Chelsea’s Development Squad returned to action on Friday night but endured a frustrating time of it as they were held to a goalless draw at home to bottom of the table Leicester City at Aldershot’s EBB Stadium.
The Blues were well on top for the majority of the match, and struck the woodwork in a dominant first half, but they looked short of match sharpness the longer the game went on and were forced to share the spoils as their run of matches without a win extended to four.
With the international break providing the group with three full weeks to dwell on three consecutive 2-1 defeats – if not the time to work together as a group – the young Blues will have wanted to right a few wrongs against a Leicester side struggling themselves. Adi Viveash was without the services of Josimar Quintero due to international duty but was able to recall Fankaty Dabo after an injury lay-off and also opted to utilise Trevoh Chalobah in a central midfield position for the first time this season.
Leicester, as they have done all season, included the experience of defender Yohan Benalouane and Polish international midfielder Bartosz Kapustka, but with just two points from six matches and a midweek defeat to Wolfsburg in the Premier League International Cup fresh in the mind, they exercised plenty of caution in their approach and defended both deep and in heavy numbers for much of the match.
The challenge was therefore set for Chelsea to break them down, and they tried manfully in a dominant first half which saw a handful of good chances come and go without reward. Plenty of early gains were made down the right wing through the lively Dabo and Dujon Sterling, whilst Mason Mount was at the heart of everything good in the number ten role. His early free kick was easily saved by Daniel Iversen in the Foxes’ goal, with the Norwegian then displaying those same safe hands to hold onto Iké Ugbo’s turn and shot shortly afterwards.
Sterling nudged one wide of the post as he stretched to connect with Dabo’s excellent cross before Ugbo then hit the foot of the post with an accurate low strike from 25 yards out which deserved better after good approach play by the enthusiastic Mount. Ugbo then looked to return the favour to Mount but, off balance, he was unable to find the target with his try.
Leicester threatened sporadically, usually from careless Chelsea defending, but a long ball over the top just before half time threatened to release Kairo Mitchell clear on goal. The big number nine, however, hesitated long enough to allow Brad Collins to clear his lines; it was Collins’ first appearance since suffering a family bereavement earlier this month and Chelsea donned black armbands in support of him and his family appropriately upon his return to the team.
For all their control, the home team grew sloppy in their approach and struggled to assert themselves in quite the same manner as they had earlier in the game. Mount’s smart flick to find Ugbo inside the area shortly after the restart looked to have unlocked the door but the forward held onto the ball too long to be able to get a shot away, eventually handing over to Sterling, who fired high and wide from twelve yards out.
With clear goalscoring opportunities at such a premium for the visitors, Mitchell was then infuriated as team-mate Barnes took the ball off his toe in a prime shooting position, and slammed his effort over the crossbar for good measure. Nevertheless, it was as close as either side had come for some time, with Chelsea reduced to hopeful forays down either flank without being able to work their way into the middle.
Scott and Dasilva were both well off target with long-range efforts whilst Leicester midfielder Lamine Sherriff was sent off for collecting a pair of yellow cards in quick succession, the second for kicking the ball away after captain Benalouane had fouled Jacob Maddox. Ten minutes with a man advantage allowed Chelsea a significant territorial advantage in the closing stages but the closest they were able to come was when substitute Fikayo Tomori slammed a volley high over the bar from three yards out, and so the points were shared.
The Blues go again this Tuesday evening as they return to Checkatrade Trophy action away to Exeter City in a match you can see live on Chelsea TV. Their next league outing comes six days after that as they host Derby County back at Aldershot.
Chelsea: Collins, Dabo (c), Colley, Tomori, J.Dasilva, T.Chalobah, Sterling, Scott, Ugbo, Mount (St Clair 77), Maddox
Subs not Used: Wakefield, Cumming, Sammut, Ali
Leicester City: Iversen, Johnson, Debayo (Pascanu 56), Sherriff, Benalouane (c), Moore, Barnes, Kapustka, Mitchell, Ndukwu (Uche 61), Rowe (Miles 81)
Subs not Used: Bramley, Domej
Booked: Barnes, Moore, Sherriff
Sent Off: Sherriff