Chelsea’s Development Squad maintained their perfect record away from home so far in the 2018-19 season with a 1-0 win at Swansea County that took them to the top of the Premier League 2 table.
Joseph Colley’s goal shortly before the hour mark proved decisive in a tight and closely-fought contest that the home team probably shaded overall, but an increasingly resilient young Blues team featuring three seventeen year-olds added another impressive result to their early-season record.
Joe Edwards made five changes to the team that lost to Derby County last weekend; no longer able to call upon the experienced Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi or Charly Musonda, he went back to the 3-5-2 the group have worked on all summer, and partnered Daishawn Redan and Charlie Brown together in attack. Tariq Uwakwe started in midfield with captain Luke McCormick injured, but defenders Richard Nartey and Josh Grant both made their first appearances of the campaign after summer injuries of their own.
Swansea were rather older by comparison, as most of Chelsea’s opponents at this level tend to be, and had an experienced spine through their starting eleven including 22 year-olds Ryan Blair and Botti Biabi, and the 21 year-old Swedish midfielder Adnan Maric.
If the match had a lazy Sunday afternoon affair feel about it on paper, that’s exactly how it played out, particularly in the first half. It rather captured the problems with the PL2; a low-intensity fixture, played at a training ground in front of fewer than 100 spectators, and without anything tangible to play for. Certainly, not all Under-23 matches fall under that description, but it wasn’t one for the neutrals.
Swansea had the better of the chances in the first 45 minutes, and it was defender Brandon Cooper who would have been thinking about what could have been at the break, as he was twice guilty of missing the target with close-range headers. Marco Dulca had two shots from wide positions on the left very comfortably saved by Marcin Bułka, and full-back Tyler Reid burrowed his way into a good position late in the half only to find the giant Polish goalkeeper in good form at his near post once again.
The Blues had only bothered Steven Benda in the home goal with a small handful of high crosses he was able to claim with minimal fuss, but there were no clear shots at goal until the first minute of the second half, when Redan lashed over from the edge of the area. Swansea’s response was swift and carried by Dulca, who almost broke through before Nartey cleared his lines, and then Liam Cullen, who saw his cross from the left claimed bravely by Bułka. He took a blow to the face from Cooper and, with the medical staff unable to stem the bleeding from a cut lip, he had to be replaced by Jamie Cumming.
Chelsea finally broke the deadlock just before the hour mark when Colley’s instinctive flick from four yards out applied the finish to Billy Gilmour’s intelligent header back across goal after Uwakwe had dropped a high, looping cross towards the far post after a poorly-cleared corner. It was the Swedish defender’s first goal since December 2015, and his first-ever for the Development Squad.
It also meant they could start to play the game on their terms, and exploit any space left as Swansea forced the issue in search of an equaliser. Tariq Lamptey needed little invitation to do just that, but Redan and Brown contrived to get in each other’s way when attempting to meet his cross, and he had licence to keep going with the back three behind him sweeping up confidently and effectively.
Cooper had a third headed opportunity fall to him in the final minute, and this time hit the target with a powerful try, but Cumming proved equal to it to preserve the clean sheet and ensure Chelsea would take all three points back home with them after another successful outing on the road. They’re next in action at home to Leicester City in mid-September after the international break.
Swansea City: Benda, T.Reid, A.Lewis, Blair, J.Lewis, B.Cooper, Maric ©, Dulca (O.Cooper 68), Biabi (Garrick 59), Paulet, Cullen
Subs not Used: Zabret, Blake, De Boer,
Booked: Blair, J.Lewis
Chelsea: Bułka (Cumming 51), Lamptey, Colley, Nartey, Grant ©, McEachran, Uwakwe, Gilmour, Redan, Brown (Taylor-Crossdale 80), Castillo (Masampu 90)
Goal: Colley ‘58