Chelsea’s Under-21s twice relinquished leading positions away to Tottenham Hotspur on Monday night before emerging 5-4 winners in a pulsating Barclays Under-21 Premier League fixture at Stevenage’s Lamex Stadium.
Tammy Abraham had given Chelsea a first half lead which was initially cancelled out by Shaquille Coulthirst but Fikayo Tomori immediately restored the advantage with a header from a corner. Kasey Palmer extended the advantage early in the second half and, despite Coulthirst reducing the arrears, a lovely goal by Jay Dasilva looked to have secured victory for the away side.
That was until Andros Townsend intervened. The England international may be on the way out of White Hart Lane but he turned in an excellent professional performance when asked here, popping up with a late brace that looked to have earned a point only for Jake Clarke-Salter to pop up with a 94th minute winner for Chelsea.
Make sure to check out Dan Davies’ always-excellent match gallery by clicking HERE.
Adi Viveash made two changes from the team that impressed him considerably last time out away to Southampton with Dasilva and Fankaty Dabo coming in at the full-back positions for Kevin Wright and Joseph Colley respectively, whilst Tottenham included the wantaway Townsend along with the likes of Coulthirst and Milos Veljkovic, both well-versed in Football League loan moves.
It was a quiet and rather tepid opening as both teams were very careful to be certain of their touch on a heavy and boggy pitch that had only been passed fit a couple of hours before the match. Mukhtar Ali’s loose pass threatened to give Coulthirst a sight of goal but Tomori was quick to react and muscled his way in to clear. Both players would soon have more impact on proceedings too, but not before Abraham gave Chelsea an 18th-minute lead.
Tottenham goalkeeper Tom Glover played a loose and inaccurate ball out from the back, intended for left-back Anthony Georgiou, but it was flat and allowed Reece Mitchell to pounce on it instead. The winger drove into the box and set his sights before firing the ball across the face of goal for Abraham to tap in from a yard out. It was his first goal of 2016 after notching 52 for club and country across all fixtures in 2015.
Within two minutes, however, the hosts were on level terms. A Georgious cross from the left looked to be behind Coulthirst but he did well to adjust his body and arch a looping header back across goal, one that caught Brad Collins out slightly in the Blues goal, and it nestled into the back of the net to leave him slightly red-faced.
Not to be deterred, Chelsea responded well and quickly restored their lead. Charlie Colkett’s corner found its way to the far post, where Clarke-Salter headed the ball back into the middle, allowing Tomori to rise highest and thump home from close range to mark his first goal in more than fifty appearances since graduating from Under-16 level.
The three goals had arrived in a spell of less than five minutes and it took everyone a few moments to adjust to the game as a contest again. Tottenham did that the better with Townsend going close with a free kick and then playing in Will Miller for a chance not taken, and Coulthirst nearly had himself a second when he flashed a shot wide at the end of a nicely-constructed Spurs move.
Abraham had been given a sight of goal by the lively Palmer in between but lost his footing under the considerable attentions of Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Reece Mitchell might have been awarded a penalty in first half stoppage time when his path to the ball was impeded by Veljkovic’s clutching and holding, but referee Ian Rathbone remained unconvinced.
The Under-21s have lacked a finishing touch in front of goal for much of the season to date, scoring once or fewer in five of their previous six matches coming into the evening’s fixture, but were able to make it 3-1 within a few minutes of the restart. Abraham this time turned provider as his strong hold-up play in the box initially looked to have earned a penalty, but he got up to feed Palmer, who steadied himself before bobbling a shot into the far corner.
With their application matching their unquestioned talent, the visitors then set about making it as hard as possible for Tottenham to find a way back into the game. Dasilva gave a fine account of himself against Townsend whilst Mitchell offered an outlet in every phase of play as he continued to put together a very solid body of work over the last few months.
Then, with twenty minutes left, it was suddenly game on again. Veljkovic ambled out of defence without any sort of pressure on him whatsoever, allowing him to deliver a perfect through ball for Coulthirst to collect and emphatically crash beyond Collins for his second of the night. With their tails up, they pushed on for greater reward and Collins was required to make a good save low at his near post to beat out a ferocious strike by substitute Emmanuel Sonupe.
Colkett might’ve put the result with two good chances from the edge of the area; a brave block by Carter-Vickers kept the first at bay before the second flew over the crossbar, but a minute later Dasilva conjured up the goal –and moment – of the evening. Collecting the ball from Mitchell after another tireless run into the box, he found space in the box with his first touch before pulling out a delicious curling effort with his weaker right foot that was destined for the top corner as soon as it was struck.
Tottenham manager Ugo Ehiogu took his last roll of the dice in throwing on Japanese youth international Cy Goddard and the move paid dividends with five minutes remaining. The slight midfielder was a step too quick for Tomori in the box, drawing a foul and a penalty which Townsend stepped up and converted to set up a grandstand finish, one he then completed himself when he collected a ball on the left, skipped past Dasilva and slotted home to make it 4-4.
There was still time for Abraham to have a chance of winning it for Chelsea after Tomori embarked on a dazzling 70-yard run before releasing the prolific forward with a slide-rule pass only for Glover to intervene, and then, somehow even more time for the Blues to win it. A long free kick was launched into the box, taken down by Abraham, collected by Clarke-Salter and finished like a seasoned forward with a low clipped finish across the goal to seal a dramatic three points at the end of a most remarkable London derby.
Tottenham Hotspur: Glover, Amos, Georgiou, Lesniak (Sonupe 57), Veljkovic (c), Carter-Vickers, Townsend, Winks, Coulthirst, Walkes (J. Pritchard 73), Miller (Goddard 82)
Subs not Used: Voss
Goals: Coulthirst (2), Townsend (2, 1pen)
Chelsea: Collins, Dabo, Tomori, Clarke-Salter, Dasilva, Colkett (c), Mitchell, Ali (Kiwomya 45), Abraham, Palmer, Musonda
Subs not Used: Russell, Wright, Quintero, Colley
Goals: Abraham, Tomori, Palmer, Dasilva, Clarke-Salter.