A Summer Day in Wembley
The Football Association (FA) Community Shield... The annual match contested between the champions of the previous Premier League season and the holders of the FA Cup is regarded as the dawn of the new English football season as it is played one week before the Premier League season starts. In the case the Premier League champions also won the FA Cup, the Premier League's runners-up would provide the opposition. Generally ranked below the FA Cup and the League Cup in terms of importance, the fixture is recognized as a football Super Cup.
Although some pundits derided the match with the label of "glorified friendly", others like former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson describe the match as a barometer for the team's fitness. However, both teams still missed a few key players because they barely had returned to full training after a short vacation following the recent World Cup.
For Kakeru, Nana, and Yusuke, the match was an opportunity to scout on strengths and weaknesses from 2 teams that could be among their fiercest rivals in the upcoming Premier League campaign. It was only the continuation of an old habit that the 3 Japanese friends had back in their high school days. They fully intended to collect as much information as possible in their visit to the national stadium known as Wembley.
Sunday August 5
Chelsea vs. Manchester City (FA Community Shield)
Wembley Stadium, London, UK
1:40 PM BST
Having spent the night at a hotel in London, Kakeru, Nana, and Yusuke were driven towards Wembley Stadium by a chauffeur who was hired by Miwa Shibata (Kakeru and Nana's agent). Knowing fully well about Kakeru and Nana's old habit of scouting the opposition, Miwa took care of all expenses to make sure Kakeru, Nana, and Yusuke would attend the match. Although kickoff was set for 3:00 PM, the stadium was already surrounded by thousands of spectators on a sunny and humid Sunday.
"Oh man, look at the sight. It never gets old." Kakeru said as he had a quick look to the massive Wembley arch, which holds the roof of the main structure that stands on the ground.
"What is your first memory of Wembley as a player after all those years?" Yusuke asked.
"No. What about you, Nana?" Yusuke asked.
"It was during the 2012 Summer Olympics. I played in Nadeshiko Japan's victorious semi-final against France, but I got injured before the end of the match. I was forced to see the United States beating us from the stands in the gold medal match 3 days later." Nana replied, but it was clear in her tone of voice that her first Wembley experience was something she would rather forget.
"Oh, I see. Sorry about that." Yusuke apologized.
"What is done is done. This is a new day and a new year, so let's make sure things go for the best this time." Kakeru said.
"You're right, Kakeru. Let's think about the upcoming match." Nana finished.
"Who do you think will win?" Yusuke asked.
"I say Manchester City... 2-0." Kakeru replied.
"I say 3-1 to City. Chelsea are still missing a number of starters." Nana added.
"Well, I will say 2-1 to Chelsea. I'm with the underdogs on that one." Yusuke replied.
"Interesting. That would be nice if it happens though." Kakeru finished.
A few minutes later, the chauffeur dropped Kakeru, Nana, and Yusuke in front of the entrance. Before moving onwards, Kakeru and the chauffeur agreed as to where and when to meet after the match for the ride back to the hotel. A few minutes later, Kakeru, Nana, and Yusuke got their way to the area where their seats were located. They even had time to take a bite and to walk around the corridors inside Wembley before approaching kickoff time.
West Didsbury, Greater Manchester, UK
2:29 PM BST
The 3 Japanese players in London were not the only ones interested in watching the match. At the same time in Manchester, the Community Shield match was also an annual event for Noriko to watch on television. She was already watching the pre-match show on TV when she heard someone ringing the doorbell outside of the apartment as she expected. Without further due, Noriko went to open the door. Sarah appeared in front of the doorframe.
"Hello, Noriko." Sarah greeted.
"Hello, Sarah. How are you doing?"
"I'm doing well. Thank you."
"Come in!" Noriko said as she invited Sarah inside the apartment. "Want me to get you anything?"
"I'll go with just a tea for now. Thanks, Noriko."
"When I think of today's match, I can't help but wish we were able to defeat Chelsea. It would definitely have been more exciting to have a Manchester derby early on." Noriko said as she prepared the tea for both Sarah and herself.
"Yeah, me too. We should have played better in the FA Cup final, and I'm still mad at the way we conceded the lone goal in that match." Sarah replied. "By the way, where are Kakeru and Nana?"
"They are right there in Wembley. Yusuke Saeki is also with them."
"Really? Are they going there to scout the opposition?" Sarah asked.
"Yep! According to Kakeru, that's something he and Nana have done several times since their high school days." Noriko replied.
"Well, I hope that they will come back with valuable information about our rivals. With the season that City had before this summer, we better come up with something to knock them off their pedestal." Sarah said.
"I hope it too. Speaking about you, what does the workplace for your upcoming clinical apprenticeship look like?" Noriko asked.
"The Royal Manchester Children's is a very great place to work in. The facilities are at the state of the art, the staff is very friendly, and they have great resources on all fronts. I think I will have a good time there. What about you, Noriko?"
"The staff at Trafford General is friendly too, and they sure know how to give good services, especially in the orthopedics department where I'll work. I also feel this is the right place for me."
"That's nice to hear, Noriko. It's almost hard to believe we have made our way this far already. Time flew by so quickly, and we are less than a year away from graduating.”
"I know. Still, I'm glad to take on this new challenge that will eventually take me closer to my dream." Noriko said.
"We will hold a big party on graduation day."
"I will really look forward to it, Sarah." Noriko finished.
