Christian Pulisic’s first competitive start for Chelsea ended in defeat, but it was still an impressive and encouraging one, with the young American star providing the assist on his team’s opening goal in the UEFA Super Cup.
Pulisic sprang French striker Olivier Giroud with a perfect pass, setting up the World Cup winner for a left-footed finish that gave Chelsea the 1-0 lead in a match Liverpool went on to win in a penalty shootout.
Pulisic had left the match well before the penalty kick shootout, but made his mark when he was in the match, overcoming a slow start to put together a strong performance.
Pulisic eventually hit his stride in the first half, setting up Giroud’s goal, then scoring a would-be goal of his own, but that goal was negated by an offside call. Though the VAR review correctly ruled Pulisic was offside on the initial pass that sprang him, Pulisic’s move to free himself for an excellent finish was still an impressive one.
Liverpool didn’t take long to find an equalizer, scoring in the 48th minute on a Sadio Mane finish. Liverpool controlled the action in the early part of the second half, but Chelsea eventually found its footing, with Pulisic seeing plenty of the ball, including taking Chelsea’s corner kicks. He played with confidence as Chelsea searched for a go-ahead goal.
Pulisic played 74 minutes, leaving the match in place of Mason Mount, who came on with Tammy Abraham, who replaced Giroud.
The match finished 1-1 in regulation, with Sadio Mane giving Liverpool the 2-1 lead with a 95th-minute finish in extra time for his second goal of the match. Tammy Abraham drew a questionable penalty that Jorginho converted to make the score 2-2, sending the UEFA Super Cup to a penalty shootout. Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian saved Abraham’s penalty to help Liverpool win the shootout.
Pulisic and Chelsea will turn their attention back to league play, with a home opener against Leicester City. Pulisic didn’t start in Chelsea’s league-opening loss to Manchester United, but his showing against Liverpool will give Frank Lampard something to consider as he decides in a lineup for Saturday.
Lampard chose Mount, Ross Barkley and Pedro as his three attacking midfield options against Manchester United, but started Pulisic and Mateo Kovacic alongside Pedro on Wednesday. Pulisic will also face competition for minutes from Brazilian winger Willian, who is working his way back from an injury, and was on the bench for the UEFA Super Cup.
As a first start, Pulisic’s showing on Wednesday was an encouraging one, and a strong enough one to suggest he should see more opportunities from Lampard in the coming weeks, even as Chelsea draws closer to being at full strength.