This week’s report is a bumper fortnightly look at not only the young Blues out on loan, but also at those who represented their countries at junior youth levels over the recent international break.
We’ll kick off with the national team action, which was headlined by England’s Under-21 team qualifying for next summer’s European Championships in Denmark after coming through a tough two-legged tie against Romania.
Michael Mancienne captained the side, as he is likely to do in pursuit of the trophy in eight months or so, whilst Ryan Bertrand played at the opposite full-back position in both legs.
Daniel Sturridge was omitted from the 2-1 win at Carrow Road as Jack Wilshere was favoured by Stuart Pearce, but he returned for the away trip as Wilshere was summoned by Fabio Capello. He had a useful outing, with a handful of openings in front of goal, but was unable to find the back of the net.
Jack Cork came off the bench in the closing stages of each fixture to shore up the Three Lions’ defence, and as the most represented club in the squad, Chelsea will be hopeful of at least four members of Pearce’s finals squad, as England look to go one better than 2009, when they lost the Final to Germany.
The quartet will, however, not be joined by Fabio Borini, Patrick van Aanholt and Jeffrey Bruma, for both Italy and Holland suffered upsets in their playoff matchups.
Borini watched from the sidelies as an unused substitute as Pierluigi Casiraghi’s charges took a 2-0 advantage to Belarus, but courtesy of an error from Arsenal’s Vito Mannone, the second leg went to extra time, where the hosts scored a third and upset the Azzurrini to qualify 3-2 on aggregate.
The Netherlands, meanwhile, left themselves with a huge ask after falling to a 3-1 first leg defeat at home to Ukraine. Jeffrey Bruma played in that match, but was unable to participate in the away leg with tight hamstrings.
Patrick van Aanholt came into the side, and was booked during their 2-0 victory. The result was not enough though, as Ukraine prevailed having scored an extra away goal over the course of the tie.
At Under-19 level, England lost for the first time this season, but ensured a smooth path through to the next stage of their qualifiers. Josh McEachran played a part in all three group games against Albania, Cyprus and Belgium, netting a goal in the 6-1 demolition of the former of the trio, whilst Aziz Deen-Conteh completed the duration of the final two group matches.
Gael Kakuta played 57 minutes against Portugal in an Under-20 friendly for France, Anton Rodgers was an unused substitute for the Republic of Ireland Under-19 team, and Nathaniel Chalobah has joined up with England’s Under-17 team ahead ahead of their qualifiers this week.
Finishing the international section, we turn our attentions towards Friday night’s Victory Shield match between England and Wales Under-16s. The Blues were represented by Jordan Houghton in the starting lineup, with John Swift and Reece Mitchell coming off the bench later in the game.
Houghton had a first half to forget, conceding two penalties (one of which was extremely harsh) and misplacing a pass as England found themselves 4-0 down at half time. He rebounded with a better second half, whilst Swift and Mitchell looked to have brought an improvement over players they replaced.
The break in the domestic football calendar meant that last weekend’s loan action was limited to just Rhys Taylor and Crewe Alexandra. A week after being involved in a 5-5 draw away to Chesterfield, the Railwaymen were once more porous at the back in a 3-3 draw at home to Torquay.
On both occasions, Welshman Taylor could hardly have been accused of being at fault, indeed making a superb save late in the game to deny Torquay all three points. Manager Dario Gradi spoke in midweek of his confidence in using the Chelsea man over the now fit Steve Phillips, and was repaid with a clean sheet yesterday.
The 2-0 win over Southend extended the club’s unbeaten league run to ten matches, and although ex-Blue Anthony Grant may have thought he had beaten his former teammate, a goalline clearance preseved his fourth shutout of the campaign.
Premier League action resumed yesterday with Michael Mancienne in a Wolves midfield missing captain Karl Henry, serving a suspension for a much publicised foul on Jordi Gomez.
Mick McCarthy’s boys drew 1-1 with West Ham, and Mancienne had his most impressive outing of the season, playing an accomplished match, and making many home fans temporarily forget about their absent captain.
Jack Cork returned from England duty to take up his now regular spot in Burnley’s first team, and was involved in a humdinger of a match away to Sheffield United.
Each side scored a stoppage time goal in a 3-3 draw, and Cork himself went close to adding his second goal for the club, and his first of the season, but will have to be content with another solid outing.
The season still refuses to come together for Ryan Bertrand and Nottingham Forest though, with a 3-1 reverse at Barnsley the latest ailment to strike Billy Davies.
The young left-back had a superb chance to help his side level the scores late in the second half but thrashed a wayward effort wide when a pass would have been a better option.
Ben Gordon was restored to Kilmarnock’s starting team after a week on the bench as Mixu Paatelainen’s side lost a tight match 2-1 away to Hibs. He had his typically composed, energetic outing and looks good to maintain his berth in the first team ahead of Garry Hay.
In Holland, Nemanja Matic was the only member of the Blues trio to take to the field for Vitesse’s 4-1 defeat away to Roda JC, with Matej Delac once again backing up Eloy Room ,and Slobodan Rajkovic missing after an operation on his hand this week.
Room has been in good form of late but in conceding four, he may face a little more pressure to hold onto his starting job as Delac attempts to force his way into the team.
Matic continues to impress, and was the provider of the cross which eventually led to Julian Jenner’s consolation effort late in the game.
Tomaš Kalas once again featured for Sigma Olomouc B in a 0-0 draw away to Slovácko B, and impressed as the youngest player on the pitch.