Ian Maatsen grabs a double and Christopher Nkunku shines as Mauricio Pochettino kicks off Chelsea tenure with a bang

MAURICIO POCHETTINO delivered a five-star performance in his first stint as Chelsea manager.

21-year-old Ian Maatsen, who excelled on loan at Championship winners Burnley last season, scored twice in the first half in pre-season training for the young blues.

Mauricio Pochettino officiated his first Chelsea game in North Carolina


Mauricio Pochettino officiated his first Chelsea game in North CarolinaPhoto credit: Getty
Ian Maatsen scored a first-half double for the Blues


Ian Maatsen scored a first-half double for the BluesPhoto credit: Getty

Poch’s starting XI had an average age of just under 20 as he gave a slew of youthful hopefuls a chance to shine in the soggy town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina against Wrexham.

Conor Gallagher then jumped off the bench and joined the goalscoring charts late, as did £52m newcomers Christopher Nkunku and Ben Chilwell.

Two of Chelsea’s four summer signings so far have started from the start, including £32million striker Nicolas Jackson, who would have impressed his new manager with his lightning speed.

In the second half, Poch made six changes, with the likes of seniors Gallager, Chilwell and Raheem Sterling appearing, along with Nkunku and Angelo.

It’s still early but in the early hours of the morning the poch-ball began – and the Argentina coach even endured his first referee bust to really get his tenure off the ground.

Kenan Stadium was a capacity crowd of 50,000, a far cry from the last time these two met in 1982, when fewer than 4,000 watched the old Division Two clash.

Across the pond, Chelsea fans have seen some fresh faces, including new winger Diego Moreira (18) and Brazilian prodigy – and added in January – Andrey Santos (19) in midfield.

The latter was outstanding and gave Poch food for thought on whether to keep it or borrow it for this campaign.

Several other academy kids made their debuts, with only Trevoh Chalobah – captain that night – Marc Cucurella and Carney Chukwuemeka having previously represented the club.


Those missing from the matchday squad included Enzo Fernandez, Mykhailo Mudryk, Levi Colwill and Noni Madueke – the latter trio having enjoyed a summer at the European Under-21 Championship.

Pochettino had an altercation with the referee just before half-time


Pochettino had an altercation with the referee just before half-timePhoto credit: Getty

Still, at the start of this two-week US rout, there were still plenty of players for Poch to enjoy, most notably Jackson following his summer move from Villarreal.

The Senegalese international is a real poch player – quick and adept with the ball at his feet and able to use his athletic, powerful body when needed.

Jackson displayed all of these qualities when he set up Maatsen’s opener after just three minutes, circling a defender and firing towards goal, only to act disinterestedly in the penalty area.

Aside from the odd set piece or a long ball in field, Wrexham hardly tested Jamie Cumming between the Chelsea sluggers.

The west Londoners doubled their lead three minutes from half-time when Maatsen exchanged a one-two with Chukwuemeka on the edge of the box before sliding past Ben Foster.

A series of substitutions at the break meant the second half lacked a bit of fluidity as Sterling missed a great header from close range.

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The England international equalized with an assist for Gallagher’s first attempt into the bottom corner.

The floodgates soon opened. Cesare Casadei played nkunku to round the keeper and put the ball in before Chilwell netted in injury time.

Zack Zwiezen

Zack Zwiezen is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Zack Zwiezen joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing zackzwiezen@ustimespost.com.

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