Chelsea’s Under-18s recovered from three two-goal deficits to claim a point in a remarkable 4-4 draw against Tottenham Hotspur in Enfield on Saturday morning.
The Blues trailed 2-0 to early goals from Reo Griffiths and Timothy Eyoma and, although Daishawn Redan reduced the arrears, an unfortunate own goal by Marc Guehi sent them in for half time with work still to do. A Conor Gallagher penalty gave them hope; hope that was almost extinguished when Griffiths added his second and Tottenham’s fourth, but Gallagher went on to convert another spot kick before completing an unlikely hat-trick two minutes from time to earn his team a share of the spoils.
With FA Youth Cup places up for grabs ahead of next Friday’s Third Round date with Scunthorpe United, competition for places was rife in Jody Morris’ squad, but the manager made just three changes from the team that beat Newcastle a week earlier. Nicolas Tié replaced Karlo Žiger in goal, whilst Redan and George McEachran were handed starts ahead of Tariq Uwakwe and Clinton Mola in a 3-5-2 formation.
Tottenham’s league form this season had been rather inconsistent coming into the match, but they were buoyed by a 4-1 win over Aston Villa in the cup last time out, and looked much the better of the two teams throughout the early exchanges. They kept Chelsea penned back in their own half, proving for a way through, and should have taken an early lead when Griffiths got in behind only to be denied by the alert Tié.
Not that they had to wait very long for their goal, though, but it came with a helping hand from referee Michael Smith. He pointed to the penalty spot for what he adjudged to be a foul by Marcel Lavinier on Griffiths, and the Tottenham number nine picked himself up beat Tié from twelve yards to make it 1-0.
Chelsea’s response was far from convincing. Billy Gilmour struck a soft volley straight at home goalkeeper Jonathan De Bie, whilst Juan Castillo was well off-target with a free kick, as they simply couldn’t get their attacking game going. Things went from bad to worse in the 25th minute, when Eyoma bundled home a header from Phoenix Patterson’s corner, and they were suddenly staring a second defeat of the season in the face.
Fortune favoured them momentarily when Redan got one back ten minutes later, collecting Castillo’s through ball and finishing as De Bie lost his footing, but Lady Luck is a fickle mistress, and was soon back firmly on Tottenham’s side when Guehi flashed a header past the stranded Tié whilst attempting to clear a cross from J’Neil Lloyd-Bennett, and so it was 3-1 at half time.
Uwakwe replaced Jonathan Panzo at half time, to reinforce a change back to a 4-4-2 diamond that had taken place midway through the first half, and Chelsea looked better for it. Mr Smith awarded them their own dubious penalty for another soft foul, this time on Charlie Brown, and Gallagher sent his spot kick high into the roof of the net. Game on.
Or so we thought. Not four minutes had passed before Rodel Richards cut inside and fed Griffiths, who escaped the attentions of the visiting defenders again, and found the far corner to make it 4-2 and reassert a third two-goal Tottenham lead.
That woke Chelsea up. Redan, Brown and Gilmour were all guilty of wasting good opportunities to add to the scoresheet, with Redan and Brown particularly guilty of turning down good headed chances and, when Brown glanced wide of an open goal, Morris had seen enough. He replaced his leading goalscorer with a schoolboy midfielder in Faustino Anjorin, who was about to have a significant impact on the final twenty minutes of play.
Chelsea had looked well out of the match at that stage, but Anjorin’s arrival combined with the departure of Griffiths to injury changed things in the Blues’ favour. Spurs could no longer play out quite so easily without their big forward as a focal point, whilst Chelsea had the considerable frame of Anjorin to use in and around the box. They grabbed themselves a lifeline in the 83rd minute, when Jamie Reynolds sent Tariq Lamptey flying for the third penalty of the day, and Gallagher did the business again to bring his team within a goal of parity.
Tottenham simply couldn’t get out from under the weight of Chelsea’s attacking impetus, and they were lucky not to concede a third penalty when Lamptey was again brought down, but the clearest foul of them all went apparently unseen by referee Smith. Undeterred, the visitors kept plugging away and were rewarded two minutes from time, when De Bie produced a terrific save to deny Anjorin, only to see skipper Gallagher pounce on the rebound to complete both an improbable hat-trick and a battling comeback for 4-4.
Tempers flared in stoppage time, as Richards was fortunate to remain on the pitch after throwing punches at two Chelsea players, and both teams will be frustrated at the final score. Tottenham will feel they should have held onto the three points they had in the bag, whilst the Blues – relieved at taking a point home – will know they were well off the pace for long spells, and a better performance would have yielded greater rewards. They’ll hope for better at home to Scunthorpe on Friday, when the hunt for a fifth consecutive FA Youth Cup gets underway.
Tottenham Hotspur: De Bie, Hinds, Reynolds, Skipp, Eyoma, Lyons-Foster (Clarke 71), Richards, Maghoma, Griffiths (A Shashoua 76), Patterson (Bowden 89), Lloyd-Bennett.
Subs not Used: Oluwayemi, Asante
Goals: Griffiths 18 (pen), 53, Eyoma 25, Guehi 38 og
Chelsea: Tié, Lavinier, Guehi, Panzo (Uwakwe 45), Castillo, Gallagher (c), Lamptey, Gilmour, Redan, McEachran, Brown (Anjorin 68)
Subs not Used: Wakely, Žiger, Mola
Goals: Redan 33, Gallagher 49 (pen), 83 (pen), 88
Booked: Gilmour, Uwakwe