It was a good day for both of Chelsea’s main academy sides as the Under-18s and Development Squad each recorded 2-1 wins on Saturday.
Andy Myers’ youth team were triumphant at home to a typically hard-to-beat Aston Villa, while Joe Edwards’ Under-23s retained their 100% record away from home with a 2-1 victory at West Ham United.
With injuries, first-team commitments and even the Under-16s away at a Premier League qualifying tournament, the squads had to be finely-balanced. Both managers retained their preferred 3-5-2 formations, with Myers bringing Marcel Lavinier back into the fold at right wing-back, and calling upon the services of Pierre Ekwah Elimby in midfield.
Villa had proven themselves among the toughest nuts to crack for the Blues in previous seasons, having not lost at Cobham since 2015, and in soaking wet conditions they were the better team early on too. Dimitri Sea crashed an early slighter well over the crossbar before Colin Odutayo tested Jake Askew’s handling, a task the young goalkeeper was equal to.
George Nunn opened the scoring with his second goal of the season, a crisply-struck left-footed effort from the edge of the area that skidded off the slick surface and into the bottom corner, beyond the reach of Viljami Sinisalo in the Villa goal. It settled the Blues down, and there were further chances for Jon Russell and Ekwah Elimby, the latter rising highest to head Ian Maatsen’s cross towards goal, but Sinisalo was this time equal to it.
Maatsen himself went close right on half time from a neatly-worked corner routine, one of several from Chelsea on the day, and they carried increasing confidence with them into the second half, when they were able to double the lead.
It came about as the result of some keen pressing high up the pitch, forcing a mistake from the Villa defenders, and allowing Marcel Lewis to take possession in a dangerous area. He couldn’t quite make the most of the chance, but the ball fell to Armando Broja, who emphatically smashed the ball into the top corner after his initial shot had been blocked.
That should have been that, and it certainly would have been had Sam McClelland found the target from another corner, but Chelsea have been a little open at the back this season, failing to keep a clean sheet in any of their opening five matches. That run was extended to six just after the hour mark, when Sea headed home from a terrific left-wing cross, and suddenly it was game on again.
Substitute Henry Lawrence saw a chance come and go with a poor first touch, and Lewis exchanged passes with Lavinier before his shot was blocked, but it was Villa that came closest to the game’s fourth goal. A deep ball into the box caught Chelsea square, allowing Ethan Patterson to ghost into scoring position, but he could only glance wide of the post, and the points remained with the hosts.
Down at Dagenham, Edwards’ side took an early lead through Billy Gilmour from the penalty spot, but they were pegged back just as quickly when Joe Powell responded in kind. Tunji Akinola was shown a second yellow card for West Ham early in the second half, handing the Blues the initiative, and they made it count when Charlie Brown grabbed what turned out to be the winning goal midway with just over twenty minutes to play.
The Under-18s moved up to third in the South league table, while the Dev Squad are now joint-top of the Premier League 2 standings.