Chelsea’s Development Squad suffered Saturday afternoon frustration as they were beaten 3-1 by league leaders Liverpool in an entertaining fixture Cobham.
Taking to the academy match pitch just two hours after Jody Morris’ Under-18s had dismantled West Ham, Joe Edwards’ boys faced a much sterner test of their credentials against the Premier League 2’s finest, but they gave a good account of themselves and would have beaten lesser teams with a similar performance. However, despite a dazzling solo goal from Callum Hudson-Odoi, it wasn’t their day as a brave from Harry Wilson and a smart finish from his Welsh compatriot Ben Woodburn ensured Liverpool took all three points.
As always, Dan Davies’ match gallery HERE is the perfect way to enjoy the match again.
The visitors hardly needed a helping hand, such has been the manner in which they’ve dominated the Under-23 league so far this term, but Trevoh Chalobah obliged for their early opener as he lost possession cheaply and allowed the Reds to spring a break that ended with Wilson steering gleefully past Jamie Cumming.
They were the much sharper side in the early exchanges and it was only through poor finishing from Woodburn and England Under-17 World Cup winner Rhian Brewster – himself a former Chelsea academy player – that they weren’t out of sight early on.
Chelsea were searching for a spark to get going, and it was Hudson-Odoi who proved the catalyst after 21 minutes. Picking up possession just inside Liverpool’s half, he shrugged off three defenders before rounding Caoimhin Kelleher in the Liverpool goal and finishing off a most sensational individual effort to make it 1-1.
It duly livened the Blues up, and the contest swung back and forth until Woodburn restored the Liverpool lead four minutes before half time. This time it was clinical approach play that unlocked th defence; Wilson turning provider with an incisive through ball confidently despatched by Woodburn.
Had Matty Virtue turned home from close range shortly after the restart for the second half, the away side might have had a more comfortable ride for the rest of the day, but instead they held onto a slender lead that came under increasing pressure from Chelsea. Harvey St Clair twice missed the target from good positions whilst Martell Taylor-Crossdale saw a shot blocked when he might have done better, before going on to fire one straight into the grateful arms of Kelleher.
Brewster kept Cumming and Chelsea honest at the other end in between, but he cut an increasingly isolated figure as Liverpool were happy to soak up the pressure and spring counter-attacks whenever possible. It was a risky strategy that saw them pushed further and further back towards their own goal, but one that eventually paid dividends when a slick passing move led to them taking a 3-1 lead, Wilson providing the finish once more.
Led by Reece James in particular, Chelsea never gave up the ghost and, had Hudson-Odoi’s tremendous shot not crashed down off the underside of the bar and come back out, or had substitute Kylian Hazard managed to steer the rebound home, the stage would have been set for a dramatic finish.
As it was, they were simply frustrated until the very end by a robust rearguard that has provided Liverpool with the foundation to mount a title challenge, and were unable to get back on terms. Still, they can take plenty away from the match, and look to take into into Tuesday’s must-win Checkatrade Trophy fixture away to Exeter City.
Chelsea: Cumming, James, Chalobah, Clarke-Salter (c), Grant, Sammut, Sterling, Maddox (Christie-Davies 75), Taylor-Crossdale, St Clair (K.Hazard 70), Hudson-Odoi
Subs not Used: Bułka, Nartey, C.Dasilva
Goal: Hudson-Odoi 21
Booked: Sammut, Cumming
Liverpool: Kelleher, Flanagan, Johnston, Jones, Whelan (c), Ejaria, Wilson, Virtue, Brewster (Adekanye 79), Kane, Woodburn (Dhanda 79)
Subs not Used: Alves, Firth, Masterson
Goals: Wilson 6, 71, Woodburn 41
Booked: Ejaria, Johnston