Wembley Stadium, London, UK
2:49 PM BST
On the Wembley pitch, the pre-match ceremony was going on. In the penalty area of each half, 5 flag-bearers were holding their flags with the colors of one of the sides. Just outside of each penalty area, a giant canvas had the shape of either as the Premier League trophy or the FA Cup. Each canvas was bearing the colors and a photo montage of the players from one of the 2 clubs. A red carpet was also laid in front of the players' tunnel as well as the Premier League trophy, the FA Cup, and the Community Shield were exposed on pedestals. Meanwhile, the Manchester City players were the first to arrive in the tunnel alongside the mascot kids who would accompany each of them on the pitch.
To follow you through the opening of this new English season, it's time to join your match commentator with over 40 years of experience as the play-by-play voice on most English-speaking broadcasts of the match... the legendary Martin Tyler.
Martin Tyler: Hi there, everybody. Happy new season to you all. As usual, the winners of the Premier League and the FA Cup... and we have the addendum: This is, this time, of all the major domestic competition winners because Manchester City took the League Cup here back in February.
Just after the whole Manchester City squad arrived, the Chelsea players started to come out of their own dressing room. A few of the rivals on the day, especially players who belong to the same national team, took a moment to shake hands.
Meanwhile, in the stands:
"I looked at the starting lineups. City may not have a few players ready yet, but they still have a strong team on paper." Kakeru said.
"I look at their defence. Even though Ricardo Vernardi is on the bench, that's quite strong." Nana replied.
"What do you say about the starting lineups, Yusuke?"
"Hmm... If I were a Chelsea fan, I would be worried with those centre-backs and the backup goalkeeper among the starters. We'll see how they do, but I'm less confident about Chelsea's chances with that lineup." Yusuke replied.
"Well, let's find out." Nana said.
With 7 minutes to go before kickoff, the referees led the march towards the pitch. They were followed by the 2 head coaches and then their players. As both starting lineups walked out of the central tunnel towards the center of the Wembley pitch, they were greeted by pyrotechnics and the cheers from the crowd. Although less than 73,000 seats were filled compared to a maximum capacity of 90,000, both sets of supporters made themselves heard.
Martin Tyler: Here we are... in the sunshine, in the baking sunshine. Temperature when I left that tunnel area about an hour ago was 33 degrees (Celsius) at pitch level. So it's going to be... pre-season plus, really.
The Chelsea field players wore royal blue shirts, royal blue shorts, and white socks. On the other hand, the Manchester City field players wore sky blue shirts, white shorts, and navy blue socks. After both teams lined up next to the red carpet, chief guests walked up to the red carpet before they shook hands one by one with the starting players, the head coaches, and the referees.
Martin Tyler: All the profits today go to community/charitable projects, and it's usually... profits that run into 7 figures.
When the chief guests finished shaking hands and left the playing surface. Everyone was ready for the singing of the English national anthem, which is a rare occasion before a match involving 2 clubs.
Martin Tyler: There will be now pause for the national anthem, which will be sung by Belle Voci – a duet from Chester.
The two female Belle Voci singers were wearing dresses in different shades of blue that depicted the 2 teams. After the roll of the drum, the singing started.
God save our precious Queen!
Long live our noble Queen!
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the Queen!
After the national anthem, both teams applauded briefly before the proceeded with the handshakes.
Martin Tyler: Well, the high notes perfectly hit. Now, it's up to the players to do the same. The last 4 editions of the Community Shield, incidentally, have been won by the FA Cup winners.
Chelsea sent the following starting XI to begin the match: Willy Caballero (goalkeeper), César Azpilicueta (right-back and acting captain), Antonio Rüdiger (centre-back), David Luiz (centre-back), Marcos Alonso (left-back), Cesc Fàbregas (central midfielder), Jorginho (central midfielder), Ross Barkley (central midfielder), Pedro (right forward), Álvaro Morata (striker), and Callum Hudson-Odoi (left forward). The most notable absentees for Chelsea at that particular time were Eden Hazard, N'Golo Kanté, Gary Cahill, Olivier Giroud, and Thibaut Courtois.
On the other hand, Manchester City sent the following players as their starters: Claudio Bravo (goalkeeper), Kyler Walker (right-back), John Stones (centre-back), Aymeric Laporte (centre-back), Benjamin Mendy (left-back), Bernardo Silva (central midfielder), Fernandinho (central midfielder and acting captain), Phil Foden (central midfielder), Riyad Mahrez (right forward), Sergio Agüero (striker), and Leroy Sané (left forward). Among those who were not available in the 18-man squad, the most notable ones were Kevin De Bruyne, Danilo, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, and Fabian Delph.
Martin Tyler: So, the Battle of the Blues with a trophy at stake...
After the coin toss, Chelsea were awarded the right to kick off the first half. Chelsea would be attacking towards the west end of the stadium, where the Manchester City supporters were located. On the referee's whistle, the game started under a thunderous roar.
"Here we go!" Kakeru exclaimed.
Almost from the very start, Manchester City took control for most of the possession time with the ball. And when City didn't have the ball, the Chelsea players were put under tremendous pressure and often forced into giving the ball away. With Chelsea being sluggish in their game, City didn't ask for that much before they could hit back with a deadly attack.
In the 13th minute:
After a few passes between the Manchester City defenders, the ball went to Bernardo Silva in the center circle before making a pass forward to Phil Foden. The young English midfielder found himself with acres of spaces to run forward. And when Foden came up facing David Luiz only a few yards away from the Chelsea penalty area, he made a short pass towards the deadly Sergio Agüero.
