The Belgian was in scintillating form but the striker continues to struggle with injury, while Luis Suarez looks ready for the season to begin
Chelsea prepared for their Community Shield clash with Arsenal with a victory over Barcelona on penalties on Wednesday morning.
The 2-2 draw was settled by a shoot-out but was an enthralling pre-season game, littered with moments of quality from both sides.
Much of the preamble to this game was dominated by Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho, and an exchange of words over transfer spending ahead of their Community Shield meeting this weekend.
Mourinho was not at Chelsea when Roman Abramovich stumped up a fee in excess of £35 million to land Eden Hazard, but he will be more glad than most that the Russian did.
Prior to this game, Wenger suggested Hazard is not yet in the category of Lionel Messi, who was missing from proceedings in Maryland, or Cristiano Ronaldo. The Belgian is not yet consistent enough, the Arsenal boss said.
But his incredible solo effort against Barcelona was every bit a goal worthy of Messi, picking the ball up in the opposition half before darting through three players and beating Marc-Andre ter Stegen with a fine finish.
Mourinho has called for more protection for Hazard and he was left wincing here when he skipped beyond Sergio Busquets, only for the Barca man to catch him on the ankle, but when you move at the pace of the Belgian, it sometimes seems harsh to blame the opposition.
On this stage, the quality of the goal could soon be forgotten. Now it is for Hazard to prove to Wenger this season that he deserves to be considered alongside Messi and Ronaldo.
Diego Costa was looking sharp in the early stages against Barcelona, getting in some good positions and running at and taking on defenders from deep.
But it was a familiar story for the striker when, around the hour mark, he sat down on the pitch and signalled to be brought off with what appeared to be another injury problem.
In a more ominous sign, Costa disappeared straight down the tunnel once he had been replaced by Loic Remy.
Hamstring problems blighted an otherwise successful season for Costa last season, and the Chelsea medical staff will now be closely monitoring the striker’s progress in the build-up to the opening day of the Premier League season, which is now less than two weeks away.
Mourinho used the game against Barca as an opportunity to five Chelsea fans a first look at new signing Kenedy, the 19-year-old who joined the Blues on their pre-season tour having left Fluminense.
It was a largely unspectacular 45-minute performance from the Brazilian but one Mourinho will have been pleased with. Kenedy started from the right hand side behind Costa and displayed a willingness to press and join the Spain international in attack.
Kenedy did not shy away from the his defensive responsibilities either, and found himself tussling with the likes of Luis Suarez during an end-to-end first half.
Willian may well be first choice on the right, but it is a position which both Mohamed Salah and Juan Cuadrado have failed to make their own. Whether Kenedy proves to be an able deputy or is sent on loan to Vitesse in the short term remains to be seen.
Asmir Begovic has arrived at Chelsea this summer from Stoke City not just looking to play second fiddle.
“I want to test myself against Thibaut, he’s one of the best goalkeepers in the world but I believe in myself,” he told reporters prior to the game against Barca. “I want to try and get as many games as I can.”
But on the evidence of this display, Thibaut Courtois is going to take some dislodging.
Eden Hazard stole the show in the first half with his delightful solo goal, but were it not for the Belgian, Chelsea may still have gone in behind at the end of the first half.
Courtois made exceptional saves to deny Luis Suarez twice, as well as keeping out Ivan Rakitic and Sandro with a clutch of reflex saves.
A handful of substitutions led to a lack of organisation and Courtois was ultimately let down by his back four as Suarez scooped the ball over him to pull Barca level, while little could be done to keep out Sandro’s superb strike for the Spanish side’s second.
But after Gary Cahill’s header forced the game to penalties it was fitting that Courtois should make a significant impact, saving Gerard Pique’s spot kick before Loic Remy wrapped up the win.
The Barcelona fans in attendance at the FedEx Field in Landover may have been disappointed to have missed out on seeing the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar, but seeing Luis Suarez in this sort of form will have softened the blow.
Barca boss Luis Enrique would also have been delighted with the display of the Uruguayan, having afforded both Messi and Neymar extended breaks after the Copa America.
Suarez, who missed the tournament due to suspension, turned in the performance of a man who has been desperate to get back into action this summer. He knows only how to play at full throttle, pre-season friendly or not.
He would have been on the scoresheet in the first half were it not for Courtois but he did eventually got his goal after the interval, showing poise in the penalty area to capitalise on a Cesar Azpilicueta mistake and chip the ball over the Belgian. Kurt Zouma’s attempts to keep the ball out were in vain.
Indeed, if Eden Hazard deserves to be in the conversation to determine the best player in the world, Suarez is surely already a part of it.
Barca may have lost, but Luis Enrique can rest safe in the knowledge that, should he need to extend Messi and Neymar’s respective rests into the start of La Liga, Suarez could perhaps still guide them to victory.