Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur met for the sixth time across three age groups in little more than a month on Monday but despite the previous meetings being filled with goals aplenty, two hard-working and well-drilled outfits were unable to break the deadlock in what amounted to a 0-0 draw at Staines Town’s Wheatsheaf Park.
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In front of a bumper Bank Holiday Monday crowd on the banks of the River Thames, coach Adi Viveash was able to field a fully English starting eleven with each player having represented the Three Lions at youth international level. Mitchell Beeney, Fankaty Dabo, Ola Aina, Jake Clarke-Salter and Jay Dasilva made up the defence, with Andreas Christensen absent through an injury which ruled him out of Denmark’s recent Under-21 fixtures.
Charlie Colkett and captain Jordan Houghton occupied the deeper midfield spots, allowing Ruben Loftus-Cheek to be released into a more advanced attacking role, where he would join in with the trio of Reece Mitchell, Izzy Brown and Dominic Solanke. There were also forward options aplenty amongst the substitutes with 33-goal Tammy Abraham joining Kasey Palmer, Charly Musonda and Jeremie Boga.
Tottenham’s squad was slightly compromised by a number of players being away on an Under-18 tournament in Italy but three of them returned for this fixture whilst the experienced hands of Filip Lesniak, Cristian Ceballos and US international DeAndre Yedlin – so impressive in the World Cup last summer – lended a more convincing look to Ugo Ehiogu’s team selection.
A late challenge inside thirty seconds saw Tottenham forward Daniel Akindayini booked and it was reflective of a problematic start by the visitors almost compounded by conceding what should have been a penalty. Alex McQueen’s clumsy collision with Solanke took place inside the box but the referee adjudged it to have been outside and so rather than step up for a shot from twelve yards, Colkett drove a free kick high and wide from eighteen.
Chelsea were by far the brighter of the two sides in the early exchanges and followed that with several promising moves, starting with an exchange between Brown and Solanke to set Loftus-Cheek away only for Yedlin to get in the way of his eventual shot. Solanke himself then stung the hands of goalkeeper Luke McGee whilst in between Akindayini had bobbled an effort towards Beeney which was held at the second time of asking.
Full-back Yedlin might well have caught the spotlight in Brazil last year but here, faced with the challenge of an in-form Mitchell, he was being kept extremely busy as the Blues funnelled plenty of action his way. The Chelsea man repeatedly got the better of his more seasoned foe but was unable to provide a clean chance for Brown; first sending over a cross which was just too tall before then cutting the ball back for the ex-West Brom forward to curl wide of the far post.
Mitchell himself then drew a save from McGee at the near post and, as the pressure was turned up, his cross towards Colkett at the near post promised much but ended disappointingly with a stooping header wide of the near post.
There was a worrying moment just before the half hour mark when Loftus-Cheek required medical treatment for a complaint associated with a head injury and despite passing initial assessments and continuing, he would eventually depart eight minutes before half time, with Boga on in his place.
Tottenham enjoyed a brighter spell late in the half with Akindayini working Beeney again before Aina was required to intercept Yedlin’s goal-bound follow-up, whilst Ceballos then whacked a fierce left-footed effort just over the crossbar. It was the home side though that finished the opening forty-five minutes the better with McGee beating away Brown’s 25-yarder and then making the best save of the game by sprinting out to smother Boga’s strike.
A more positive Tottenham emerged from the restart with Kenny McEvoy picking out Ceballos only for the Spaniard to see team-mate Will Miller get in the way of his effort, and although his next effort was straight at Beeney he almost opened the scoring as the Chelsea ‘stopper allowed the ball to squirm through his grasp only for the post to come to his rescue.
Beeney’s fundamentals were back in order in saving from Akindayini two minutes later but he was then helpless as Ceballos unleashed a spectacular 30-yarder that cleared the crossbar by a foot at most. Chelsea needed a spark to wrestle back the advantage they had held throughout the first half and Boga looked to provide it, turning his man with his body before drilling a shot low and wide of McGee’s right-hand post.
A searching ball from Aina out to the right found the surging run of Dabo and a cleverly hooked cross to the far post reached Mitchell, but McGee was more than equal to the shot once more. In an effort to maintain that renewed momentum, Viveash threw on the unquestionable talents of Musonda in place of Mitchell, to which Spurs responded by introducing Kyle Walker-Peters for Ceballos.
Brown’s header released Solanke, who hit a bobble as he struck a shot over the bar, and the duo then combined again with Solanke collecting a throw-in before teeing up a mis-timed volley for Brown. With time running out, the fading Solanke was replaced by Abraham to add freshness to the Chelsea attack in the final ten minutes of play.
In a rather disjoined and tired finale however, the impact was diminished and the two sides played out a 0-0 draw despite late sights of goal for both McQueen and McEvoy and then Brown and Abraham for Chelsea which saw McGee pull off a most outstanding double save. Houghton’s header from the ensuing corner was cleared to safety by Amos to prevent Chelsea from stealing it with what was effectively the final touch of the game and in truth it would have been harsh on Tottenham had they lost at the death.
In such a close Under-21 league and with a number of fixtures still remaining the result doesn’t impact either side too much but for Chelsea, attentions now turn to a trip to Switzerland for the culmination of the UEFA Youth League this weekend. The Blues face Roma in the Semi Finals on Friday afternoon before a potential Final against either Anderlecht or Shakhtar Donetsk on Monday.
Chelsea: Beeney, Dabo, Aina, Clarke-Salter, Dasilva, Colkett, Brown, Houghton (c), Solanke (Abraham 82), Loftus-Cheek (Boga 37), Mitchell (Musonda 66)
Subs not Used: Collins, Palmer
Booked: Dasilva, Aina
Tottenham Hotspur: McGee, Yedlin, McQueen, Amos, Lesniak, Carter-Vickers (c), McEvoy, Winks, Akindayini, Ceballos (Walker-Peters 69), Miller
Subs not Used: Miles, Loft, Ross
Booked: Akindayini, Winks, Amos