Martin Tyler: Foden going a long way, and Agüero could pick his spot HERE!
Taking advantage of the fact that Antonio Rüdiger retreated too deep inside his own penalty area, the Argentine striker rifled the left-footed shot between Rüdiger's legs, past Caballero, and into the far bottom corner of the goal.
Martin Tyler: And reaches the landmark... of 200 goals for Manchester City! The last one was here at Wembley in February. He's beaten a former colleague in Willy Caballero... a fellow countryman in Willy Caballero. Just when City, after a sharp start, were just looking as if they lost a little bit of their edge, they find it and they lead 1-0!
In the stands, Kakeru, Nana, and Yusuke could only look in shock at the way that City just carved Chelsea wide open.
"It looked so easy for City." Kakeru said.
"Bad positioning by the Chelsea midfielders is one thing, but there was no excuse for the Chelsea defenders to back off and back off like they did." Yusuke replied.
"You also have to give it to Agüero. He knew where to find a good position, but I also agree with the part on the Chelsea defenders. Luiz gave way too much space for the other City player, and then Rüdiger went too far away from Agüero." Nana added.
"City is by far the sharper of the 2 teams." Kakeru said.
"The worrying thing now is how easy it is for City to play against Chelsea." Nana replied. "I counted 5 shots for City so far against none for Chelsea."
"There's nothing certain in soccer though, Nana. Chelsea is a prestigious club. They shouldn't let it end like this, not without a fight." Yusuke said.
"They better react indeed." Kakeru finished.
Chelsea tried to have a foothold inside the Manchester City half of the pitch, but they were pushed back every single time. City could afford to waste as much time as possible in passing the ball around to create more frustration for their opponents. The Royal Blues from London had to hope for a mistake from the Sky Blues from Manchester before hoping to capitalize.
In the 25th minute:
Martin Tyler: Foden...
Just inside the Manchester City half of the pitch, Phil Foden tried to pass the ball back towards his defender. However, the pass went off Hudson-Odoi and back to Foden. The 2 opposing English youngsters fought for the ball within a tight space. Foden came on top of the duel as he managed to push the ball towards Kyle Walker, who then made a roulette as he pulled a nutmeg on Álvaro Morata. However, the ball was pushed a little too far. The veteran midfielder, Cesc Fàbregas, came in to push the ball forward for his fellow countryman, Álvaro Morata.
Martin Tyler: Here's Álvaro Morata...
Entering the Manchester City penalty area from the side, Morata attempted a cutback to find a better shooting angle. Despite the nearby presence of 3 Manchester City players, Morata took the shot. Unfortunately, the shot went high and wide, earning the mockeries from the City supporters in the west end.
Martin Tyler: Lining up a shot… as many strikers would in that situation.
Meanwhile in the stands:
"Talk about wasting a good chance." Kakeru said.
"Morata was too obvious there. Stones closed him down enough to make sure there would be no bending effect on the shot." Nana replied.
"If Morata doesn't have a good game, Chelsea will have a tough time finding goals." Yusuke added.
Then Nana pulled her smartphone out after she felt the vibrating signal that notified an incoming text message.
"Mai-chan just texted me." Nana said.
"What did she write?" Kakeru asked.
"She wrote that she would have scored that one." Nana replied before she let out a little laugh.
"Are you talking about Mai Murasaki?" Yusuke asked.
"Yes, that's her." Kakeru replied.
"Was Murasaki not involved with Chelsea's first team during their own pre-season tour?" Yusuke asked.
"Yeah, she was. Mai-chan has dominated the FA Women's Super League in goals for last season, so she was invited to the training camp with the men's team." Nana replied.
"Do you think she can make it with the first team?" Kakeru asked.
"I think she will get there eventually, but I expect her to spend more time with the youth teams before she plays in the senior side. I would say around mid-season." Nana replied.
"Is she at the stadium right now, Nana?"
"Let me text her first, Kakeru." Nana said.
Nana texted Mai again. After a few messages and replies, Nana got a few answers.
"Mai wrote me that she is watching the match from a private box with some executives. She's a little bit bored."
"Where is that box exactly?" Yusuke asked Nana.
"According to what she wrote and to the official map, her private box is located just a little higher and right behind us."
"Do you think we can see her at halftime?" Kakeru asked.
"Better than that: she is inviting us to her private box for the entire second half. If we accept, we just have to text her that we will be on our way at halftime." Nana replied.
"That's good to me." Yusuke said. "I have yet to meet her after all the years of knowing her only by name."
"I'm in too." Kakeru added.
"Very well. I'll write her now." Nana finished.
After that wasted opportunity, the match lost its intensity for a few minutes, especially with water break that interrupted the play for one minute. In the 31st minute, Chelsea saw another shot go high and wide to the target despite the fact that the Chelsea shooter had some space to take a better shot. Nevertheless, Chelsea appeared to be gaining better control of the ball as the action was tilting a little more towards the City half. But Chelsea were still looking to take a good shot on the Manchester City goal.
In the 34th minute:
Following a clearance kick from Willy Caballero, the ball arrived in the center of the pitch. Jorginho missed the ball, but Fàbregas received it before he made a quick pass to Barkley. The English midfielder then passed the ball on the left wing to Callum Hudson-Odoi on the run. As the Chelsea teenager started cutting towards the inside of the field in front of the Manchester City penalty area, Morata was also making a diagonal run to lure 2 City defenders backwards. It opened up a shooting lane for Hudson-Odoi.
