A brace of free kicks from Keanan Bennetts consigned Chelsea’s Development Squad to defeat in their final home fixture of the season against Tottenham Hotspur on Friday night.
The Blues were disappointing in front of almost 3,000 fans at Stamford Bridge, struggling to break down a Spurs team that had been reduced to ten men before half time when Christian Maghoma was dismissed for a pair of fouls on Daishawn Redan. The second-half introductions of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James did spark the Blues into life and they took the lead through a Josh Grant header, but they afforded the visitors opportunities to get back into the contest, opportunities that Bennetts took with aplomb.
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Having only played once in the league in the last month, Joe Edwards’ group were understandably a little rusty, but with three wins from their last four matches they came into the contest in good form. Tottenham, comparatively, needed all the help they could get in their battle against relegation from the PL2, and were determined not to go out at the home of one of their fiercest rivals.
Much of the first half was played out at a tempo with a familiar end-of-season feel and both teams struggled to really find a way to assert themselves on proceedings. It was Chelsea who fared the better in general, winning free kicks in promising positions only to waste them, whilst the energetic Luke McCormick hit a screamer just wide of Brandon Austin’s goal.
Tottenham only carried an occasional thread, Kazaiah Sterling snatching at a good chance and missing the top corner by two feet, but they would have much more to think about when Maghoma was sent off for hauling Redan down after being beaten for pace when chasing down a long clearance. It was the defender’s second foul on the Dutchman of the half, both of which were punished with yellow cards, and so he received his marching orders.
Harvey St Clair’s tame effort in the closing stages was the closest Chelsea came to testing Austin before half time, and Edwards was quick to inject a spark into his team after the restart, introducing Hudson-Odoi and James within seven minutes of play resuming. They immediately showed their guile and craft when the former fizzed a ball from left to right to find the latter, who delivered a trademark cross that eluded Redan in the middle by inches.
James was having so much success down the Blues’ right that Tottenhan coach Wayne Burnett was compelled to replace Anthony Georgiou with Jaden Brown, a decision that would pay off in the end, but not before Chelsea took the lead. Charlie Colkett’s corner was gloriously glanced home by captain Grant, darting towards the near post, and everything was seemingly under control.
Or so they thought. McCormick’s foul on the edge of the area gave Bennetts a chance to size up his options and, having been denied by Marcin Bułka from open play earlier in the half, gave the Polish stopper no chance this time with a perfectly-executed strike to level the scores.
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me, goes the old adage, and it was Chelsea who were fooled when Bennetts repeated the trick five minutes later. Grant was the guilty party giving away the chance this time and, from a wider position, Bennetts this time went outside and around the wall, firing low and hard past Bułka to turn the game on its head.
Redan and St Clair tried and failed to restore order, whilst Hudson-Odoi was close to darting through and adding to his growing reputation, before a late try appeared to deflect over the bar only for a goal kick to be given instead. Tottenham played their part superbly in the end though, rarely missing a beat after Maghoma’s exit, and taking their opportunities when they came.
Chelsea, on the other hand, lacked the intensity on and off the ball to truly take charge of a match that they should have been able to play on their terms, and looked too reliant on Hudson-Odoi, James and Redan to make something out of nothing. They’ll hope to finish their league schedule in a more positive manner away to Liverpool in a match yet to be scheduled, but the majority of this group will now prepare for the UEFA Youth League Finals weekend in Nyon starting next Friday.
Chelsea: Bułka, Sterling, Chalobah, Grant, Castillo, Sammut © (Hudson-Odoi 54), Maddox (James 54), McCormick, Redan, Colkett, St Clair
Subs not Used: Cumming, Colley, Nartey
Goal: Grant ‘66
Booked: McCormick, Grant
Tottenham Hotspur: Austin, Eyoma, Georgiou (Brown 61), Skipp, Maghoma ©, Tanganga, Tracey, Oakley-Boothe, Sterling (Shashoua 90), Pritchard (Duncan 82), Bennetts
Subs not Used: Roles, Whiteman
Goals: Bennetts ’69, ‘74
Sent Off: Maghoma