Chelsea’s Development Squad are still searching for their first win since August, after a 2-2 stalemate against Arsenal on Saturday saw them record three draws in the space of six days, but they will have gone away from Aldershot’s EBB Stadium with plenty of reason to be positive about their fortunes moving forwards.
Joe Edwards’ Blues twice led through Martell Taylor-Crossdale and Dujon Sterling, only to be pegged back on each occasion as Vlad Dragomir and Joe Willock netted for the Gunners, the latter pouncing with ten seconds left of the regulation ninety.
Bolstered by the inclusion of Charly Musonda and Jake Clarke-Salter, Chelsea faced a stern test against an Arsenal side including many with first team experience under their belts this season, including their new goalscoring sensation Eddie Nketiah, once of the Chelsea academy himself. Seeking to build off positive performances against West Ham and Yeovil, they set about their task with endeavour.
A bright opening quarter of an hour had yielded precious few goalscoring opportunities but, when one did come their way, the Blues took it. Trevoh Chalobah recovered possession on the right and smartly found Musonda in a central position, where the Belgian picked out Harvey St Clair on the left. He laid off to the overlapping Josh Grant, who delivered the first-time cross for Taylor-Crossdale to slide home from close range to make it 1-0.
It was a lead their play had warranted, only it wasn’t to last long. A hopeful ball out from the Arsenal defensive quarters caught Chelsea off-guard, and allowed Dragomir to steal in ahead of Grant, and he was able to lift the ball over the advancing Jamie Cumming and into the back of the net for the equaliser.
Taylor-Crossdale could, and perhaps should, have resorted the lead shortly before the half hour mark when he latched onto Kylian Hazard’s reverse pass, but he found Dejan Iliev in good form in the Arsenal goal, as did Musonda and Jacob Maddox with long-distance efforts before the half time interval.
Arsenal found a stronger foothold in the contest in the second half, playing higher up the pitch, and keeping Chelsea on the periphery both metaphorically and literally. The two teams traded soft jabs as the match grew cagier still, and it was the visitors who went closest to the next breakthrough when Grant almost turned Josh Dasilva’s cross into his own goal.
The hosts, however, did then make it 2-1 midway through the second half with a goal to set up what eventually become a dramatic conclusion to proceedings. It owed much to the younger Hazard, who wriggled his way into a shooting position, where Iliev was once again there with the save, only this time Sterling was on hand to clean up from the rebound.
Tails up, Chelsea sought to put the game to bed and, with a bit of luck, they would have done so. Maddox skipped his way through with aplomb only to see his finish glance agonisingly wise, whilst St Clair worked another save from Iliev, who would later depart with a head injury.
With the clock showing 89.50 and Chelsea attentions perhaps edging towards celebrating a much-needed three points, Willock popped up with the dagger to make it 2-2 with a well-placed finish from ten yards out after Arsenal had worked the shooting position well from the left. A scuffle ensued as tensions grew, and a lengthy stoppage time period saw the drama escalate further still.
Chelsea threw numbers forward looking to find another go-ahead goal, but left themselves short at the back, and it so very nearly cost them. Chuba Akpom stole a march on Ruben Sammut, and waited for the cavalry to come, but Marcus McGuane was denied by a full-length stop from Cumming. Then, at the very end, Sterling popped up with what he thought must have been the winner, but his close-range header from Clarke-Salter’s hook goalwards was adjudged to have been offside, and so the two teams left the field with a share of the spoils and a 2-2 final score.
Chelsea: Cumming, Sterling, Chalobah, Clarke-Salter (c), Grant, Sammut, K.Hazard (C. Dasilva 90), Maddox, Taylor-Crossdale, Musonda, St Clair
Subs not Used: Colley, Bułka, Castillo, Brown
Goals: Taylor-Crossdale 14, Sterling 65
Booked: Maddox, Sammut, St Clair, Clarke-Salter
Arsenal: Iliev (Keto 83), Osei-Tutu, Dasilva, Sheaf, Pleguezuelo (c), Medley (Bola 82), Dragomir, Willock, Akpom, McGuane, Nketiah
Subs not Used: Gilmour, Olowu, Moore
Goals: Dragomir 18, Willock 90
Booked: Willock, Dragomir