Martin Tyler: But here's Hudson-Odoi. It's opened up perfectly for him!
Hudson-Odoi took a shot that went straight towards the City goalkeeper. However, the bounce of the ball off the ground destabilized the goalkeeper for a split second.
Martin Tyler: Fumbled by Bravo...
Unfortunately for Chelsea, the fumbled rebound was cleared away by John Stones and then by another City player to clear the ball out of play.
Martin Tyler: No one following in the right place for Chelsea. But... the waves just parted!
Meanwhile in West Didsbury:
"That new player, Hudson-Odoi, looks good." Sarah said.
"Yeah, he has shown a number of good qualities, but he could have taken a better shot. Morata did well to make a diagonal run to create some space, so only a good shot on either side of the goalkeeper was missing." Noriko replied.
"Do you think that Chelsea can score before halftime?"
"I don't know, Sarah. If the main threats on the City goal come from a youngster while the established players are silent, then the odds aren't that good." Noriko said.
Following that unconverted scoring opportunity, both teams played mostly to cancel each other. Everyone was already expecting the scoreline to remain the same at the halftime whistle. However, one just never knows what can happen before that whistle arrives.
In injury time before halftime:
Following a string of passes, Marcos Alonso chose to launch a long ball intended for Morata. The ball appeared to be an easy pickup for the City goalkeeper. However, the ball took a funny bounce off the grass inside the penalty area and above the goalkeeper. When the ball went behind the goalkeeper, the goal was gaping as Morata was also chasing the loose ball for different reasons.
Martin Tyler: Ohhh, and Claudio Bravo...
Fortunately for City, Claudio Bravo had enough pace in his run to smother the ball in his hands before Morata could reach it. After that, the City goalkeeper threw the pass towards a teammate to let the play continue. After 2 minutes of injury time, the referee blew his whistle to signal halftime at last.
PEEP PEEP PEEEEEEEP!!!
Martin Tyler: Halftime. It has been entertaining, particularly through Manchester City's excellent start, which was rewarded with the only goal of the first half. First competitive 45 minutes... for Chelsea finding it hard to deal with the opposition as well as a change of system as well. And it's a fair reflection on the first 45 minutes although Claudio Bravo very nearly handed Chelsea that chance for a late equalizer. 1-0 to City at the break in the Community Shield.
Meanwhile in West Didsbury:
"Well, City had a great start, but Chelsea could and should have done better with their chances." Noriko remarked.
"Yeah. It's really boring to see City play like that, especially when the other team doesn't put up a better fight." Sarah replied.
"We can only hope that Chelsea will play better in the second half."
"Me too, Noriko." Sarah said.
Then Noriko looked onto her laptop for sports news. Then she saw something that popped right up to her eyes.
"Blimey! I don't believe this!" Noriko exclaimed.
"What is it, Noriko?" Sarah asked.
"It's about Arsenal."
"What about them?"
"They just officially announced on their Twitter account that they agreed for a transfer from Anderlecht, and that the unveiling of that new player will happen tomorrow. Kakeru and Nana won't be happy about it when they will get the news." Noriko replied.
"Who could that be?" Sarah asked.
"A person who has played with both Kakeru and Araki in the past." Noriko finished.
Just after the halftime whistle was blown, Kakeru, Nana, and Yusuke walked their way up the nearest set of stairs in the stands, into the exit, through the corridor, and up the pathway leading towards the private box. However, the steward guarding the access towards the private boxes area stopped them.
"Can I see your tickets?" the steward asked.
"I'm sorry. Our tickets are from the seats a little lower." Kakeru replied.
"We have been invited by a friend who is in one of the private boxes." Nana added.
"I'm sorry, Miss. I cannot let you through on the mere claim that you have a friend." the steward replied.
Then Mai made her way to meet her friends.
"Hold it! They are with me. I asked them to join me in the private box." Mai said.
"But, I can't..." the steward retorted.
"As far as the attendance is concerned, we are less than 73,000 in a stadium fit for 90,000. There is room available in the private box. And my friends are not just anybody; they are Kakeru Aizawa and Nana Mishima of Manchester United."
The steward sighed before he accepted to let Kakeru, Nana, and Yusuke walk. "Fine, go ahead."
"Come with me." Mai said.
She then led Kakeru, Nana, and Yusuke forward until they made their way to the private box. Inside the box, the place had comfy chairs, a LED screen, and a meeting table where all the food was.
"Sorry for this. They can be strict on security." Mai apologized.
"It's OK. I'm glad you told us about the private box." Kakeru replied.
"I'm really happy to see you, Kakerucchi." Mai gave Kakeru a friendly hug.
"I'm also happy to see you too, Mai-chan." Nana hugged Mai.
"Same for me, Witch." Mai replied before she turned towards Yusuke. "I guess we finally meet face to face at last, Saeki-san."
"Same for me, Murasaki-san." Yusuke shook hands with Mai.
"With all the drinks and the food here, I hope you don't mind if we take some." Kakeru said.
"Of course not. Make yourself at home." Mai said.
Some of the executives inside the box looked at Kakeru, Nana, and Yusuke. However, none said anything against their presence. It was as if Mai already let everyone know that she was letting her friends coming in.
"It's a shame you couldn't play this match. I saw a few pre-season clips, and you looked good." Nana said.
"I played pre-season to fill in for players who were on vacation after the World Cup, but the coach liked what he saw of me. He told me that I need to play well and stay consistent with the men's youth team first, but he also believes in me to make it." Mai replied.
