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Soccer: Chelsea beat Barcelona 2-1 in Rakuten Cup

Tammy Abraham striked late in the first half, while Ross Barkley scored with nine minutes left, as Chelsea beat Barcelona 2-1 in a Rakuten Cup clash on July 23, 2019. (Kyodo)

SAITAMA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Tammy Abraham struck late in the first half, while Ross Barkley scored with nine minutes left, as Chelsea beat Barcelona 2-1 in a Rakuten Cup clash on Tuesday.

    Croatian forward Ivan Rakitic pulled a goal back for the Spanish giants with a long-range strike in injury time, drawing the loudest cheer of the night at Saitama Stadium.

    Japanese fans hoping to see new Barcelona signing Hiroki Abe in the famous red and blue shirt were left disappointed after the 20-year-old attacker was omitted from the lineup with a sore hip.

    In a contest with all the sharpness and intensity of a preseason exhibition match, it was the English Premier League side who were the first to find their rhythm, seemingly benefiting from arriving in Japan nearly a week earlier than Barcelona.

    Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, whose side lost an exhibition against J-League champions Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 on Friday, said the trip was a valuable opportunity to develop chemistry ahead of the upcoming Premier League campaign.

    "The competitive level of these games has been great for us. The energy, the quality of the opposition, we've had to match that," Lampard said.

    "Today we were better, in terms of fitness (and) acclimatizing to the conditions. And now we just have to keep working."

    Two of Barcelona's new star signings, Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong, made their first appearances for the Liga champions since arriving from Atletico Madrid and Ajax, respectively.

    Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde brought several youth players on the trip, many of whom are likely to predominantly play this season with the club's reserve side Barcelona B, with whom Abe has signed.

    Nineteen-year-old midfielder Riqui Puig made his presence felt early in the match with a number of strong runs through the center of the pitch.

    Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga shut down a promising Barcelona attack in the 15th minute, rushing off his line to beat Ousmane Dembele to a through ball from Alex Collado.

    Griezmann gave Barcelona fans a scare when he went down under a heavy challenge, but the France attacker was able to continue playing after receiving treatment.

    Chelsea's American winger Christian Pulisic forced the game's first save when he rifled a shot straight at Barcelona keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen from inside the area. The rebound fell to Abraham, but the forward blasted over the bar from directly in front.

    Abraham redeemed himself with nine minutes left in the half, beating ter Stegen one-on-one from the middle of the area after Jorginho deflected a careless pass from Sergio Busquets into his path.

    A Chelsea youth product who has spent the last three seasons out on loan, the 21-year-old Abraham made a strong case for inclusion in Lampard's side this year.

    Both managers made wholesale lineup changes to start the second half, but it was Valverde's men who began more positively, with substitutes Carles Perez and Carles Alena forcing saves from Arrizabalaga.

    Forward Michy Batshuayi missed a chance to put Chelsea further ahead in the 77th minute when he fired straight at Barcelona substitute keeper Neto after Marcos Alonso played him into the area with a through ball.

    Second-half substitute Barkley found the net soon afterwards, collecting a pass from Alonso in the middle of the area and beating Neto with a well-taken strike.

    Rakitic fired back in the first minute of injury time, rocketing a shot from the right of the arc into the top left corner of goal.

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