YOKOHAMA – Kawasaki Frontale pulled off a stunning 1-0 victory against Chelsea in a friendly at Nissan Stadium on Friday.
Striker Leandro Damiao headed in a Kengo Nakamura cross from close range in the 86th minute to secure the upset for the defending J. League champions.
Chelsea struggled to find the net despite waves of attacks, with Frontale players cautious on 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 preseason. 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.”
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.
Frontale 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.
Kenedy rushed to meet a Ross Barkley pass inside the box in the 69th minute, but was blocked by Kawasaki goalkeeper Shota Arai.
Arai had to make another strong save a few minutes later from an Olivier Giroud freekick.
Chelsea is on a preseason tour of Japan, and will play a friendly against FC Barcelona on Tuesday in Saitama.
For Kawasaki, the hard-won victory also showed the quality of Chelsea’s squad.
“Honestly, the game showed us that they (Chelsea) are very strong,” Frontale 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.”