Chelsea and Everton shared the spoils in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League on Monday as they fought to a goalless draw at Aldershot’s EBB Stadium.
A relatively sleepy affair throughout, neither side truly got going and despite a handful of half-chances, there was a lack of conviction throughout and a stalemate was an appropriate outcome.
The Blues’ campaign will end with four matches in the space of ten days and, with that in mind, Adi Viveash shuffled his playing pack accordingly. Nathan Baxter earned a maiden appearance at this level in goal following some assured performances for the Under-18s whilst there was only a second Under-21 start in midfield for Ruben Sammut, who will be stepping up to the age group full-time from next season.
Trialist Yasin Ben El-Mhanni from Lewes was handed another opportunity to impress after scoring at Middlesbrough last time out and Reece Mitchell led the line with Tammy Abraham amongst a strong group of substitutes.
Everton’s side looked more experienced by comparison with David Unsworth able to call upon a centre-back partnership of Brendan Galloway and Mason Holgate that came with Premier League credentials whilst Callum Connolly and David Henen could also count first-team appearances to their name, but the first half was played out fairly evenly on a lethargic Bank Holiday Monday afternoon in Hampshire.
Playing a 3-4-2-1 formation, Chelsea often made good territory on the flanks with captain Fankaty Dabo and Ola Aina getting into advanced areas without much luck when looking for quality in the final third, whilst the mercurial Kasey Palmer produced one or two moments typical of him only for his end product to let him down. A free kick straight at Polish goalkeeper Mateusz Hewelt was followed by a tamely-struck shot from a similar distance but he looked the most likely to make something happen.
Mitchell’s day was ended prematurely by an ankle injury that saw Abraham replace him and give the hosts a more natural target to play off in attack, and he was almost quickly onto the scoresheet when El-Mhanni’s cross from the right just eluded his best efforts. At the other end, Everton struggled to get anywhere near Baxter’s goal until Calum Dyson got away and skipped around the young stopper, but Jake Clarke-Salter wason hand to slide the ball away to safety.
Things scarcely improved in the second half either; Antony Evans saw his goal-bound shot cleared off the line after a succession of high balls into the Chelsea penalty area, before Aina responded with a low skidding effort from a long way out that missed by a yard or two at most.
Both sides struggled to produce the required standard on a consistent basis but, midway through the second period, the visitors were able to conjure up a rare good moment when a neatly-worked free-kick routine looked to have caught Chelsea out. Holgate headed back across goal to his centre-back partner Galloway, who in turn was only able to volley over from eight yards out despite being completely unmarked.
A series of good crosses from the right failed to find a blue shirt but Palmer’s short-corner routine did then at least develop into a chance for substitute Jay Dasilva, but the finish was well over Hewelt’s crossbar. Matty Foulds sliced a shot wide on the break for Everton late in the day and Clarke-Salter limped off with a knee injury for Chelsea, but neither side did enough to deserve the three points and a 0-0 final score was a fair reflection of a disappointing match.
Chelsea: Baxter, Dabo (c), Tomori, Conroy, Clarke-Salter, Sammut (Ali 66), El-Mhanni, Quintero, Mitchell (Abraham 25), Palmer, Aina (Dasilva 66)
Subs not Used: Russell, Christie-Davies
Everton: Hewelt, Connolly, Foulds, Baningime, Holgate (Holland 75), Galloway, Charsley, Williams (c), Dyson, Evans, Henen
Subs not Used: Thorniley, Gray, Graham, Lavery
Booked: Connolly, Williams, Galloway