Chelsea’s Under-21s made it seven league matches unbeaten stretching back to November on Friday night with a 2-1 victory over Leicester City at Aldershot’s EBB Stadium.
The young Blues controlled much of the game and were good value for their win as they came from behind with goals either side of half time. Joe Dodoo had given Leicester a 19th-minute lead, but Jake Clarke-Salter cancelled that out with an assist from debutant Matt Miazga, and Reece Mitchell notched what would turn out to be the winner with an expertly-taken winner ten minutes after the restart.
Dan Davies’ must-see match gallery is available HERE.
The notable team news came in the form of Miazga’s first outing in blue; the American joined Clarke-Salter and Dion Conroy in a back three with Adi Viveash rotating heavily once again at the end of a hectic schedule for the Under-21s. Josi Quintero and Kasey Palmer returned to the starting eleven at the expense of Charlie Colkett and Kyle Scott whilst Alex Kiwomya paired up alongside Reece Mitchell in attack, with Tammy Abraham on the bench.
Leicester had won their last three matches coming into their visit to Aldershot and had done so with a solid defensive rearguard serving as the platform from which to go about their business. They packed their half with black shirts, and forced Chelsea into almost exclusively ambitious efforts early on, with Palmer and Mitchell off target from outside the area.
Dodoo opened the scoring with twenty minutes on the clock when he seized on Jacob Blyth’s knockdown before shifting the ball outside new boy Miazga, onto his strong left foot, and arrowing a finish low beyond Brad Collins and into the far corner.
Ali, Aina and Palmer again continued to demonstrate Chelsea’s egregious use of long-range attempts as their frustrations appeared to grow but, slowly, they began to grind down their visitors and fashion clearer-cut chances. A well-worked short corner saw Mitchell lay on their best chance for Aina, who drew a save from Norwegian goalkeeper Daniel Iversen, but the move continued in the hosts’ favour and Clarke-Salter was on hand to meet Miazga’s cross with a thumping header to make it 1-1 close to the break.
Abraham came on at half time for the struggling Kiwomya to boost Chelsea’s attacking options but it was Mitchell who would establish their first lead of the evening with a finish the big front man would have been proud of. Dabo produced a sensational cross from the right that was met by a sublime flying header by Mitchell, guiding it into the top corner for his fourth goal of the season.
That changed everything for Viveash and company; whereas before they were controlling possession and tasked with finding a way to score, they now had the ascendancy to work with. Matty Miles was only able to slice a volley well wide whilst Chelsea looked a threat on every break forward. Abraham was twice denied a clear run on goal by a marginal offside decision before Mitchell saw Iversen make a fine stop to deny him a second as Dabo once again came up with the goods down the right.
With a quarter of an hour remaining Leicester worked a set piece to the far post where Blyth had a clear sight of goal only to go down under Clarke-Salter’s challenge. Vociferous – and arguably justified – appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears, but it signalled the start of a concerted late push for a Leicester equaliser.
That meant more space for Chelsea to attack but Iversen kept his side in it with a pair of good saves inside the final five minutes. His first was to stick out a leg to deny Abraham before following it with a near-post scramble clear from Aina after Colkett had pulled the ball back into his path.
Despite three minutes of stoppage time and some frenetic Leicester posturing the Blues held onto their lead to claim three points that move them up to fourth in the table. It also brought an end to a busy recent run of matches at this level but the schedule continues to be jam-packed for the younger age groups as the season comes to a head.
Joe Edwards’ Under-18s are in league action on Saturday morning at home to Everton whilst Ajax are the visitors on Tuesday in a big UEFA Youth League Quarter Final. The week finishes with a trip to Ewood Park to take on Blackburn in the First Leg of this season’s FA Youth Cup Semi Final, with tickets for the return match at Stamford Bridge on April 8th now available through the club.
Chelsea: Collins, Miazga, Clarke-Salter, Conroy, Aina, Quintero (Scott 82), Dabo (c), Ali, Kiwomya (Abraham 45), Palmer (Colkett 69), Mitchell
Subs not Used: Baxter, Tomori
Goal: Clarke-Salter ’36, Mitchell ‘53
Leicester City: Iversen, Johnson, Akiotu (Kelly 45), Watson, E.Moore, L.Moore, Miles (Oseni 72), Cain, Blyth (c), Muskwe (Rowe 83), Dodoo
Subs not Used: Maddison, Barnes
Goal: Dodoo ‘19