Chelsea’s Under 18s suffered just a second defeat of the season on Saturday as they went down 3-2 away to Tottenham Hotspur in a hard-fought London derby.
A somewhat depleted young Blues squad started poorly and found themselves two goals behind as Will Miller and Daniel Akindayini netted for the hosts. They worked their way back into contention though and a strike from Chike Kandi gave them hope, but Spurs grabbed a third midway through the second half through Anthony Georgiou, and although Tammy Abraham reduced the arrears again, Chelsea weren’t able to salvage the result.
Without the services of their two leading solders in Dominic Solanke (away on international duty) and Ambrose Gnahore (playing for the Under-21s), Adi Viveash was forced into some changes from the team which has been in such good recent form. Schoolboy Jordan Beeney made a first appearance at this level in goal, deputising for Brad Collins and Ben Killip, who were away with Dermot Drummy’s Under-21s due to Mitchell Beeney – Jordan’s older brother – deputising for the injured Jamal Blackman on first team duty.
He did have an experienced back four ahead of him as Ola Aina, George Brady, Dion Conroy and Jonathan Muleba all continued in the starting eleven. Kasey Palmer anchored the midfield alongside another schoolboy in Ruben Sammut, whilst Jeremie Boga continued his return from injury, playing in between Reece Mitchell and George Cole and in behind forward Kandi.
Tottenham too were without some junior international players but had won a formidable seven of eight games going into this contest and were on the front foot from the first minute. With a strong and imposing central core, they were able to control the game and bring some of their trickier but smaller playmakers into things early and often.
Chelsea looked considerably below par and that combined with a confident and focused home team saw a procession of white-shirted traffic during the first half hour of play. A deserved opening goal arrived with a quarter of an hour played, although it did so on slightly contentious circumstances. Aina appeared to have been fouled on a foray forward, but play was allowed to continue with him out of position and prone on the turf. Tottenham exploited the space at the back and put a move together which was finished by England Under-18 midfielder Will Miller.
The closest the Blues came in response was a deflected Cole effort which Luke McGee snaffled easily, but it was a rare save for the home goalie as his outfield teammates began to express themselves in style. Cy Goddard linked things well through the middle and with Akindayini and Emmanuel Sonupe proving themselves to be a handful in attack, a second goal seemed inevitable.
It duly arrived midway through the first half, but it was particularly disappointing for Chelsea as it was put on a plate. Brady lost possession at the back with a loose pass having received a short goal kick from Beeney, and Akindayini had time and space to pick his finish, though it owed much to a deflection off Conroy, who made an attempt at rescuing the situation.
Finding themselves 2-0 behind, the remaining fifteen first half minutes had to provoke a response in Viveash’s boys, and it did just that. Kandi finally put a shot on target whilst Palmer did considerably more to work McGee minutes later, and then they got themselves back into things just before the break. A patient build up saw Muleba get into an advanced area down the left, and whilst Boga couldn’t convert his cross, Kandi was on hand to turn home to make it 2-1 at the break.
In a bid to add more to his attacking options, Viveash introduced Abraham at the break. The Under-16 forward may still be rather raw and learning his craft, but he possesses rare size and athleticism and immediately made life harder for full back Kyle Walker-Peters and central defenders Cameron Carter-Vickers and Christian Maghoma.
The first half of the second period was Chelsea’s best spell of the game and they enjoyed a huge territorial advantage as they pressed for an equaliser. Palmer tried his luck with a sensational long range try which landed just inches wide, then Cole burst through and into the penalty area only to find McGee in good form again.
With Boga, quiet for the most part, affecting the game more and more it seemed for all the world as if the next goal would go to the boys in blue, but they were hit with a sucker punch as Georgiou rolled a low shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the penalty area to make it 3-1 and restore a two-goal lead.
It didn’t last long, however. In a reversal of first half fortunes, Chelsea played on with Tottenham defender Connor Ogilvie down and hurt, allowing Abraham to stay inside and beat the advancing McGee with a smart lob to once more make it a one-goal game.
Fresh legs entered on both sides – Pritchard, Oduwa and Harrison for the home team; Jay Da Silva and the returning Charlie Colkett for Chelsea – as the match entered a tense and frenetic last fifteen minutes. Aina saw a shot deflect just wide of the target, Boga slipped on the wet turf just as he was about to shoot, and Da Silva had a curling try blocked by Ogilvie as the Blues queued up to find an equaliser.
Tottenham defended stoutly for the most part, and crucially had the long, powerful legs of Akindayini and Oduwa to play out to and relieve the pressure. Georgiou should have made the points safe before he was subbed but was denied by a world class stop by Beeney, but the best chance to seal the win fell to substitute Oduwa. He was fouled in the box by Muleba and was awarded a penalty two minutes from time, but in this topsy-turvy contest contrived to put the spot kick wide, setting up a grandstand finish.
It so nearly came to pass; Aina arriving to meet Da Silva’s fizzing cross from the left, but under heavy attention from a defender was just unable to keep his volley down, and so Tottenham took the spoils. Chelsea will hope to bounce back first in midfield away to Schalke in UEFA Youth League action before they head to Stoke next Saturday.
Tottenham: McGee, Walker-Peters, Ogilvie, Walkes, Carter-Vickers, Maghoma, Sonupe (Oduwa), Goddard (Pritchard), Akindayini, Miller, Georgiou (Harrison)
Subs not Used: Vincent-Young, Whiteman
Chelsea: J.Beeney, Aina, Brady, Conroy, Muleba, Palmer, Sammut (Colkett), Boga, Cole (Da Silva), Kandi, Mitchell (Abraham)
Subs not Used: Thompson, Scott
Goals: Miller, Akindayini, Georgiou (Tottenham); Kandi, Abraham (Chelsea)
Booked: Ogilvie (Tottenham), Palmer (Chelsea)