BY PAUL LAGAN
With two more friendlies to go before the Premier League opener – a heavyweight encounter at Old Trafford against Manchester United Chelsea’s head coach Frank Lampard is gradually refining his squad but has a potentially serious issue to address.
The seven goals exhibited at the Madejski Stadium – three conceded by the visitors, suggests that more work is needed on the defensive front. But with strikes from midfielder Ross Barkley, a brace from Mason Mount and a blaster from wide-man Kenedy, it’s the striking options that must be the major concern for Lampard.
On show at Reading were France World Cup winner Olivier Giroud and in the second half youngster Tammy Abraham and Belgium international Michu Batshuayi – none scored.
Next up is a trip to Austria to take on FC Red Bull Salzburg, before a final game in Germany against Borussia Mönchengladbach.
While some of the players on show were clearly in the shop window in terms of loan deals or permanent moves away from Stamford Bridge – Tiemoure Bakayoko springs to mind, Danny Drinkwater and Fikayo Tomori too, others will have cemented their places in Lampard squad – Mason Mount the outstanding victor in the pre-season stakes.
The opening exchanges were as you would expect, Reading, one week from their opening Championship fixture looked bright, aggressive and should have scored on 10 minutes minutes when Liam Moore inched a header wide of Willy Caballero’s left upright.
Chelsea, operating with what looked like a B side, started as if the players around them were strangers.
The Royals took a deserved lead when a sweeping attack, cut through the Blues like a hot knife through butter on 13 minutes. Josh Barrett’s second strike after his first was blocked sailed over Caballero and plonked into the back of his net.
Tiemoure Bakayoko had a great chance to level a couple of minutes later as Chelsea made a controlled foray into Reading penalty area, but midfielder skied over the crossbar from six yards out.
But the visitors made full use of their set plays and when Olivier Giroud was hauled down 25 yards out. Up stepped England international Ross Barkley. He produced a stunning right-footed free-kick that gave Joao Virginia no chance.
Giroud missed a golden opportunity 10 minutes from the break to put Chelsea 2-1 up when following a neat Barkley free kick, the France striker beat the offside trap, but somehow conspired to head the ball into the side netting with just the goalkeeper to beat.
But it was the Blues who took the lead seconds before the break. A 25 yarder from Brazilian Kenedy arrowed into the back of the Reading net.
Lampard brought on 10 new players for the second half, only goalkeeper Caballero kept his place.
Reading had a great chance to score when substitute Michael Olize waltzed through the Chelsea rearguard – but Caballero blocked the short.
But opacity was restored seconds later when another sub Mark Morrison was left unmarked at the far post band had the simplest of chances to tap the ball home for the equaliser.
David Luiz rattled the Reading crossbar with a rasper that beat substitute goalkeeper Sam Walker – an ex-Chelsea youth team player.
But it wasn’t long before the Blues retook the lead, Mason Mount thumped home from just inside the Reading penalty area after good play by Tammy Abraham.
Disaster struck Walker a couple of minutes later when he attempted a kick-out which went straight to Pedro, who the passed it to Mount who smashed home his second from close range and Chelsea’s fourth.
Chelsea youngster Jamie Cumming replaced Caballero on 62 minutes.
The goal fest continued as the Royals pulled a goal back through a smart, low drive by Sam Baldock with 20 minutes left to play.
Teams: Chelsea: Caballero, Alonso, Christensen, Drinkwater, Barkley, Bakayoko, Kenedy, Giroud, Zappacosta, Pulisic, Tomori
Subs, Arrizabalaga, Jorginho, Abraham, Pedro, Zouma, Kovacic, Mount, Batshuayi, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Emerson, Jamie Cumming
Reading: Virginia, Moore, Barrow, Rinomhota, Swift, Loader, McIntyre, Yiadom, Mediterranean, Blackett, Barrett,
Subs: Walker, Morrison, Miazga, Baldock, Olive, Howe, Novakovich, Adam, Richards, Holsgrove, Watson, East, Reading Fans