Under-18s: Chelsea 2-2 Aston Villa

Since the beginning of the 2016-17 season, only one team has prevented Chelsea from winning a home fixture, a run covering twenty-seven matches. Following Saturday’s frustrating 2-2 draw, that remains the case, as Aston Villa once again came to Cobham and denied the Blues all three points once again.

It was hardly as if Chelsea played poorly. They took the lead inside of two minutes when Faustino Anjorin applied a confident finish to a sweeping move, and they were able to fashion chances aplenty throughout. However, a combination of profligacy and misfortune allowed Villa to claim a share of the spoils; Jacob Ramsey equalised after a mistake at the back, goalkeeper Emmanuel Idem was in inspired form, and Chelsea hit the woodwork twice in the second half. Martell Taylor-Crossdale’s almost-apologetic nudge over the line from close range re-established the lead, but Dimitri Sea found a second for the Villains late on, and it finished all square.

Having returned to action after the winter break with an impressive win at Reading last weekend, Jody Morris’ boys were full of confidence, and Anjorin’s opener set the stage for another positive day. With hindsight, there were signs that they weren’t to have it all their own way, as Sea and Colin Odutayo each pounced on loose balls at the back to work Nicolas Tié into early action, but it was mostly one-way traffic from the start.

Charlie Brown will have felt he could have done better with a headed opportunity fashioned by Tariq Lamptey but directed straight at Idem, whilst Lamptey followed Conor Gallagher and Tariq Uwakwe in dragging efforts wide of the same far post in quick success. Anjorin then worked Idem further as he latched onto a smart through ball, but they couldn’t hold onto their lead going into the break, as a poor pass from the back allowed Villa to take full advantage, Ramsey finishing from Mason Birch’s square pass across the face of goal to make it 1-1.

A manager who will always attack, Morris introduced Taylor-Crossdale and schoolboy Marcel Lewis for the second half in place of Brown and Jack Wakely, leaving captain Gallagher to sit alongside Marc Guehi in defence. The Blues now had eight nominally attacking players on the pitch, plus the adventurous Jonathan Panzo at left-back, and their intentions were clear.

It didn’t take Lewis long to get involved, the Under-16s’ leading scorers extending Idem with a bouncing volley, and the young stopper was in for a busy 45 minutes. A strong right hand kept Uwakwe out, and he was also the beneficiary of a little luck when Guehi’s header struck the foot of the post.

A second goal did eventually arrive when Taylor-Crossdale bundled home from Uwakwe’s header down, but there was some confusion over the incident, with everyone seemingly waiting for a whistle that never came. It stood, and that should have been that; surely the second half wasn’t going to be a repeat of the first?

Alas, it was. Idem’s inspired outing continued with a parry from Panzo and a leaping save from Anjorin, whilst Taylor-Crossdale was millimetres away from connecting with a gorgeous cross from Lamptey. He and Guehi had earlier missed similarly glaring chances and, again, they would regret it. Villa exploited space left behind by Lamptey down their left, and the ball eventually fell to Sea, who punished them with an instinctive wallop to make it 2-2.

Did the hosts have it in them to rescue their 100% home record? They almost lost their 1,000+ unbeaten home stand first, Birch flicking inches over with the help of a deflection, but the needle duly swung back Chelsea’s way. Uwakwe slipped at the most crucial moment with the goal at his mercy, before a stoppage-time free kick came back off the post, and that rather summed it all up. They’ll try again on Wednesday, when West Bromwich Albion visit Aldershot in the Fourth Round of the FA Youth Cup.

Chelsea: Tié, Lamptey, Guehi, Wakely (Lewis 45), Panzo, Gallagher (c), Uwakwe, Gilmour, Brown (Taylor-Crossdale 45), Anjorin (Redan 88), McEachran
Subs not Used: Žiger, Mola

Goals: Anjorin 2, Taylor-Crossdale 64

Aston Villa: Idem, Walker (c), Williams, J.Birch, Stretch, Revan, Odutayo, Brunt, Sea (Guy 90), Ramsey, M.Birch
Subs not Used: Tait, Boucher, Ige, McConnachie

Goals: Ramsey 30, Sea 75