Chelsea’s Under-18s staged the latest in an impressive series of comebacks on Saturday morning to earn a point against Tottenham Hotspur.
The Blues found themselves two goals down at the break and whilst they weren’t quite able to finish the turnaround, second half strikes by Lewis Baker and Ismail Seremba saw them take a deserved share of the spoils.
Some regular faces from the youth cup run were absent ahead of Monday’s reserve clash with Arsenal, meaning starts for Mitchell Beeney, Archange Nkumu, Jordan Houghton and, for the first time since August, Walter Figueira.
Spurs had a mix of first and second year players but were full of zest, athleticism and enthusiasm and were tenacious from the off.
They opened the scoring shortly before a quarter of an hour’s play and did so in some style.
Slack Chelsea awareness and a lack of pressing allowed the visitors the ability to play their way out from a goal kick and half a dozen passes and seconds later, Jack Munns converted Grant Ward’s cross for 1-0.
Ward was proving to be an excellent outlet on the right whilst captain Munns was buzzing around, having an influence in everything good Tottenham were producing.
Chelsea offered little in response and struggled to play their way out of their own half. Midway through the first period of play, the visitors doubled their lead
It was a case of poor defending by the hosts, who failed to clear a cross properly. Spurs kept the pressure on, and although Bangura blocked Ward’s shot, Ruben Lameiras was on hand to steer the ball past Beeney.
Incisive finishing was the order of the day, early on at least as neither Beeney nor opposite number Billy Granger had a save of note to make in the first half.
The only thing Granger had to deal with was a deflected John Swift strike, although he was beaten by Figueira’s off -target shot with the Blues frontman clear on goal.
Chelsea needed to change something and duly did at the break, replacing Amin Affane and Alex Davey with Seremba and Alex Kiwomya.
The move offered more up front, with three recognised forwards now in the game, and merely by asking Tottenham the question of how they were to deal with them, the momentum shifted.
Spurs lost forwards Coulthirst and McQueen to injury and as they struggled to get forward, Chelsea seized the initiative. Under Viveash’s audible encouragement they pressed and worked hard for the cause, and began to see results.
They got a foothold in the game when Tom Howard won a free kick on the edge of the box and Baker scored from it; with his supposedly weaker left foot no less. At 1-2, and in the manner of so many recent games, there was only one way this affair was going.
Figueira was replaced after a good hour by Anjur Osmanovic and the Swede immediately made his presence felt, winning the ball back high up the pitch and using his fresh legs to full advantage.
He would’ve had a goal to go with it were it not for his finishing as he skied a glorious chance over the crossbar after Baker had forced a good save from Granger.
Baker was the driving force, taking control of the game whilst Swift sat and held. It was a mark of their involvement and commitment that they both picked up bookings in their efforts to recover possession.
Baker was involved in the equalising goal, taking a pass from Osmanovic and shooting only to once again be denied by Granger. However, he stayed alert and flicked the loose ball towards Seremba, who opened his body and placed his shot into the far corner.
Kiwomya tried his luck from distance as Chelsea sought to complete the comeback but a last hurrah from Spurs threatened to ruin the day.
Beeney made a good save from Lameiras whilst excellent defending by schoolboy Houghton kept Munns at bay.
Each side deserved the point they got but such was the respective dominance in either half, both will walk away feeling they had a chance of taking all three. For Chelsea, it’s another indication of the spirit and belief in the camp as the FA Youth Cup Semi Final approaches.
Chelsea: Beeney, Nortey, Nkumu (c), Davey (Seremba 45), Bangura, Houghton, Baker, Swift, Howard, Affane (Kiwomya 45), Figueira (Osmanovic 60)
Goals: Baker, Seremba (CFC); Munns, Lameiras (THFC)
Booked: Baker, Swift (CFC)