"That's good to hear, Mai-chan." Kakeru said.
"It is. I really want to be able playing against Nana-chan in the big league soon. After all of this time seeing you getting the spotlight against men's teams, I really want to have some too." Mai replied.
"Well, you already dominated the FA WSL. And knowing what you can do, I know you can succeed."
"Thank you, Kakerucchi." Mai said.
"I also look forward to come facing you at senior level in this league soon." Nana said.
"Well, I guess it will be my job to stop you, Murasaki." Yusuke said.
"Oh, the challenge sounds appealing." Mai replied.
"We'll see when the time comes." Yusuke closed the conversation.
Minutes later, the Chelsea players returned on the pitch first. The Manchester City players came out of the tunnel less than a couple of minutes later. In the context of the Community Shield, each team was allowed to make a maximum of 6 substitutions. The Sky Blues from Manchester were the first to make a change when they replaced Leroy Sané with his fellow countryman, İlkay Gündoğan. The funny thing was that Gündoğan was sporting a face mask to protect his nose following a surgery on his nose in the summer.
Martin Tyler: Now a... masked crusader is on: İlkay Gündoğan. One German replaced another one. German who was in the World Cup squad, but not perhaps in the happiest of circumstances.
With that substitution, Riyad Mahrez was moved onto the left wing while Bernardo Silva was moved to the right wing. The German midfielder of Turkish descent came on to support Foden and Fernandinho in the middle of the park.
"Well, they brought Zorro in." Mai remarked.
"Mai-chan, really..." Nana chuckled.
"Yeah, but he puts a lot of effort in a midfield battle for City." Kakeru replied to Mai.
"I saw him play from up close when I was at Dortmund before. He's a fierce competitor." Yusuke said. "City could win the midfield battle with him on the field."
"Chelsea could have a much harder time soon." Kakeru finished.
As the second half started, Chelsea attempted to have a better control of the ball before they could organize an attack in the Manchester City half. However, a well-organized Manchester City side was not letting anything go through the dangerous areas. The Sky Blues were ready to hit back at Chelsea whenever the former recovered the ball.
In the 50th minute:
The Manchester City players controlled the ball for a moment with the defenders passing the ball to each other. Then Kyle Walker passed the ball forward to Bernardo Silva, who then flicked the ball to Phil Foden. As the young Englishman crossed the halfway line, he saw that the Chelsea defenders were playing a very high line. The invitation was there to unleash a through ball for Agüero.
Martin Tyler: Oh, there's no flag here!
The Chelsea defenders stopped running as they expected an offside flag, but none came. Agüero was running all alone towards the Chelsea goal with only Willy Caballero standing in his way. When both Argentines faced each other inside the penalty area, Agüero bent his run to the right in an attempt to get around the Chelsea goalkeeper.
Martin Tyler: And Agüero in fooooor...
Caballero tracked Agüero before the former threw himself on the floor to create the barricade, but Agüero got around the goalkeeper with a very acute shooting angle. When the City striker took the shot, the ball struck the side netting, much to the relief of all Chelsea supporters.
Martin Tyler: ...not the second. Almost too much time.
Meanwhile in the stands:
"That was just too close for comfort!" Mai exclaimed.
"If anything, that was a bad effort by David Luiz." Yusuke remarked.
"Right. He let Agüero slip behind him too easily, and he's not even making an effort to make a recovery run." Nana added.
"Caballero really did well to keep his eyes on Agüero and then create the obstacle though. If it wasn't for him, it would be 2-0." Kakeru replied.
"David Luiz is giving our head coach a headache." Mai said. "Even I can get into spaces behind him in training."
"To this day, I often don't understand what coaches see about him when they look for a reliable centre-back." Nana replied.
'Chelsea could get into more trouble at this rate. I wouldn't be surprised if City have more chances coming up.' Kakeru thought.
A short time after that scoring chance, Phil Foden took a weak shot on goal as the result of a great buildup in the 52th minute. Overall, Manchester City retained control of the ball for most of the time again, limiting Chelsea's ability to create scoring opportunities. Little by little, Chelsea were faltering and growing a little more desperate. On mistake out of desperation was all that needed for one side to strike.
In the 58th minute:
Martin Tyler: Here's Hudson-Odoi again... trying to find Morata.
Following an interception from Marcos Alonso, the ball was immediately passed towards Callum Hudson-Odoi. Inside the Manchester City half, the young Chelsea player attempted a side pass to his teammate Morata. However, John Stones intercepted the pass before the ball was deflected towards Gündoğan in the middle of the pitch.
Martin Tyler: That's well spotted. John Stones is going up to join in. There are plenty forward here.
Manchester City had 5 players in the rush against 4 for Chelsea. Just as Gündoğan made his way to the final third of the pitch, he passed the ball towards Bernardo Silva on the right wing. Spotting Sergio Agüero slipping behind the Chelsea defence again, the Portuguese winger flicked the ball into Agüero's run with a perfect timing. The Argentine was all alone against the Chelsea goalkeeper again, but the striker took his revenge by slotting the early shot into the back of the net.
Martin Tyler: Bernardo Silva... Agüero! He didn't miss this time.
The Chelsea players and supporters could only look in disbelief at what happened. Inside the private box, Mai was left without voice while her friends could only look coldly at the mess left by the Chelsea defenders and midfielders on the play.
Martin Tyler: And that shows the importance of breaking quickly with the opposition a bit sloppy in midfield. 2-0... 2 for Agüero, 2 for Pep Guardiola's team, and Chelsea's fragility with the back 4 being exposed here.
