Giroud, Marcos Alonso, and Luiz, respectively.
Loftus-Cheek exited the game in the 69th minute after an apparent injury and left the stadium in a leg brace and crutches.
Additionally, Chelsea central defenders Antonio Rudiger and Gary Cahill, plus midfielder N’Golo Kante – cousin of former Revolution players Daouda Kante and Ibrahim Kante – did not make the trip.
The second half took a few minutes to open up as both teams settled into play with new players on the field, though Wright forced Caballero to leap left and catch a shot destined for the back of the net in the 48th minute following an Agudelo feed.
Next, Higuain shot off Knighton’s fingertips – and the crossbar – after a giveaway in the box by Zachary Herivaux.
Barkley made it 3-0 in the 62nd minute when he deflected a shot by Higuain off a Willian corner kick into the net and past Knighton, who was pulled for Cody Cropper moments later.
“They all showed well,” Caldwell said of Chelsea. “We were aware when certain players had the ball — when Hazard had it we had another guy get on him to help out defensively, same with Willian in the second half.
“After their early goal, we had to come together as a team and confidence on the ball. Gradually we were able to do that. Overall it was a great cause we played for, and I think both teams were fully invested in that.”
The Revolution didn’t produce much to test the Chelsea back line, though Agudelo shot high (76th), Zahibo shot wide (63rd) and Wright headed wide (63rd).
Agudelo, a natural forward, also made a last-ditch tackle to thwart an 83rd minute breakaway by Willian and helped out defensively throughout the night. The play showcased the jerry-rigged nature of the Revs roster, particularly in defense, which has hurt the team in MLS this season.
The last scoring chance came in the 88th minute, as Pedro hit the post.
“New England played well, I think they have players with great individual quality,” Palmieri said. “When you play against a team like us – a team like Chelsea – it’s normal to lose, but the Revolution are right there. They have a positive future in store.
“Tonight we played a friendly match and it went accordingly. We went about things correctly and did what we needed to do with a critical match ahead, so we can now think about the Europa League final.”
Wednesday’s match marked Chelsea’s first visit to Foxborough since taking a 1-0 victory over AC Milan in a 2005 preseason friendly. The result also extended the Revolution’s winless run in mid-season friendlies against European teams to three, their last victory coming in a 2-1 decision against Sporting CP in 2004.
The “Final Whistle on Hate” drew 27,329 fans and generated at least $4 million in proceeds for 15 charities or nonprofits, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Tree of Life Synagogue.