Chelsea’s Under-18s retained their 100% league record with a seventh win from seven outings at Leicester City on Saturday, but they had to work hard for it, coming back from a goal behind and then again after conceding a late equaliser to eventually triumph 3-2.
Goals from Charlie Brown and Martell Taylor-Crossdale were sandwiched in between a pair of Foxes goals scored by giant central defender from set pieces but, having shown plenty of fight against a physically imposing opponent, they deserved their 86th-minute winner courtesy of substitute Tushaun Walters.
Jody Morris was once again without four regulars due to the Under-17 World Cup, whilst Daishawn Redan had also spent the previous week away with the Netherlands and was unavailable for selection. It means schoolboys Dynel Simeu and Faustino Anjorin started again, as they did in the 6-1 win versus Fulham last time out, and there were only two changes in total, with Brown replacing Redan and Marcin Bułka returning for Nicolas Tié in goal.
Leicester had started the new academy season in good form, a contrast to their struggles of a year ago, and were by far and away the biggest set of players Chelsea have faced at this level in some time. That size advantage paid early dividends when George Heaven connected with Conor Tee’s free kick to head the hosts into the lead.
It lasted just three minutes though, as the Blues restored parity swiftly through Brown, who latched onto Juan Castillo’s flick on before producing an exquisite first-time lob over Cameron Yates in the Leicester goal. It was a terrific finish but it came from a direct passage of play, and the first half was littered with plenty of high balls into a swirling wind that took Chelsea out of their comfort zone.
Asked to be more combative and impose themselves on their hosts, they were up for the challenge. Action came sporadically at either end; Tyrese Shade drilling one straight at Bułka from distance, Jack Wakely heading wide from a Billy Gilmour corner in response, but as the half went on it was the away side that looked the more threatening.
Taylor-Crossdale gave a good account of himself against Heaven and the 6’7″ Czech giant Lukas Hušek, whilst Tariq Uwakwe was controlling the game from the midfield, and had Castillo found the right finish for Tariq Lamptey’s cross, they would have had a half time lead to enjoy too.
Unfortunately, his volley was well off target, and they instead had to wait until two minutes into the second half to make it 2-1. Castillo atoned for the miss by laying on the perfect cross for Taylor-Crossdale to thump a header high into the roof of the net to beat Yates.
Now they had to set about ensuring they held onto their advantage. It wasn’t pretty, but it requires a resolve and a willingness to fight that this group haven’t yet had to dig down deep and find this season, but to a man they stood up to everything Leicester could throw at them.
They enjoyed the better of the scoring chances too: Taylor-Crossdale was unlucky to see another header cleared off the line, whilst Uwakwe was guilty of smashing one well over the crossbar from a good position, but Bułka by contrast at the other end was well protected by his defence. He was there when required, most notably to hold on to Sim Thandi’s low skidding shot, but Wakely, Simeu, and Marcel Lavinier defended manfully in front of him.
As the clock ticked into the last ten minutes Leicester threw caution to the wind, introducing another big kid in Sammie McLeod from the bench, and went for it. It paid off too, when Hušek got above Wakely just enough to direct Tom Fielding’s corner goalwards, and it snuck through Bułka’s grasp at the near post for 2-2.
That could have been curtains for Chelsea, but they turned the game on its head again and claimed the fifth and decisive goal four minutes from time. Substitute Walters, a summer pick-up from non-league Abbey Rangers, pounced on a loose ball before skipping away from two challenges and flicking the ball home via the goalpost.
It was a deserved three points that extends their lead to eight points already, and sets them up well for next weekend’s trip to Southampton.
Leicester City: Yates, Thandi, Ughelumba, Gill, Heaven, Hušek, Williams (McLeod 71), Leshabela (Thomas 79), Shade, Tee (Pennant 71), Fielding
Subs not Used: Davies, Edwards-John
Goals: Heaven 12, Hušek 83
Chelsea: Bułka, Lavinier, Wakely (c), Simeu, Castillo, Uwakwe, Lamptey, Gilmour, Taylor-Crossdale, Anjorin (Walters 65), Brown
Subs not Used: Russell, Lewis, Masampu, Akinjogbin
Goals: Brown 15, Taylor-Crossdale 47, Walters 86