Meanwhile in West Didsbury:
"That was a very quick counterattack." Sarah said.
"The Chelsea defenders made a mess again. Their midfielders all went too far ahead too." Noriko replied.
"Yeah! David Luiz being shite again, I'm not surprised."
"Chelsea will make a couple of changes here, but I don't think that's going to be enough." Noriko said.
"Definitely not." Sarah finished.
Shortly after Manchester City doubled their lead and right on the 60th minute, Chelsea replaced Callum Hudson-Odoi and Cesc Fàbregas with Willian and Danny Drinkwater at their respective positions. However, there was a feeling that the substitutions might have come too late to possibly change the outcome of the match. Chelsea came closest to the Manchester City goal when Pedro scuffed a shot wide on a loose ball in the 65th minute.
Later in the 68th and 69th minutes, both teams made substitutions: Tammy Abraham for Álvaro Morata (Chelsea) and Gabriel Jesus for Riyad Mahrez (City). That stretch of time also included a water break.
Meanwhile in the stands:
"Well, time for us to get drinks too." Mai said.
"I'll grab a couple of glasses with orange juice for me and Nana." Kakeru said.
"WHAT?" Nana exclaimed as she saw a message on her smartphone.
"What is it?" Kakeru asked
"At halftime, Noriko sent me a message about a transfer. I just saw it now."
"It's Arsenal. They confirmed an agreement to sign a defensive midfielder from R.S.C. Anderlecht... and that player is someone we both know very well." Nana replied.
"Don't tell me... He really made the move to London?" Kakeru said.
"Yeah, he did. They will unveil him to the media tomorrow." Nana replied.
"What is going on?" Mai asked.
"Who are we talking about, Kakeru?" Yusuke also asked, confused.
"Ryoma Oda." Kakeru replied.
"Now that is big news." Yusuke said.
"It really is, Yusuke." Nana replied.
"Who is Ryoma Oda?" Mai asked.
"Don't you remember him?" Nana returned the question. "He was at Enoshima, and you played against him in training many years ago."
"Taller than me, raven-colored hair, barked a lot of orders on the pitch, you know..." Kakeru added.
"Oh, yes! Now I remember him." Mai replied.
"Araki must have tipped the higher-ups at Arsenal about Oda. They have to be considered as a dangerous side. Oda improved a big lot since he left Japan to play with Anderlecht." Kakeru said.
"Oda-san is one of your friends from Enoshima. Why are you looking unhappy?" Yusuke asked.
"Since he arrived in Anderlecht, his style has become more physical, and he greatly improved his overall play. We played against him at Old Trafford in the Europa League in the past, and it was painful." Kakeru added.
"What happened, Kakerucchi?" Mai asked.
"It was the return leg in the quarterfinals back in 2017. The first match ended up 1-1 in Anderlecht. In the second leg at Old Trafford, it took us everything to get past him so I can score the late and vital 2-1 goal in extra time to see us through to the semifinals. Oda scored Anderlecht's away goal in the first half after we took the lead, but what I remember the most is that I was totally worn out after the match." Kakeru said.
"Tenacity, aggressiveness, crunching tackles, good anticipation, commanding presence... he does everything to make our lives miserable. Furthermore, he knows both of us almost inside out." Nana added.
"I knew he improved a lot from what I can see of him with the Samurai Blue, but I never thought he could create so much problems for you guys." Yusuke said.
"I compared him to other players in his position, past and present. He's probably the closest to what Patrick Vieira was as a defensive midfielder for Arsenal in the late 1990s." Nana replied.
"That's quite a statement, but I won't lose to him should he and I face each other out there. I will show him that I'm tougher than he is." Yusuke said.
"Yusuke..." Kakeru simply replied softly.
The match carried on with City doing most of the running with the ball. For Chelsea, it was becoming more and more difficult to find solutions against such a sharp and talented side. In the 72nd minute, an indirect free kick was cleared away by a Chelsea defender. However, the following corner kick was still a threat.
Martin Tyler: And they've got 2 against 1. Only Willian went out.
On the corner kick, Gündoğan completed a quick give-and-go with Foden on a short corner. Then the German laid the ball off for Kyle Walker to launch a long aerial ball inside the penalty area. An isolated Sergio Agüero was lurking as he struck the half-volley.
Martin Tyler: In by Walker... Oh, that's a good stop by Caballero.
The shot was blocked by Caballero. The rebound was retrieved by Agüero, but he was forced to run outside the penalty area. After a few passes between the City players, the ball was kicked out of bounds by a Chelsea player.
Meanwhile in the stands:
"Man! This is really depressing!" Mai said.
"If it wasn't for Caballero, the gap would have been much more severe between the 2 sides." Kakeru replied.
"The official stats are now talking of 11 shots for City against 4 for Chelsea; 4 shots on target for City against only 1 for Chelsea." Nana added as she looked at the live stats from her smartphone.
"I know that we are missing a number of good players today, but it's really difficult to watch for me as a member of that club." Mai said.
"Mai-chan..." Kakeru simply replied.
"What happens today has no incidence on the season. We learned that a couple of years ago after we defeated Leicester City in this match." Nana added. "For all clubs, real business starts next week."
"Yeah, you're right." Mai said.
