It was a day of frustrations for Chelsea’s academy teams, in a season that has felt like one long ‘what could have been’, in domestic competition at least.
Andy Myers’ Under-18s twice fought back from losing positions to draw at home to West Ham, while Joe Edwards’ Development Squad went 2-0 up away to Liverpool inside half an hour, only to succumb to a late 3-2 defeat. With just five matches left between them this term, attentions will surely turn towards next season, but the frustrations of the last nine months will leave plenty for the respective managers to chew over during the long summer break.
George Nunn and Pierre Ekwah Elimby struck to earn the younger Blues a point against a confident West Ham team that had led through goals from Amadou Diallo and Emmanuel Longelo at Cobham, the latter scoring ten minutes from time with a strike that threatened to inflict a second consecutive home defeat on the Blues. Ekwah Elimby responded powerfully with his third goal for the club and, despite hitting the woodwork twice in the first half through James Clark and Jonathan Russell, the stalemate meant a fourth match without victory for a team that has experienced so much success in recent years. Indeed, the last time they went as long without a win was just over five years ago under the tutelage of Adi Viveash, before Edwards or Jody Morris took charge.
Edwards’ charges, on the other hand, came back from the dead in Europe in midweek to reach the UEFA Youth League Semi Finals by virtue of a penalty shootout victory over Dinamo Zagreb. After the euphoria of that particular triumph washed away, however, preparations began for a long trip north to face a Liverpool team vying for the very same third-placed finish as Chelsea. Two Conor Gallagher goals set them on their way at the Kirkby academy, the second of them a sumptuously flowing team move, and they looked set to move into the ascendancy ahead of their final two games of the campaign against Arsenal or Brighton.
Instead, Liverpool fought back. Ben Woodburn’s penalty gave them a lifeline before half time, Abdi Sharif equalised soon after the restart, and Curtis Jones snatched all three points late on to condemn Chelsea to a slide down to sixth place, while Leicester City in seventh have a game in hand to move above them should they win it. The opportunity to regroup and attack their last home outing against Arsenal at Stamford Bridge a week on Monday will also provide plenty of opportunity to ensure they head to Switzerland for that last four date against Barcelona in better form than they managed at this time last year, when they rather stumbled across the line and were taken apart by the Catalan outfit in the Final at Nyon’s Stade du Colovray.
The Under-18s face Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday back at Cobham, knowing that should they avoid defeat, they will deny their opponents the honour of taking their South league title away from them. That honour appears set to go to Arsenal anyway, after a pair of 8-0 wins this week took them clear at the top of the table, and into a likely national championship match against Derby or Liverpool at the end of the month.
If you’re looking for silverware, though, your best bet this week is to get to Aldershot’s EBB Stadium on Wednesday night, when Chelsea’s Under-15s take on Crystal Palace in the Southern Section Final of the Premier League Floodlit Cup. It’s a repeat of last year’s regional decider, won by Chelsea in extra time at Selhurst Park, and promises to be a fine evening’s entertainment. Entry is free for all, and the winner will play Sunderland, Wigan or Stoke City in the national decider some time after that.
Chelsea Under-18s 2-2 West Ham United
Chelsea: Askew, Lawrence, Simeu (McClelland 45), Ekwah Elimby, Clark, Mola ©, Lavinier, Russell, Broja (Aina 78), Ballo (Lewis 59), Nunn
Subs not Used: Chibueze, Peart-Harris
Goals: Nunn ’19, Ekwah Elimby ‘81
West Ham United: Sanneh, Ashby, Wilson-Esbrand, Giddings, Okotcha ©,Belic (Nebyla 85), Diallo, Watson (Appiah-Forson 60), Parkes, Longelo, Fevrier
Goals: Diallo ’10 (pen), ‘Longelo ‘79
Booked: Ashby, Belic
Liverpool 3-2 Chelsea Development Squad
Liverpool: Kelleher, Whelan, Gallacher, Hoever (Masterson 80), Johnston ©, Coyle, Woodburn, Sharif, McAuley, Lewis (Bearne 80), Jones
Subs not Used: George, Juanma
Goals: Woodburn ’41 (pen), Sharif ’51, Jones ‘87
Booked: Johnston, Woodburn
Chelsea: Ziger, Lamptey (McCormick 64), Colley, Nartey, Guehi, Maatsen (Castillo 57), Gallagher, McEachran, Redan (Brown 64), Gilmour, Uwakwe
Sub not Used: Tié
Goals: Gallagher ‘3, ‘28
Booked: Gallagher, McCormick, Brown