It was a frustrating start to home affairs for Chelsea’s Under-18s on Saturday afternoon, as they were forced into sharing the spoils with Leicester City, following a 1-1 draw at Cobham.
The Blues, who had only dropped points at home to Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur over the entirety of the previous two seasons, were made to work hard throughout against a typically dogged and well-drilled Foxes team. They thought they’d prevailed when Tino Anjorin coolly slotted home with five minutes remaining to make it 1-0, but Luke Thomas won a penalty for the visitors moments later, and Sidnei Tavares claimed a draw with a confidently-taken spot kick.
Andy Myers made a single change to the team that started the new Under-18 Premier League season with a 3-1 win at Southampton last weekend, bringing George Nunn in for Jon Russell and dropping Anjorin into a deeper midfield role next to Clinton Mola. Leicester, meanwhile, had lost to Reading in their home opener, but proved a tough nut to crack last year, with both of Chelsea’s wins coming late in the day.
They defended well, particular in wide areas, and quickly restricted a rather pedestrian home team to very little penetration in the final third. Jack Wakely’s header required goalkeeper Jakub Stolarczyk to make a good low save after ten minutes, but he was otherwise very ably protected for long stretches of play.
Not that Karlo Žiger in the Chelsea goal had much more to do by comparison; the Blues had the lion’s share of possession, but were unable to do much with it. Anjorin’s long-range howitzer fizzed over, and Thierno Ballo’s improvised header was safely claimed by Stolarczyk, as a forgettable first half fizzled out unremarkably.
Leicester grew stronger as the match went on, and schoolboy forward Terell Pennant looked a threat, testing Žiger’s agility with a mis-hit attempt that almost looped up and into the top corner. Substitute Dempsey Edwards-John provided energetic running alongside him, needed with Chelsea once again controlling the play, and he too caused some concent when in possession.
Myers’ boys, though, steadily created more chances. Nunn and Ballo had glancing headers come to nothing, and a succession of crosses were well defended, whilst Anjorin’s buccaneering run into the box was bravely halted by Stolarczyk, who received a knock for his troubles.
Just as the match looked to be trundling towards an ignominious goalless draw, it exploded into life at the end. Pierre Ekwah Elimby came off the bench to deliver a gorgeous inswinging cross from deep on the right; the sort of ball that begs to be finished, the sort of finish Anjorin is capable of. His volley found the target and appeared to have broken Leicester hearts, but not quite.
Mustering one last charge, they came back at Chelsea, and left-back Thomas went down in the penalty area. Softly to some, not to referee Stephen Bates, who pointed to the spot. Tavares waited for Žiger to move before passing the ball the other way to make it 1-1, and ensure his team would take something back up north with them.
Anjorin thought he’d won it again at the death, collecting Marcel Lewis’s cross in similar fashion to his goal, but Stolarczyk – appropriately – had the last word with his best save of the day. Chelsea will have to be sharper next weakened when they head to Tottenham, who have scored eleven goals in their first two outings of the campaign.
Chelsea: Žiger, Clark (Ekwah Elimby 84), Lavinier (c), Wakely, Maatsen, Mola (Russell 45), Lewis, Anjorin, Broja, Ballo, Nunn (Lawrence 65).
Sub not Used: Askew
Goal: Anjorin 86
Leicester City: Stolarczyk, D.Gyamfi, Thomas, James, Barrett, Hušek, J.Gyamfi (Edwards-John 45), Tavares, Myring (Bollard 65), Pennant, Fitzhugh (Leathers 73)
Subs not Used: Murch, Bosworth
Goal: Tavares 88 (pen)