Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the Barclays Under-21 Premier League campaign came to an unfortunate end on Monday evening as they were defeated 1-0 by Tottenham Hotspur at Stevenage’s Lamex Stadium.
The Blues never really got up to speed and at times looked a shadow of their better selves and were ultimately made to pay for a below-par outing when Emmanuel Sonupe slammed in a last-gasp winner for Ugo Ehiogu’s side, who can rightly claim they deserved the victory.
You can view Dan Davies’ always excellent match gallery HERE.
With Jose Mourinho’s first team in action at Shrewsbury on Tuesday, all eyes were on Adi Viveash’s squad selection with opportunities for some of the club’s younger generation eager to make the step up in the League Cup. Izzy Brown joined Andreas Christensen, Lewis Baker and Nathan Aké on the coach north but Dominic Solanke remained at home and lined up at the top of what was a very strong and familiar-looking Under-21 team.
Mitchell Beeney extended his ever-present run in goal behind Todd Kane, Alex Davey, Ola Aina and Fankaty Dabo in defence. Jordan Houghton captained the team alongside Ruben Loftus-Cheek in midfield with Charly Musonda, Jeremie Boga and Alex Kiwomya lined up behind Solanke. On the bench there was a first involvement at this level for both Jake Clarke-Salter and Kyle Scott, both first year scholars who have impressed for youth team coach Joe Edwards this season.
Solanke had a sight of goal inside a minute following a superb long ball in behind by Aina but Tottenham responded well and leading goalscorer Cristian Ceballos thumped a long-range effort straight at Beeney to set his sights nice and early. Both teams played with tenacity, a high tempo and intense pressing up the pitch; a sign of the modern footballing education they receive as elite youngsters in English football and they duly demonstrated a high standard of play.
Beeney was the busier goalkeeper in the first half and did really well to get down low to his right to keep out Joshua Onomah’s low effort midway through the first half. Tottenham went on to earn five successive corners from which Onomah went close again but Beeney’s commanding punch clear saw the end of a concerted spell of pressure from the hosts and allowed Chelsea to come out of their shells just a little more.
Viveash’s youngsters needed a bit of a spark and their best moment of the opening forty-five minutes came courtesy of Dabo. A thundering challenge on Alexander McQueen turned over possession in Tottenham territory and having galloped up from left-back, he stayed forward to eventually lash a stunning volley towards goal. Luke McGee showed impressive agility to turn it away for a corner.
He made somewhat simpler saves from Davey and then Solanke closer to the break but Ceballos had the last word with another dig from some way out that skidded low into Beeney’s grasp at the near post.
Charlie Colkett’s arrival in place of skipper Houghton at the break signalled the visitors’ intent to try to the control of the game more and they were definitely more lively from the resumption of play. Musonda strode forwards imperiously and unleashed a strike off his weaker left side that rose dangerously but ultimately just too much as it cleared the crossbar with McGee beaten.
Clear-cut chances were few and far between but with new captain Aina down injured, Tottenham took advantage and worked the ball out to Will Miller in space on the left, but Kane made a timely intervention to block his goal-bound shot. The former child actor – he played the lead role in Oliver Twist – then had another sight of goal but wanted more time than Beeney was prepared to allow.
Harry Winks dragged an effort disappointingly wide before Viveash switched things up again, introducing Kasey Palmer for the disappointingly and unusually quiet Boga with twenty minutes remaining.
He wouldn’t have expected Aina to pop up with the game’s best chance – and it was by some margin – especially as a centre forward but after a powerful run through the middle it was the young defender who latched onto Musonda’s slide-rule pass and found himself bearing down on McGee. The home stopper stayed big and did well to get a hand to the attempted flighted finish to keep things stalemated.
Three Spurs changes interrupted the flow of perhaps their best spell of the game and Chelsea duly had a good moment with 82 minutes on the clock. Kiwomya’s effort through a crowd came off McQueen’s leg and deflected towards the bottom corner at the near post but, once again, McGee was equal to the challenge and palmed it away to safety.
With a minute left on the clock, the points were claimed by the home team. Akindayini picked up the ball on the left and as his cross deflected off Davey it fell kindly to Sonupe, who settled himself before dispatching the ball high into the roof of the net. On the balance of play it was just about deserved but at the same time a disappointing way for an honest Chelsea performance to end.
The Under-21s are next in league action on Sunday November 9th at home to Manchester United in a fixture to be held at Stamford Bridge. Tickets, priced at £5 for adults and £3 concessions, are available via ChelseaFC.com now.
Tottenham Hotspur: McGee, McQueen, Ogilvie (Walker-Peters 73), Lesniak (c), Ball, Carter-Vickers, Sonupe, Winks, Ceballos (Akindayini 80), Onomah (Lameiras 73), Miller
Subs not Used: Miles
Chelsea: Beeney, Kane, Davey, Aina, Dabo, Houghton (c) (Colkett 45), Musonda, Loftus-Cheek, Solanke, Boga (Palmer 69), Kiwomya (Scott 90)
Subs not Used: Granger, Clarke-Salter