Under-18s: Chelsea 0-3 Arsenal

Chelsea’s Under-18 team suffered another defeat on Saturday morning as despite a strong performance against Arsenal, they succumbed to late strikes to lose 3-0.

An experienced back four included Aziz Deen-Conteh and the returning Daniel Pappoe making his first appearance of the season, but there was also room for four schoolboys in Adie Viveash’s starting eleven in Mitchell Beeney, Alex Kiwomya, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Reece Mitchell.

Arsenal featured no such Under-16 content but included former Barcelona pair Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin, whilst Elton Monteiro captained the team from defence.

It was a lively start with both teams enjoying possession and looking to attack with pace, but Chelsea had slightly the better of things and should have been ahead in the opening minutes when Kiwomya seized on a mistake but was denied by Reice Charles-Cook in the visitor’s goal.

Swedish midfielder Kristoffer Olsson had Arsenal’s first attempt at goal but generally Pappoe was marshalling his back four well and the Blues began to make more of the game. They sought to spread the ball wide and take advantage of the excellent pace on the flanks, and had some success.

Fine work by Deen-Conteh took three red shirts out of the game and his pass released Kiwomya for a glorious opportunity, but the finish at the near post was wayward and should have at least tested Charles-Cook.

Mitchell’s acceleration won a free kick after Monteiro felled him, and from Affane’s delivery Nathan Aké headed over the bar. From another set-piece, Pappoe found the Swede’s delivery, but was denied by the crossbar.

The woodwork was to prove Chelsea’s enemy on this October morning, with Affane himself next to curse his luck. A delectable free kick from some 30 yards out had Charles-Cook floundering, but the effort came back off of the underside of the frame and back out.

It may have crossed the line, but it was genuinely too hard to tell from any vantage point and Arsenal were able to clear. They then set about working chances of their own, and Beeney had to extend himself to the fullest of his ample frame to keep out an equally as impressive set piece from Serge Gnabry.

The German winger had caught the eye pre-match with his vibrant choice of footwear but had also been impressive in action, showing guile and craft on the wing and drive into the box.

He created another chance before the break but once again Beeney was able to make the save, this time denying Olsson at the far post after a dangerous ball across the face of goal.

Just before half time, Arsenal midfielder Toral suffered a worrying blow to the head, for which he received lengthy treatment, but he was able to gather himself at the interval and continue for the second half.

Chelsea started the second half well and Nditi had a chance he will have wanted to do better with, but Arsenal began to look more like a team, holding their shape better and began to make things happen.

Olsson again had a sight of goal but he was once more denied by fine Chelsea defending as Pappoe threw himself in front of the ball to prevent a certain goal.

The captain received treatment for a knock picked up in the process but was playing well. Alongside him, Rohan Ince was having arguably his best game of the season and was a growing influence on Chelsea’s play.

A rapid counter attack led by Nditi saw him flanked by Deen-Conteh and Kiwomya, and whilst the pass to the latter was the right one, it allowed substitute Ben Glasgow just enough space to recover and make a crucial, goal-saving challenge to keep the scores level.

Gnabry drew Beeney into action at the other end before both managers began to shuffle the pack, with Ismail Seremba replacing Affane and Phillip Roberts coming on for Nigel Neita.

It proved to be a telling moment as Chelsea lost something through the middle of the park, instead relying on Mitchell and Nditi to make gains out wide, and instead allowed Arsenal to take a hold of the game with Anthony Jeffrey and Toral.

Inevitably, the visitors took the lead with a quarter of an hour to go through Gnabry. A scrappy build-up saw bodies sprawled throughout the Chelsea goalmouth before the German winger tidied up by lashing into an unguarded net.

It was a goal which broke Chelsea’s spirit, and with Pappoe having made way for Sam Bangura in the late stages, further gloss was added to the scoreline by substitute Roberts.

His first of a quick-fire brace came when Glasgow caught the Blues sleeping from a set play, allowing the Irish youth forward to sweep home in style, and moments later he moved onto Toral’s through-ball to gather and dispatch a lovely finish into the far corner.

The scoreline was now particularly harsh on the hosts and as if to demonstrate how different things could have been, Nditi became the third Chelsea player to strike the woodwork when his cross-cum-shot rebounded off the angle of post and bar.

Ultimately, however, Arsenal took their chances and Chelsea didn’t, be it through profligacy or bad luck. With a more solid defensive display owed much to the presence of senior reserve teamers, the youth team looked better than it has in recent weeks and played well for large spells.

Ince, Aké, Deen-Conteh and Mitchell all played well and gave their all, whilst at times schoolboys Loftus-Cheek and Kiwomya, so impressive in the early weeks of the season, looked a little lost. That’s only to be expected at their tender ages, and they will be much the better for such experiences.

The Blues continue their campaign next Saturday, away to Portsmouth.

Team: Beeney, Gordon, Pappoe (c) (Bangura 70), Ince, Deen-Conteh, Aké, Loftus-Cheek, Affane (Seremba 58), Nditi, Mitchell, Kiwomya
Subs not Used: Osmanovic, Nkumu, Swift

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