Chelsea finished up their home slate of fixtures for the Barclays Under-21 Premier League season with a narrow 1-0 defeat against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.
The depleted Blues side looked, perhaps understandably, on their last legs at the end not just of a busy season but in the immediate aftermath of UEFA Youth League and FA Youth Cup successes, and struggled to get into what is their second match of four in ten days. Matthew Willock’s goal before half time was enough to seal all three points for champions United as they rounded off another fine campaign at this level.
As always, make sure you check out Dan Davies’ excellent match gallery HERE.
Adi Viveash was already going to be forced into heavy rotation with matches away to Manchester City and Leicester to come next week and that was before injury deprived him of the services of Jake Clarke-Salter and Reece Mitchell. With others rested, Mukhtar Ali came into the midfield alongside Charlie Colkett and there were rare starts for Isaac Christie-Davies and Charlie Wakefield – just their second at this level this season – as they move towards stepping up full-time next season.
Warren Joyce’s visitors includes Phil Jones and Andreas Pereira as they did a month ago at Old Trafford and added Adnan Januzaj to the mix as they continued their inclusion of a smattering of more experienced faces. With the title already in the bag, their performance was also lacking something of a spark in a very tepid opening to a match which had a decidedly end-of-season feel to it.
Tammy Abraham tried to liven things up with a sharp shot which was well saved at the near post by captain Joel Pereira, whilst Brad Collins did similar at the other end to keep out Willock after the midfielder had gone on a mazy run into the penalty area. The two defences were well on top until just after the half hour when Willock made the decisive breakthrough, picking out the bottom corner with a well-placed effort at the end of a swift move and a pass from the forward Pereira.
Just a few days removed from a tumultuous first-team contest against Tottenham at the Bridge, it seemed rather appropriate that a spot of handbags would follow here too, and so it arrived early in the second half. Kasey Palmer took exception to a bit of bumping from United full-back Sadiq El-Fitouri and reacted with a cultural challenge that took both him and Ola Aina out, leading to an all-out shoving match and yellow cards for Collins, who had rushed from his goal to defend his team-mates, and Josh Harrop, on as a substitute for the visitors.
Jones too was booked as Abraham proved too quick for him on the turn moments later but otherwise the England international looked far more comfortable than he did against Palmer in their previous meeting. Partnered by the imperious and classy RoShaun Williams, they provided the foundation upon which United saw out the victory without really being too worried by Chelsea. They also had the better of the second-half chances with another sub, Demetri Mitchell, working Collins again before Tomori then saw off the danger in a similar foray forwards.
The Blues went close through a replacement of their own when Miro Muheim got on the end of Abraham’s cross only to sidefoot over from twelve yards out, and despite Aina in particular swinging in cross after cross from the right, Pereira and his back four put their bodies on the line to leave Abraham and company frustrated.
Monday’s trip to the Etihad Stadium to play the blue half of Manchester precedes the final trip of the campaign next Thursday, when the King Power Stadium plays host to Leicester City vs Chelsea to round things off. Before both, however, Joe Edwards’ Under-18s draw their own year to a close tomorrow (Saturday) morning away to Blackburn Rovers in a match which is live on Chelsea TV.
Chelsea: Collins, Aina, Tomori, Conroy, J.Dasilva, Colkett (c), Wakefield (Muheim 75), Ali, Abraham, Palmer, Christie-Davies (Quintero 68)
Subs not Used: Sammut, Mark Beeney, Wright
Manchester United: J.Pereira, Love, Tuanzebe, Jones, El-Fitouri, Williams, Willock, Poole, Redmond (Mitchell 45), A.Pereira (Kehinde 89), Januzaj (Harrop 45)
Subs not Used: Henderson, Olosunde
Goal: Willock ‘32
Booked: Harrop, Jones