In returning to action after the recent international break, it was a weekend of struggles for Chelsea’s youth teams as both the Under-21s and Under-18s came away from trips to Wolverhampton without a win.
Adi Viveash’s Under-18s were the first to try their luck on Saturday morning as they sought to extend their six-game winning streak – the country’s only 100% record – in their first away fixture of the campaign. A quirk in their fixture list (although apparently one which was by design) meant that the Blues played all of their home games consecutively at Cobham before embarking on a tour of Group C opponents flung far and wide between now and late December.
The perfect record ended with a 2-2 draw in which they twice came from behind to at least remain unbeaten. Huge France Under-16 forward Ibrahim Keita twice put Wolves ahead in the first half, but a Jesse Starkey penalty won by Reece Mitchell initially had Viveash’s boys on terms, before Mitchell himself restored parity a second time with fifteen minutes left of the match, tucking away after Jeremie Boga’s shot had been saved.
It was a tough encounter against a team which has picked up some impressive results this season and are far more physically capable than many of the Chelsea players. The manner in which the goals were conceded – particularly the opener which came from a loose backpass – will be disappointing but Viveash will take plenty away from the game as he learns more about his players.
Wolves beat Man City 3-0 in their previous home game so they are strong on their own patch, and I’m pleased we found out a bit more about the boys. We now travel to City where we will be staying overnight, and that will be another different experience, but we did well today to show confidence and come from behind.’
On Monday night it was the turn of Dermot Drummy’s Under-21 side, who were looking to pick up their first win since the reverse fixture against the same opposition at Stamford Bridge, when they ran out 5-0 victors. Five more goals followed at Telford’s New Bucks Head ground, but Chelsea were edged out by the odd goal in a 3-2 game.
Andreas Christensen and Adam Nditi both started in a reshuffled back four with Alex Davey and Aziz Deen-Conteh dropped to the bench, whilst Islam Feruz replaced the injured Lucas Piazon. The Scottish forward has been in sparkling form of late, netting a hat-trick for his national Under-19 team before scoring away to Arsenal in friendly action last week, and he added his first two goals at this level with two exceptional finishes either side of half time.
Feruz played as the central striker for the first time this season too, with Patrick Bamford adopting a wider role than usual, something he did more late last season when Romelu Lukaku led the line. It paid dividends but, as has been the case so often lately, sloppy play in their own end contributed to Chelsea’s downfall as at least one goal was handed to the hosts on a plate. Liam McAlinden’s brace followed Sam Whittall’s opener to give Steve Weaver’s side the win.
Both squads have the coming weekend off as a scheduled ‘bye week’ as the odd team out in a seven-team group before returning to action in the first weekend of November, when both travel to Manchester City.