It’s been a mixed 2017-18 so far for Chelsea’s Development Squad, with performances being generally quite good, yet without the consistency of the results to back it up.
That was the case once again on Saturday, as they shared a 2-2 draw with Sunderland at Cobham, in a fixture that was as unpredictable as the weather that accompanied it. The visitors edged ahead after 25 minutes through Ethan Robson only to find themselves trailing at the break, but those goals from Reece James and Josh Grant were insufficient to secure all three points for Chelsea, as Tom Beadling’s second-half cracker ensured the visitors would return north with something to show for their endeavours.
With Chelsea juggling three fixtures in four days across three age groups, Joe Edwards’ side took on a little more of an experienced look, and benefitted from the inclusion of first-team squad players Charly Musonda and Jake Clarke-Salter as well as the fit-again Trevoh Chalobah. Miro Muheim led the line again, with the squad lacking a natural centre-forward, as the 3-4-3 shape was preferred from the start.
It took a long time for this one to get going though, with a solitary Musonda free kick patted down by James Talbot in the Sunderland goal the lone noteworthy moment from the first twenty minutes of play. Then, however, things exploded into life, with the visitors’ opening goal the catalyst.
It was rather handed to them by Chelsea though as, in their efforts to play out from the back, they conceded possession on the edge of their own area. Marcin Bułka did enough to stop Rees Greenwood’s shot, but Ethan Robson’s follow-up bounced into the turf and over the giant Pole before nestling into the back of the net.
Chelsea’s response was swift and decisive. The equaliser was built down the left but finished emphatically by James at the far post; his first-time strike as clean as a whistle flew into the far corner with Talbot a mere spectator, and off his weaker foot to boot.
Where one wing back led, another duly followed four minutes later. This time it was Grant with the goal, an elegant curled finish into the far corner after linking well with Isaac Christie-Davies to mark his first appearance on the score sheet in some two years.
And it should have been three before the break, but Jacob Maddox saw Talbot throw himself bravely in the way of his goal-bound effort to, crucially, keep the difference between the two teams to a single strike at half time.
Chelsea were the better side early in the second half too, with Richard Nartey guilty of missing his kick with the goal gaping from a corner, and there was plenty of positive approach play – particularly from Musonda and James – that only lacked some cutting edge in front of goal to finish it off.
Then the heavens opened, after a day of warm sunshine, and Sunderland sprung into life. Bułka got down well to push Elliot Embleton’s free kick around the post, but Beadling’s emphatic finish from a corner where the goalkeeper didn’t exactly cover himself in glory drew the scores level at 2-2 with a quarter of an hour to go.
Substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi had moments of magic end without providing the same quality of finish, and both Clarke-Salter and Muheim saw headers not quite come to fruition late on, but a winner at that stage might have been unfair. A draw was the right result and now Edwards and many of his players will prepare for Tuesday’s UEFA Youth League opener at home to Qarabag.
Chelsea: Bułka, Chalobah (St Clair), Nartey, Clarke-Salter, Grant, Sammut (Ampadu), James, Musonda (c), Muheim, Maddox (Hudson-Odoi), Christie-Davies
Subs not Used: Ja.Russell, McCormick
Goals: James ’29, Grant ’33
Sunderland: Talbot, Gamble, Hume, Bale, Taylor, Beadling, Asoro (Molyneux), E.Robson, Nelson (Diamond), Embleton, Greenwood
Subs not Used: Storey, Woud, Allan
Goals: E.Robson’ 25, Beadling ’74