Chelsea’s Under-21 side twice came from behind to secure a well-deserved draw away to Crystal Palace on Monday night.
The unfamiliar sight of George Saville finding the back of the net was odd in the first instance, but he repeated the feat in the second half to prevent the hosts from taking all three points and ensure the match finished 2-2.
Blues supporters had keenly anticipated the night’s team news with hopes of revealing who might be involved for Roberto Di Matteo in Capital One Cup action, but Dermot Drummy’s line-up was a familiar one, with only Lucas Piazon likely to feature against Wolves.
Lewis Baker returned from injury to replace Marko Marin after his cameo against Liverpool last time out in the only change to the starting eleven, whilst Conor Clifford was on the bench after his loan spell at Portsmouth ended.
Palace included a sprinkling of first team squad players alongside their usual host of young talent and it was one of the more experienced faces who gave them an early lead.
Jamal Blackman had left the confines of his penalty area to sweep up a long through ball and did so to positive effect, at least initially. However, his slide tackle on the second man saw the ball squirt away to Stuart O’Keefe, who remained composed and advanced before beating Nathan Aké on the line to make it 1-0.
It was a rare moment of goalmouth incident in a first half which saw the hosts retain a strong shape, sit deep and ask Chelsea to force the issue.
This they struggled to do, with their passing less crisp than usual and movement off the ball at times sluggish. Islam Feruz and Ruben Loftus-Cheek had moments of interest, but the experienced Lewis Price in the home goal was barely asked to extend beyond a light stretch.
That was until five minutes before half time though, when Chelsea levelled. It came from nothing and from a rather unlikely source in Saville.
The midfielder will never be known as a prolific goalscorer but his 25-yard howitzer moved away at the last minute and proved far too hot for Price to handle as he palmed it into the top corner for 1-1 and a share of the spoils at the break.
Palace restored their lead early in the second half and did so again by taking advantage of some loose play by the visitors. Jason Banton collected a misplaced pass and had the freedom of Selhurst to run forward and pick his spot past Blackman.
Chelsea responded well though and the introduction of Conor Clifford sparked a fluidity in the middle of the park which had been missing from their play.
The second equaliser came midway through the second period and once again, it was a Saville special. From even further out than his first strike, he hit a low, fierce drive which beat Price into the bottom corner.
It signalled the start of the game’s most open spell, with Banton, Feruz and Deen-Conteh going close before Palace defender Aaron Martin had a header ruled out for offside.
Bayan Fenwick forced Blackman into a smart save from his free kick whilst Patrick Bamford narrowly failed to connect with an overhead kick from Baker’s cross.
Jeremie Boga and Adam Nditi made late substitute appearances to little effect and despite Feruz and home replacement Reise Allassani going close to late winners, the two sides ultimately settled for a point apiece.
Chelsea: Blackman, Kane (c), Davey, Aké, Deen-Conteh, Saville, Loftus-Cheek (C.Clifford 60), B.Clifford (Boga 80), Baker (Nditi 86), Feruz, Bamford
Goals: Saville 40, 65
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