Friday morning saw the Chelsea Under-18 side back in pre-season action, as the first of their two visitors in two days to Cobham arrived in the form of London rivals Arsenal.
Adi Viveash once again used the bulk of his squad as the focus remained on the players’ fitness at this early stage of pre-season. In a closely-fought and entertaining contest at Cobham the Blues went down 3-2, both Chelsea goals coming from Colombian 16-year-old Joao Rodriguez, who was a threat throughout playing in behind the central striker. The visitors’ goals were shared between Alex Iwobi, Austin Lipman and Alfred Mugabo.
Rodriguez pounced midway through the first half after Chike Kandi’s effort was parried by Josh Vickers, though Arsenal hit back almost immediately with a super strike from Iwobi that flew past Ben Killip into the top corner. Rodriguez continued to cause problems for the Arsenal defence and almost netted a wonder goal, carrying the ball from halfway and beating two or three defenders before a good save by Vickers.
Walter Figueira, who replaced Kandi after the latter took a knock, wasted a glorious chance moments after coming on, dragging a one-on-one effort wide, before Rodriguez got his, and Chelsea’s second, wriggling past defenders before slotting tidily home.
The second half brought a procession of gradual changes as Viveash used the squad at his disposal to the fullest extent. Only Ben Killip, the goalkeeper, played the full 90 minutes for the hosts. However, Arsenal were to turn the game on its head after the interval, perhaps aided by making fewer wholesale changes of their own.
Lipman grabbed a deserved goal after a clever assist from Jack Jebb before a similar finish from Mugabo completed the comeback for Steve Gatting’s side.
Tomorrow sees the second part of this double-header for the youngsters, who face Bristol City at Cobham, before flying out to Asia to take in matches in Malaysia and Thailand.
Chelsea: Ben Killip; Kevin Wright (Sam Bangura), Dion Conroy (Nortei Nortey), Ali Gordon (Fankaty Dabo), Jonathan Muleba (Charly Musonda); Jordan Houghton (Jesse Starkey) , George Cole (Isak Ssewankambo), Joao Rodriguez (Jeremie Boga); Reece Mitchell (Tom Howard), Ambrose Gnahore (Connor Hunte), Chike Kandi (Walter Figueira)