Chelsea’s Under-21s remain unbeaten in 2014-15 but drew their second successive league fixture – both having held leads – on Saturday as they were held to a 2-2 scoreline at home to Fulham at Aldershot.
Izzy Brown’s early strike gave way to an impressive display for the most part, but despite Jordan Houghton doubling the lead before the hour mark the young Chelsea side hadn’t done quite enough to deserve the victory and two Thomas Eisfeld goals proved enough for the Whites to take a point home with them.
View Dan Davies’ always excellent match gallery HERE.
Coach Adi Viveash had a healthy selection available to him, although he was deprived of the services of captain Nathan Aké, vice-captain Lewis Baker and forward Dominic Solanke as each were required to be involved with Jose Mourinho’s first team squad at Crystal Palace later in the afternoon. It was still a familiar and strong-looking team however, with Mitchell Beeney in goal and a back four of Todd Kane, Alex Davey, Andreas Christensen and Jay Dasilva, who replaced Fankaty Dabo after the warm up.
Houghton wore the captain’s armband in midfield alongside fellow England youth international Ruben Loftus-Cheek and further forward Viveash once again went for three playmakers as Charly Musonda, Charlie Colkett and Jeremie Boga lined up behind Brown.
Fulham’s team featured seven players with significant senior professional experience but were no match for their youthful hosts in a first half in which they were blown away in all aspects apart from on the scoresheet.
Brown opened the scoring inside three minutes but the goal owed much to Loftus-Cheek’s excellent. The powerful midfielder had enjoyed a productive spell away with his country’s Under-19 team over the last fortnight, scoring three goals. He carried that form into his return to club football ; thunder a tremendous effort off the crossbar and, with Fulham’s Slovakian goalkeeper Marek Rodak scrambling to recover, Brown coolly nodded home.
It was enough to settle Viveash’s boys down and allow them to play with the confidence given by a lead and the football quickly began to flow. Playing three narrow playmakers encouraged both full-backs to gallop forward in support and Kane was often enterprising in his advances on the right, delivering a succession of crosses that threatened the Fulham goal.
Boga was typically lively and whilst Colkett and Musonda did some impressive work off the ball, the Frenchman glided past white shirts time and again but found Rodak in his way three times before the break. For all their dominance and territorial advantage though, a second goal wasn’t forthcoming and some of their play in the final third lacked that sharpness and precision that would perhaps have come with more regular game time in a month that had sorely lacked it.
Fulham showed what they were capable of closer to half time and should really have been level when a corner wasn’t cleared and allowed Italian Under-21 forward Marcello Trotta a clear sight of goal from less than six yards out. Davey’s pressure proved to be enough though as the big Fulham striker sliced his effort wide with his weaker right foot.
Fulham replaced Cauley Woodrow with midfielder Solomon Sambou ahead of the second half in an adjustment of shape but it made little difference. Chelsea doubled their lead after 53 minutes and it came as the result of a catastrophic error on the part of the otherwise generally reliable Rodak. Dasilva crossed from the left with little by way of alternatives but the Fulham stopper made a real hash of the delivery, spilling the ball into the path of Jordan Houghton, who had made a late dash into the box and was rewarded with a rather easy tap-in.
That should’ve been that but Fulham immediately made a game of it again by reducing their arrears. A rare break with pace and promise saw an inviting cross from the right and a chance for Ange-Freddy Plumain. Beeney did well to deny him but former Arsenal midfielder Eisfeld reacted first and beat the blue shirts on the line to make it 2-1.
Fresh Chelsea legs followed with Musonda and Colkett replaced by Kasey Palmer and Alex Kiwomya and the latter’s arrival woke the game up from a momentary slumber. Loftus-Cheek slipped a pass inside for the pacy wideman to latch onto but his near-post effort was kicked away by Rodak and Brown was denied the opportunity of a second from the loose ball by a brave Buatu block.
Boga continued in his own personal hunt for a goal and unleashed a fearsome effort on a ball that sat up perfectly for him. Rodak was rooted to the spot and could only watch as it flew inches wide of the far post and although the Blues had enjoyed the better of the game throughout, there was a sense that they hadn’t quite done enough to wrap up all three points.
That materialised into a Fulham equaliser eight minutes from time as Loftus-Cheek couldn’t quite clear a cross far enough and allowed Eisfeld to connect with a superbly-executed volley from 25 yards out that bounced beyond the reach of Beeney and into the bottom corner.
Neither side took too many risks in the closing ten minutes with Chelsea tiring and Fulham exceptionally glad to have rescued a result from a difficult position. Many of Viveash’s players will now turn their attentions to Tuesday, when they host Maribor in the UEFA Youth League at Cobham.
Chelsea: Beeney, Kane, Davey, Christensen, Dasilva, Houghton (c), Loftus-Cheek, Musonda (Kiwomya 69), Colkett (Palmer 63), Boga, Brown (Aina 83)
Sub not Used: Granger
Goals: Brown, Houghton
Booked: Loftus-Cheek, Palmer
Fulham: Rodak, Passley, Evans, Buatu, Arthurworrey, Fotheringham, Eisfeld, Della Verde, Woodrow (Sambou 45), Plumain, Trotta
Subs not Used: Barnes, Baba, Smile
Goals: Eisfeld 2