With the first team toiling away at Everton, Chelsea’s Under-18s were embroiled in their own tricky lunchtime fixture away from home in the form of a trip to Leicester.
Like the young Blues, the Foxes have started the season well and were twice ahead in this topsy-turvy encounter courtesy of goals from Harvey Barnes and Admiral Muskwe. This, however, is a Chelsea side that does not lose easily and after Miro Muheim and Trevoh Chalobah had each grabbed equalisers, Harvey St Clair struck late on to secure a 3-2 victory.
Their impressive opening to the campaign has been largely built on a solid defence, having conceded just three goals – two of which were astounding long-range effort – in their first four matches, but it was a slow start following their morning trip to the East Midlands and Leicester were ahead inside five minutes, Barnes heading over goalkeeper Nathan Baxter from a poorly-defended corner.
It would prove deserved too as the hosts played much better in the opening exchanges. They were a little open at the back though and Charlie Wakefield should have equalised when he raced onto Miro Muheim’s through ball only to be denied by Max Bramley.
Not to be deterred, Muheim took matters into his own hands and, with the confidence of a brace last time out against Southampton in him, he duly did bring matters level at 1-1 with a tumbling left-footed strike across Bramley and into the far corner.
And still it might have been better for him. A swiftly executed one-two with Wakefield allowed him an unobstructed view of goal, one he passed up with a misplaced finish wide of the target. It would prove all the more frustrating when Muskwe showed him how to do it, latching onto a pass in between Josh Grant and Joseph Colley and poking past the outrushing Baxter to restore the Leicester lead.
They retained it until the half time whistle and were good value for it too, although Muheim once again went close when striking the foot of the post from near-enough the same spot he had converted from earlier.
Coach Joe Edwards made a double change at the break, adding the experience of Fikayo Tomori to his defence at the expense of Ali Suljic, and introducing the powerful Dujon Sterling in an unfamiliar attacking role with Wakefield making way.
Slowly but surely it would have a game changing effect, but not before Baxter got down to make a save of huge importance in clawing away Toby Fura’s shot. The young stopper was then beaten by Barnes, who must have been certain he was en route to his second of the day only for Tomori to intervene with a a goalline clearance.
The home team began to visibly fade and that gave Chelsea the impetus they needed to push on. Driven by the always impressive Isaac Christie-Davies in the middle of the pitch, and the physical superiority of Sterling on the right, they began to control affairs. Chalobah duly made it 2-2 with an emphatic close-range finish after Grant had crossed back into the middle following a corner, and Muheim then had the ball in the net again only to be correctly denied by an offside flag.
If there was going to be a winner – and Leicester will certainly feel they deserved a share of the spoils – it was going to be Chelsea at this stage and so it proved in the game’s closing stages. Muheim won possession back on midfield and high-tailed it towards the edge of the area before handing over to St Clair, who steered beyond Bramley before wheeling away in celebration.
It ensured Edwards’ boys remain unbeaten so far this season, a record they will be looking to maintain next weekend away to West Ham. Before then, Adi Viveash’s Under-19 group begin their defence of the UEFA Youth League on Wednesday as they host Maccabi Tel-Aviv at Cobham, a match you can watch live on Chelsea TV.
Leicester: Bramley, Percival, Smith, Fura (sub TBC), Knight, Johnson (c), Arlott-John (Pascanu) , Dewsbury-Hall, Mitchell, Barnes, Muskwe
Goals: Barnes, Muskwe
Chelsea: Baxter, Grant (c), Colley, Suljic (Tomori 45), Chalobah, Sammut, Wakefield (Sterling 45), Christie-Davies, Muheim, Maddox, St Clair
Subs not Used: Thompson, Kemp, C. Dasilva
Goals: Muheim, Chalobah, St Clair