Not long after the match started it didnt
take Mikael Forssell long to remind Palace fans of his
scoring touch, the young Finn having spent a year on loan
here three seasons ago.
With just four minutes gone, a badly defended Wayne Bridge
cross presented him with a shooting chance which he placed
firm and low beyond Clarke in the home sides goal.
Then followed a period of relatively little goal mouth
action. Instead there was the opportunity to look for
a few indicators of good form. Desailly and Terry were
early to oblige Marcel storming out of defence
to get things moving on several occasions and John Terry
executing one of his frightening but totally clean sliding
challenges on the dangerous Routledge.
Damien Duff was causing problems as he threatened to burst
past opponents on several occasions and Geremi certainly
gave indications that he would be no liability if needed
in central midfield when the season proper begins.
Just before half-time the same player also laid claim
to one Chelsea vacancy - but before that, Palace were
allowed to equalise.
Michael Hughes took a quick free-kick from the halfway
line and found Freedman in space. With Cudicini well out
of his goal, he had no chance with the lob that followed.
Cudicini had been closer his line shortly before to punch
away a well hit Johnson shot while at the other end, a
Forssell header from a Gronkjaer cross also brought a
save and Wayne Bridges half-hit shot went narrowly
Then as injury time began, a surging Geremi was fouled
30 yards out. From a similar position to the one he scored
against Chelsea last season, the Cameroonian hit a peach
of a free-kick into the top left corner.
Zolas replacement for dead-ball shooting may already
have been settled.
There were three Chelsea changes at the break. Ambrosio
was swapped for Cudicini, Huth replaced Desailly and Duff
came off. Geremi pushed wide right, Gronkjaer swapped
wings with Nicolas the new boy in central midfield.
After 12 minutes of an uneventful opening to the half,
Gronkjaer himself made way for Hasselbaink as the formation
metamorphosised into 4-3-3. Shortly after there were further
personnel changes as Joe Keenan came on for Terry with
Johnson moving into the centre of defence and Geremi dropping
The game was truly adopting a pre-season feel now, confirmed
when Carlton Cole then replaced Gudjohnsen.
It took until 20 minutes from the end for the game to
settle down into anything watchable but when it did, Chelsea
produced a sublime piece of football.
Geremi swung over a testing cross which was eventually
collected by Forssell at the far post. A shuffle of quick
feet later and the ball had been laid back to the charging
Keenan whose curled shot was tipped over at full stretch.
Then Jimmy curled a long range effort just over the bar
before Palace at last broke free in the shape of Tommy
Black. Under pressure from Huth, he shot wide.
Freedman was sent clear as the game entered its final
ten minutes but Ambrosio bravely smothered the danger,
not without pain. Then at the death, Freedman had another
chance on the run to pull the game all square but he shot
wide of the far post.
Palace had shown their strongest spell towards the end
but with their season starting next weekend, perhaps that
should be of no surprise. Chelseas overall condition
is clearly improving with one friendly to go and a week-and-a-half
Fitness apart, there were more than a few positives to
take from this workout Geremis display in
three different positions the pick of the crop.