The situation did not improve for Chelsea at all as the spark they needed was not appearing. Chelsea made what proved to be their last substitution when Victor Moses replaced Pedro in the 79th minute. On the other hand, Manchester City took advantage of the 2-goal lead to give a run to most of their bench players by replacing Phil Foden with young Spaniard Brahim Diaz (75th minute) and Sergio Agüero with club captain Vincent Kompany (80th minute). As time winded down, City looked like the more capable of the 2 sides to score another goal before the final whistle.
In the 84th minute:
In a 1v1 situation, Willian tried to dribble his way past a Manchester City player. However, a good tackle from the City player also became a pass for Gabriel Jesus. And again, David Luiz was letting a striker slip away from him as City's Brazilian striker was almost breaking away. When the action arrived with 10 yards from the Chelsea penalty area, Gabriel Jesus stopped his run and then cut onto his left.
Martin Tyler: Gabriel Jesus...
Gabriel Jesus then made a few stepovers at the same time that Ílkay Gündoğan was arriving in support. However, Gabriel Jesus got David Luiz wrong-footed with the feint, opening a shooting lane for a left-footed shot.
Martin Tyler: He wants to go for himself!
However, the shot went straight to Willy Caballero, who pushed it away.
Martin Tyler: Caballero says "you're not going to get one".
In the follow-up, Antonio Rüdiger and Willian combined their efforts to clear the ball away. Chelsea then attempted a counterattack, but it ended up going nowhere in the end.
Meanwhile in West Didsbury:
"David Luiz again! This guy is a living disaster." Noriko said between chuckles.
"I really lost count of the times he let a striker slip through behind him. Even on a 1v1, he got beaten so easily." Sarah remarked.
"Looks like Laporte has been slightly injured." Noriko said.
"Yeah. I think they are going to take him off as a preventive measure." Sarah replied.
"It means that Ricardo Vernardi will play as well. God, I hate that bastard."
"Me too, Noriko. I still remember the things he did during the match against France in the World Cup."
"Shitebag should have been sent off, end of story." Noriko finished.
Indeed, the former Tokyo Soccer Academy defender and Argentina representative came on to replace the injured Aymeric Laporte in the 87th minute. Shortly later, Chelsea were looking to capitalize on a rare opportunity to cut the deficit in half.
In the 89th minute
Following a series of passes within the Chelsea half of the pitch, Jorginho made a through pass towards Ross Barkley on the right. Surprisingly, the City defenders played the high line, but didn't play the offside trap well. As a result, it was almost a 2v1 situation for Chelsea.
Martin Tyler: Here the flag stays down.
Vincent Kompany was the last City defender to stand between the Chelsea players and the goal. With the City penalty area wide open, Tammy Abraham signalled Ross Barkley to make an early pass towards the former. Ross then let the ball roll towards the striker.
Martin Tyler: Tammy Abraham saying play it earlyyyy...
But before Tammy Abraham could take the shot, the goalkeeper Claudio Bravo made a slide to block the pass at Abraham's feet. However, the ball also bounced off a Manchester City player and behind Claudio bravo before it stood loose for a second. The goalkeeper tried to catch it, but missed the ball completely. Chelsea's Victor Moses had the loose ball within range, but then Ricardo Vernardi cleared the ball away to safety.
Martin Tyler: And the goalkeeper has lost it, and up comes Moses. It was brave by Claudio Bravo in the first place, at the feet of Tammy Abraham. He did enough in the end.
Meanwhile in the stands:
"I don't believe it!" Mai exclaimed, both hands on her head in disbelief.
"If there was a chance to score one and then put the pressure on City for the last minutes, that was it." Kakeru said.
"That was by far the best chance Chelsea had in the match alright." Yusuke replied.
"I'm surprised that City played with such a high line when they didn't have the ball." Nana said. "It only took one defender – Vincent Kompany – being not synchronized with the others, and that's what happened."
"Yeah, but I think the pass came a little bit too late. That's how the goalkeeper got a piece of it before the striker did." Kakeru replied.
"Truth being told; we can probably say this is over." Yusuke finished.
Indeed, the Chelsea players were deflated after missing that last opportunity. But on the other hand, the hungry Manchester City players were not quite done yet. As we went deeper inside the 4 minutes of stoppage time allowed, the Sky Blues kept on pushing forward.
In the 93rd minute:
Martin Tyler: Kyle Walker only returned to training on Wednesday. But here he is... still going strong.
Kyle Walker shook off 2 Chelsea players before he ran with the ball all the way until he was beyond the center circle. Then Walker launched a through pass for Brahim Diaz, who was on another breakaway.
Martin Tyler: In stoppage time, and to set up number 3 here...
Diaz ran all the way until he came up facing Caballero and then took the shot. However, the shot went off Caballero's knee and into an area where a Chelsea defender recovered the ball.
Martin Tyler: ...but Caballero denies his old club, and Diaz in particular has had a little bit of a battle with him since he's come on. He's had 3 chances.
Despite that missed opportunity, City came back at Chelsea again in the 94th minute.
Martin Tyler: There's Jesus...
Gabriel Jesus took the ball inside the Chelsea half until he arrived a few yards from the penalty area. Then the Brazilian send a long pass across to Diaz.
Martin Tyler: Diaz is going to get another try here.
Diaz made one body feint to make César Azpilicueta commit himself before the former launched a short pass through Azpilicueta's legs. The ball arrived into Gündoğan's feet.
Martin Tyler: To... to Gündoğan...
The German midfielder was forced to show his back to the goal when he received the ball. At the very same time, Willy Cabballero threw himself on the floor to block any shooting attempt. Gündoğan then made a short layoff pass to Bernardo Silva, who took a quick shot. However, the ball went off Antonio Rüdiger and out of bounds. City earned a corner kick, but the disappointment of not having scored a third goal was visible on the City players' faces.
