Chelsea’s Development Squad earned a deserved share of the spoils in their trip north to face title contenders Everton as Dujon Sterling’s early goal set them on their way to a 1-1 draw at the Merseyrail Community Stadium.
The Blues included both Marco van Ginkel and Kurt Zouma in their starting eleven – the Dutchman joining the French defender in mounting a returning from a long-term lay-off – and were ahead inside five minutes. Harry Charsley’s stylish equaliser brought parity for David Unsworth’s side just before half time and the second half petered out rather disappointingly, with neither side especially keen to force the issue further.
Adi Viveash made three changes from the team that started last week’s 2-2 draw at home to Derby, with Van Ginkel joining Zouma in getting meaningful playing time under his belt on his road back from injury. He replaced Kyle Scott, whilst Sterling and Mason Mount were drafted in ahead of Isaac Christie-Davies and Kyle Scott in a 3-5-2 formation in which Sterling joined top scorer Iké Ugbo in attack, with Mount just in behind them.
Against an experienced Everton side looking to go top of the table with a win, the two young attackers wasted little time in making their presence felt as they combined to give Chelsea the lead inside five minutes. Mount’s searching through ball found Sterling via the aid of a deflection, but the finish from the 17 year-old was unstoppable; a thunderous drive over the advancing Mateusz Hewelt in goal that kissed the crossbar on its way in.
The early signs were that the hardy souls braving the cold and misty Merseyside evening would be in for an entertaining match and so it proved as the first half swung from spells of concerted Everton pressure to Chelsea’s regular and potent threat on the counter attack. Kieran Dowell twice might have done better for the hosts in response to the opening goal, first curling over from the edge of the box and then rather hurriedly snatching at a shot when in on goal, perhaps not realising quite how much time he had.
Mount went close to doubling the advantage when he opened up and curled a shot from the edge of the area which clipped the post after being deflected past Hewelt, and there was a glimmer of a chance for captain Fankaty Dabo cutting in from the right flank, but his left-footed try lacked the necessary power.
Everton enjoyed the majority of the possession but found a number of committed black Chelsea shirts in their way, keeping Brad Collins from having very much of note to do, and Viveash’s charges looked handy when they broke free from their own territory too. Van Ginkel, cruising around the middle of the park, found Jay Dasilva in a pocket of space, but he was reluctant to take the shot on with his weaker right foot, instead laying off for Ugbo to test Hewelt instead.
They would be made to pay for wasting such a good moment too as the Toffees equalised three minutes before the break. It was a nicely-constructed move with a series of first-time passes eventually allowing Charsley to cut back onto his left foot and curl beyond both Collins and Zouma, who tried unsuccessfully to head off the line.
The two teams exchanged speculatively wayward efforts from distance in the opening gambits of the second half before a collision between Charsley and team-mate Liam Walsh allowed Ugbo to collect possession and assess his options. After almost running into Sterling himself, he drilled a low and hard effort which required Hewelt to get down well before pushing the rebound away from Sterling.
Walsh suffered an ankle injury in that blue-on-blue collision and was forced off through injury, soon to be followed by Zouma and Van Ginkel, who were replaced by Joseph Colley and Josimar Quintero an hour closer to a first-team comeback. Neither side, however, was able to get a firm grip on proceedings as the contest degenerated into a scrappy, mistake-riddled affair without any quality in the final third.
Everton skipper Jonjoe Kenny was guilty of missing the best chance of the game ten minutes from time when, with the ball landing at his feet inside the six yard box following a corner, he poked the finish over the crossbar, and that was as good as it got. Chelsea will be the happier with the point given the respective positions in the table and, despite still not having won on the road this term, it ended a run of three defeats away from home in all competitions for the Development Squad.
Their next action comes on Tuesday as they complete their Checkatrade Trophy fixture list at home to Oxford United at Stamford Bridge, with tickets still available priced at £5 for adults and £3 for concessions.
Everton: Hewelt, Kenny (c), Robinson, Davies, Connolly, Feeney, Dowell (C.Duffus 70), Walsh (Foulds 59), Calvert-Lewin (Dyson 76), Charsley, Henen
Subs not Used: Gray, Yarney
Goal: Charsley ‘42
Chelsea: Collins, Dabo (c), Zouma (Colley 61), Tomori, T.Chalobah, Ali, Sterling, Van Ginkel (Quintero 61), Ugbo, Mount, J.Dasilva
Subs not Used: Sammut, Baxter, Muheim
Goal: Sterling ‘5