Chelsea extended their lead at the top of the Under-18 Premier League’s South table with a 2-1 victory over second-placed Leicester City in the last home league match of 2014 on Saturday.
Goals in either half from Isaac Christie-Davies and Charly Musonda ensured three points for Joe Edwards’ boys despite a Leicester effort from Brandon Fox and a fractious end to the match caused almost entirely by one of the poorest officiating displays likely to be seen all weekend.
Edwards retained many of those who started in Tuesday’s FA Youth League win at Leeds, including the entire back five. Brad Collins’ suspension for a dismissal at Elland Road doesn’t kick in for another four days and so he started behind Ola Aina, Fikayo Tomori, Jake Clarke-Salter and Jay Dasilva.
Changes were made in midfield, where Ruben Sammut started after contributing so well from the bench in midweek. He joined Kyle Scott and Musonda, whilst Christie-Davies and Kasey Palmer were drafted in to flank Tammy Abraham in attack.
The frosty and chilly overnight conditions had left plenty of moisture on the plating surface even by the Noon kickoff and so the opening stages were largely fraught with loose touches and footing. Both teams took a fair while to get comfortable with proceedings and scarce few chances were created inside the opening twenty minutes.
Those that did arrive, however, were of a decent quality. Keenan King had the first of them for the visitors, snatching at an effort from the right and dragging it across the face of goal. Chelsea’s leading scorer Abraham then responded in kind with a ferocious effort that cleared the crossbar by a few good feet.
Not to be outdone, Fox related the trick at the other end with Collins watching the ball to safety, whilst Musonda then took too long when well placed and allowed his eventual shot to be blocked. He at least wouldn’t have long to rue the moment though, as Christie-Davies seized a 1-0 lead midway through the half when latching onto a fine through ball and showing the presence of mind to loft it over the advancing Max Smith-Varnham in the away goal.
Each team had chances to add to the score before the break, with Collins finally asked to make a save to beat away Matty Miles’ low curler and Abraham again off target with a header following Aina’s inviting cross.
Chelsea finished the opening forty-five the better though, with Abraham hitting the outside of the post and Palmer shooting straight at Smith-Varnham before the first major moment of controversy. The Blues had already had a penalty appeal fall on deaf ears for an alleged handball against Darnell Johnson before a stoppage-time corner caused an almighty scramble.
During the commotion, Chelsea were adamant they had been denied a goal by a Leicester hand on the goalline. Despite vociferous complaints (which earned Scott a booking) and visual evidence that eventually would vindicate their claims, the officials remained unmoved, with the refereeater appearing to tell Abraham he simply couldn’t see it.
Perhaps still frustrated by the decision, Chelsea began the second half very well and were soon two goals to the good. Aina had appeared to have put too much on his lob to the far post but Dasilva rescued it with a perfect touch to kill it out of the sky and lay it back for Musonda, who stabbed home to make it 2-0.
It should have killed the match as a contest but, as they have been prone to in recent weeks, the young Blues let their opponents back into the contest. Leicester patiently built a slick move around the Chelsea box and Johnson’s square ball was gleefully lashed in on the far side by Fox to reduce the arrears.
That’s when things started to turn ridiculous. An extremely pernickety referee began to issue a series of curious decisions and handed out yellow cards to anyone who dared question his authority. Clarke-Salter, Dasilva and Musonda joined Scott in the box for Chelsea whilst Chilwell, Choudhury and Moore appeared to suffer the same fate for the visitors, although it was often hard to tell as the card was brandished in a general direction to the bafflement of both squads.
Palmer tried his best to extend the lead again but found Smith-Varnham in good form, as did Tomori on a rare excursion forward from centre-back. The Foxes meanwhile poured forwards and almost grabbed a point when Danny Rowe flicked a header goalwards only to see Collins swat it away. The ball came back to the Leicester forward but he clipped his effort over the bar from close range.
Some seven minutes of injury time were conjured up to end a half with no serious injuries and just two substitutions and players from both teams seemed genuinely uncertain as to what was happening but Chelsea would eventually see things out 2-1 victors. They will now look to finish the year on a high with a trip to West Ham next weekend.
Chelsea: Collins, Aina, Tomori, Clarke-Salter (c), Dasilva, Sammut, Scott, Musonda, Christie-Davies, Palmer, Abraham
Subs not Used: Wakefield, Thompson, Muheim, Suljic, Bolkiah
Leicester City: Smith-Varnham, Johnson (Knight), Chilwell (c), Choudhury, Moore, Kipre, Bailey, Miles, King, Rowe, Fox (Ndukwu)
Subs not Used: Bramley, Barnes, Dusabe