Martin Tyler: Oh! In the end, it's deflected wide. From Bernardo Silva, I think, found himself in the middle. Jesus was there was well.
Meanwhile in West Didsbury:
"Chelsea's performance has been nothing short of disgraceful. It should have been at least 6 goals for City." Noriko said.
"City were much hungrier today. As for Chelsea, there are a number of players who were not that fit yet." Sarah replied.
"At least, we know that City are the team to beat." Noriko said before she turned the TV off.
"You're not watching what's coming next?"
"No need to, Sarah. The final whistle is next. I don't want to see the City players celebrating; it's sickening." Noriko said.
Back to Wembley:
PEEP PEEP PEEEEEEEEEP!!!
Martin Tyler: It's over! For the first time for 5 years, the champions have beaten the FA Cup holders in the Community Shield.
"Well, that's that." Kakeru said. "My prediction was right: 2-0 for City."
"I was wrong all along by picking Chelsea to win." Yusuke replied.
"Sorry for Chelsea, Mai-chan. I also expected a better game than this." Nana said.
"Anyway... Want to have a walk?" Mai asked. "I'm leaving the stadium now."
"Yeah. I have seen enough for today. City will be hard to beat, but I have seen a few weaknesses that we can exploit in due time." Nana replied.
"I don't need to see more of it." Yusuke added.
"Well, let's go." Mai finished.
A few minutes later, the Chelsea players were led by their manager to walk up the steps towards the Royal Box. On such a hot day, it was not the most pleasant walk to make. Nevertheless, they all went to collect their runners-up medals and shake hands with the various officials in the Royal Box. After the Chelsea players descended back on the pitch, the Manchester City players took their turn to walk up the steps. Manchester City team captain Vincent Kompany received the Community Shield from the FA chairman's hands, and hoisted it alongside the starting captain of the match, Fernandinho. Then the Manchester City players passed the Shield around one by one.
Walking down the stairs, the winning team moved to the designated area where the winners' picture would be taken by several photojournalists. After a few photos, some players picked up champagne bottles that were kept aside for the on-pitch celebration party, and then sprayed the drinks on each other. With this chapter of the English football season finally closed, all eyes were now turned towards the anticipated beginning of the real season.
Kakeru, Nana, Yusuke, and Mai walked their way outside the stadium. Mai called for a car with a personal chauffeur to come pick her up, and she thought of giving her friends a lift. A few minutes later, the car arrived.
"So, am I dropping you somewhere?" Mai asked.
"Thanks for the offer, but we already have our own car with a chauffeur when we came." Kakeru replied.
"I see. What are you going to do now?" Mai asked.
"We'll go pick up our stuff at the hotel. Then we'll go to Heathrow, and take a flight back to Manchester." Nana replied.
"Well, I guess this is where we part ways." Mai said. "Good luck to you all."
"Good luck, Mai-chan. Make sure you get into the first team." Nana replied.
"I look forward to." Mai hugged Nana.
"See you soon, Mai-chan." Kakeru said.
"You too, Kakerucchi."
Then Mai surprised Kakeru with a little kiss on the cheek.
"This is the closest I ever got to you. Take care of yourself, Kakerucchi." Mai said.
"Uh... OK, I will." Kakeru replied.
"It was nice meeting you, Saeki-san."
"Same for me, Murasaki-san. See you on the pitch someday." Yusuke replied to Mai.
Then Mai hopped inside the car and left.
"She called you 'Kakerucchi'. Has anything ever happened between you and her?" Yusuke asked.
"What?" Kakeru was flabbergasted. "Seriously, Yusuke! Didn't you hear what she just said?"
Nana chuckled at Kakeru's reaction.
"OK, I was teasing you there. Sorry." Yusuke apologized. "But seriously, what's your story with her?"
"Well... Back in high school, she was teasing and flirting around me when we first met. It's probably because Nana was closer to me, and thus Mai-chan wanted to take me all for herself. We became friends somewhat, but she quickly realized that I only had eyes for Nana. So she stopped flirting, but I guess a few habits haven't gone away." Kakeru replied.
"Back in those days, I would have shown a more obvious display of jealousy. But now, I know that no one is capable of winning Kakeru's heart. Right?" Nana said.
"Yeah, of course." Kakeru replied.
"That's good to hear." Yusuke said. "So what do you think of the match? Anything you saw in particular?"
"All I can say is that City will likely be the team to beat at all costs this season. They are very good at controlling the ball as always, but we can beat them with good pressing, quick counterattacks, and a strong defence." Nana said.
"The biggest mistake a team can make against them is to just sit back and wait for opportunities. We have to take the game into their faces." Kakeru added.
"When I watch City, I think of the old Barcelona team. They may look good for some, but that's not the kind of football I enjoy. All those passes, trying to wear down the opposition mentally... I hate that. I will take my game quickly into their faces, and I will help making those quick transitions." Yusuke replied.
"That is what we are going to do, and I swear that we won't lose against them." Kakeru said.
"Same for me." Nana added.
"Let's go now... towards the League season." Kakeru finished.
Kakeru, Nana, and Yusuke then moved on their way to meet with their transportation. For the 3 Japanese players, it was time to focus on what was about to happen in less than a week's time. The battle for footballing supremacy between the best 20 clubs in the country was set to begin in the form of a marathon of 38 matches known as the Premier League.