Under-18s: Southampton 3-2 Chelsea

Chelsea’s first Under-18 away game of the new season also saw them suffer their first defeat as they went down 3-2 to Southampton in a topsy-turvy encounter at Staplewood.

Despite falling behind to Siph Mdlalose’s opener during a far from stellar start, Jody Morris’ youngsters rebounded well, and eventually established a lead courtesy of goals from midfielders Tariq Uwakwe and George McEachran. Unfortunately, a late Tyreke Johnson double ensured they would head back to Cobham without anything to show for their efforts.

The Blues were without the talismanic services of striker Martell Taylor-Crossdale through injury but were otherwise able to pick another strong and experienced side similar to the one which opened the campaign with a 3-2 win at home to Fulham a week earlier; Jacob Maddox featured for the first time after off-season surgery and Jared Thompson returned in goal.

It was the hosts who made the better of the early going on the South coast however. Johnson forced an early save from Thompson having begun brightly in the left before being forced into an emergency role as a centre forward after Dan N’Lundulu went off injured.

The Saints pressed well and consistently broke up Chelsea’s midfield play before deservedly going ahead through winger Siph Mdlalose. He sprung the offside trap to sprint onto a through ball and coolly slot beyond Thompson for the game’s first goal.

That, however, woke Chelsea up a bit. Admonished by their manager for being ‘second best all over the pitch’, they began to find their rhythm and were level shortly before the half hour mark. Uwakwe had been their most impressive player in stepping up and driving the team forward, and it was his excellent strike from 25 yards out that flew past Adam Parkes and into the back of the net to make it 1-1.

Now playing with confidence, it was largely one-way traffic from the visitors either side of half time. Maddox drew Parkes into a smart save low to his right after good work by Juan Castillo before then slicing wastefully wide in a similarly good position soon after the restart, and it seemed inevitable that they would eventually establish a lead.

They did that ten minutes into the second half and it owed much to schoolboy substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi. On for Luke McCormick at half time, he wasted little time in getting about things on the left wing and, having skinned Connor Langan to get into the area, he laid the ball off for McEachran to drill low and hard into the bottom corner for his first Under-18 goal.

He almost had another when a more ambitious dig from the edge of the area stung Parkes’ hands and another substitute in Reece James went close as he looked to bend one into the top corner only to lack the required direction. Controlling the play and creating chances, Chelsea looked assured until the final ten minutes, when things began to unravel.

They did so in an innocuous and soft manner as Thompson conceded a penalty for clumsily bringing Johnson down in the area with the situation seemingly under control. The Southampton man got up and tucked away his spot kick from twelve yards but he wasn’t done there. Moments later he latched onto a bouncing ball and unleashed a dipping volley which looped high over the Chelsea goalkeeper’s reach before crashing into the back of the net.

There was still time for Maddox to almost steal a point back but, having beaten Parkes to a long hopeful punt in behind, he wasn’t quite able to steer the ball into the unguarded net from twenty yards away and. Morris’ boys will hope to rebound when they return to action at Cobham on Friday at home to Swansea, a match you can watch live on Chelsea TV.

Southampton: Parkes, Langan, Vokins, Thomas, O’Driscoll (c), Rowthorn,Mdlalose, Slattery (Hamblin), N’Lundulu (Hale), Smallbone, Johnson
Subs not Used: Osborn, Thomas, Bradley-Green

Goals: Mdlalose, Johnson (2)

Chelsea: Thompson, Guehi, Grant (c), Nartey, C.Dasilva, McCormick (Hudson-Odoi), Maddox, Uwakwe, C.Brown (Gallagher), McEachran, Castillo (James)
Subs not Used: Cumming, Panzo

Goals: Uwakwe, McEachran