Chelsea’s first under-18 match of 2012 ended in stoppage time heartbreak as they went down 3-2 to West Ham United.
Twice the Blues had gone behind in the first half but goals from Amin Affane and Nathan Ake restored parity. Unfortunately, a stoppage time indirect free-kick from Jack Powell saw all three points go back to East London.
With Wednesday’s FA Youth Cup tie away to Norwich very much in mind, Adie Viveash picked a strong team featuring both Todd Kane and Daniel Pappoe, who returned from injury
Nathaniel Chalobah’s first-team commitments held him out but Jamal Blackman kept goal whilst Lucas Piazon joined Affane and Islam Feruz in attack.
The hosts enjoyed the lion’s share of the early going and rarely allowed the visitors a sniff of possession. Feruz had the first attempt at goal but saw his effort flash over the bar.
Instead, West Ham took a 12th minute lead with their first foray into Chelsea territory. Blair Turgott was allowed to come inside Adam Nditi and advanced to the edge of the area before burying a left-footed effort into the bottom corner.
The response was swift however, with parity restored within ten minutes. It came from the ever-dangerous left foot of Affane.
Having won a free kick to the right of the box, the diminutive Swede stepped up and executed a perfect set piece into Wootton’s top corner.
However, Chelsea then once again relinquished their possession as West Ham proved ruthlessly efficient in scoring their only two shots of the half.
Nditi was dispossessed inside his own penalty area by Pelly Ruddock, and with blue shirts caught out by the unexpected error, Taylor Miles was able to advance and tap in Ruddock’s pass.
A breathless half then took yet another twist with a fourth goal. A poorly cleared corner found its way to Affane, who curled a right-footed ball towards the far post, where defender Ake flicked home.
There was a brief moment of controversy as the linesman raised his flag only to then pull it back down. The referee conferred and decided the goal stood, 2-2.
Feruz and Baker both went close before half time but both sides retired to the changing rooms to catch their breath after an all-action first half all square.
Pappoe and Piazon were withdrawn at the break with Wednesday in mind, allowing Alex Kiwomya and Anjur Osmanovic to enter the fray. Archange Nkumu moved to centre-back in a reshuffle, and Kane donned the captain’s armband.
Perhaps influenced by the wide open first 45 minutes, both teams adopted a more measured approach after the restart. Osmanovic was lively but the first effort at goal came from Powell in a claret shirt, sending a free-kick fizzing past Blackman’s post.
Top goalscorer Feruz had been quiet but began to come alive around the hour mark and was presented with a gilt-edged chance from a corner, but headed wide with nobody close to him.
Powell’s set pieces kept Blackman busy at the other end for a while but the visitors began to exert some authority over the game as it wore into the closing stages. Dominic Vose found himself clear on goal but some impressive last ditch defending ensured the shot was blocked.
Having seen off what they thought was West Ham’s best spell, Chelsea looked to win the game themselves. Ali Gordon replaced the tired Affane and allowed Kane to push on, and it so nearly paid dividends.
Spurred on by the dynamic pairing of Swift and Baker, and the tenacious Feruz, the home team went in search of a winner and were denied by the fingertips of Wootten as he somehow kept out Kane’s effort as the captain latched onto Baker’s through ball.
Such are fine margins in football though, and after Kane had dragged another fine opening wide, West Ham stole the point deep into stoppage time.
A long ball caused uncertainty in the Chelsea ranks as sub Paul McCallum chased it down. A blue shirt played the slightest backpass to the advancing Blackman, who had committed to smothering a ball he could now not handle.
An indirect free kick was awarded and Powell somehow found a space in a crowded goalmouth to score the fifth and final goal of the day.
Despite the defeat Chelsea can be happy with how they played, and once a handful of defensive errors are worked on, they look in good shape heading to Norwich in midweek.
Team: Blackman, Kane, Pappoe (c) (Osmanovic 45), Nditi, Nkumu, Swift, Baker, Affane (Gordon 80), Piazon (Kiwomya 45), Feruz
Subs not Used: Killip, Davey
Goals: Affane ’22, Ake ’32