Essien makes happy return
Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien scored the decisive goal on his return to action after six months out with a knee problem as the Premier League champions won 1-0 in this afternoon's friendly at Crystal Palace.
The 27-year-old, forced to sit out Ghana's 2010 FIFA World Cup™ campaign due to the injury, slotted home on the hour to give Carlo Ancelotti's side a winning start to their pre-season games.
"It was an important return," Ancelotti told www.chelseafc.com. "He came back very well and played very well. He is a fantastic player. We missed him last season and we hope he can do the best for this season."
Essien was joined in an otherwise youthful starting XI by fellow first-teamers Petr Cech, Alex and John Obi Mikel Obi. "We had a good performance and played good football," the Italian continued. "We had the possibility to see young players from our academy and this is a good thing for us and also for them to be involved in the first team."
Liverpool's friendly against Al-Hilal in Switzerland was called off after the pitch was deemed unplayable following heavy rain. It means new Reds boss Roy Hodgson will have to wait until Wednesday, when they face Swiss side Grasshoppers, for his first game since taking over from Rafael Benitez on July 1.
Three for Newcastle, Wolves
Newcastle enjoyed a comfortable 3-0 victory at Carlisle thanks to goals from Leon Best, Nile Ranger and Haris Vuckic. Boudewijn Zenden's strike seven minutes from time secured Sunderland a 1-0 triumph at Darlington.
The Black Cats' afternoon was marred, however, by a groin injury which forced midfielder Lee Cattermole to limp off. "Lee was feeling his groin so we brought him off as a precaution," Sunderland assistant manager Eric Black told www.safc.com. "We'll have a look tomorrow and he'll get some treatment. There was no point risking him."
Wolves' new boys Geoffrey Mujangi Bia and Stephen Fletcher were on target in a 3-0 victory at Bohemians. Jody Craddock opened the scoring after five minutes before Fletcher, a summer signing from Burnley, doubled their advantage just after the hour and then Mujangi Bia, on loan from Charleroi, sealed a comfortable win in stoppage time. Jason Roberts and Steven Nzonzi netted in either half to clinch Blackburn a 2-0 win at Blue Square Premier newcomers Fleetwood Town.