Chelsea’s Development Squad signed off for 2017 with a remarkable 3-2 win against Manchester City at Aldershot’s EBB Stadium, having trailed until the last fifteen minutes of a match they rarely looked like taking anything from.
Goals from Lorenzo Gonzalez and Benjamin Garré book-ended a first half where City were extremely comfortable, and they looked both measured and composed in building an advantage that scarcely looked in doubt until late in the day. Substitutions and an inspired change of formation paid were rewarded handsomely for Chelsea, however, as a Martell Taylor-Crossdale double and a stupendous winner from Harvey St Clair saw them score three times in fifteen minutes to turn everything on its head.
League Cup commitments deprived both teams of key players; Chelsea were without Callum Hudson-Odoi, Dujon Sterling, Ethan Ampadu and Jake Clarke-Salter, whilst City saw Tosin Adarabioyo, Phil Foden, Brahim Diaz, Demeaco Duhaney, Lukas Nmecha and Tom Dele-Bashiru all join up with Pep Guardiola’s squad for the trip to Leicester City.
It meant that both teams took on a more youthful look, City including a pair of first-year scholars, and Chelsea opted to utilise St Clair in a lone striker’s role with support from Luke McCormick and Jacob Maddox. Richard Nartey anchored a three-man defence also featuring Reece James and Trevoh Chalobah, with Josh Grant and Juan Castillo tasked with getting up and down the flanks at wing-back.
A slow start saw Joe Edwards’ boys fall behind inside five minutes, and they struggled to find the required tempo at all thereafter. Javairo Dilrosun’s corner was flicked on at the near post, and Gonzalez – all 5’7” of him – popped up with a free header from six yards out to make it 1-0. Dilrosun himself was impressive throughout the first half, and it was the Dutchman who then went close to doubling the lead, holding off the attentions of Ruben Sammut before firing just over from the edge of the area.
Chelsea’s better moments came when they pressed as a group and forced mistakes from City’s defenders, but they were still kept at arm’s length, and struggled to create clear-cut opportunities. James and Maddox had glimpses of goal that failed to test goalkeeper Pawel Sokol, whilst crosses from Grant and James ultimately produced nothing despite getting into promising positions.
City doubled their lead in first-half stoppage time when Garré latched onto Matt Smith’s searching ball over the top, escaping the attentions of Grant just enough to find a yard of space, before bundling the ball past Marcin Bułka to give the Blues a much tougher job of rescuing anything from the contest.
Maddox tried to provide a catalyst for change soon after the restart, getting into more advanced areas and forcing the first notable save from Sokol, but City still weren’t worried as the clock ticked past the hour mark. Edwards responded with a change of shape and the introduction of both Taylor-Crossdale and Kylian Hazard into the attack, and it paid off almost immediately.
Now playing a 4-3-3 formation, Chelsea suddenly had different options in the final third, and a patient move proved to be rewarding when Taylor-Crossdale got himself on the end of Grant’s delivery from the left to make it 1-2 and set up an interesting last fifteen minutes.
The momentum was suddenly all with the hosts, and it was City who wilted in the face of a confident blue tide. James’ muscular advances down the right pinned the visitors back, with another fantastic delivery going unrewarded, but his next try eventually helped to unlock the door again. St Clair picked up the loose ends of a partially-cleared cross, and floated one back into the area, where Chalobah was lurking. Sokol and substitute Nabil Touaizi got in each other’s way, fouling the Chelsea man in the process, but Taylor-Crossdale gleefully put the ball into the unguarded goal to make it 2-2.
The comeback was duly completed a minute from time when St Clair produced an unstoppable winner from 25 yards out, thundering his shot past Sokol and into the back of the net to cap a most unlikely turnaround. The win takes Chelsea above City in the Premier League 2 table as they enter a mini winter break, returning on January 8th away to Swansea for what will be their first action of 2018.
Chelsea: Bułka, Grant, James, Nartey, Chalobah, Sammut © (Christie-Davies 65), Maddox, Scott, St Clair, McCormick (K.Hazard 58), Castillo (Taylor-Crossdale 65)
Subs not Used: Cumming, Dasilva
Goal: Taylor-Crossdale ’74, ’84, St Clair ’89
Booked: Castillo, James
Manchester City: Sokol, Oliver ©, Latibeaudiere, Francis, Pozo, Smith, Matondo (Poveda 69), F.Nmecha, Gonzalez, Dilrosun, Garré (Touaizi 79)
Subs not Used: Kigbu, Anderson, Wilson
Goals: Gonzalez ‘4, Garré ‘45
Booked: Oliver, Garré, Smith