UNDER 21S REPORT: CHELSEA 1 LIVERPOOL 4
A disappointing night for Dermot Drummy and his young side saw us beaten at this level for the first time this season, Liverpool running out 4-1 winners at Griffin Park.
After a goalless first half in which the visitors had the better of the chances, Chelsea came out after the break looking far more dangerous in the final third.
However, two goals in the space of a few minutes midway through the second half - a Jack Robinson header and a Conor Coady penalty - left us with a mountain to climb.
Patrick Bamford reduced the deficit with 10 minutes left to play, but when Krisztian Adorjan restored the visitors' two-goal advantage in the closing minutes, the game was all but over.
To add insult to injury, substitute Michael Ngoo added a fourth on the break in the dying minutes.
Drummy made two changes from the side which beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 5-0 a fortnight ago, with the big news the inclusion of Marko Marin, our summer acquisition from Werder Bremen, who hasn't featured since picking up an injury on our pre-season tour. The German and Islam Feruz came in at the expense of the injured Lewis Baker and Lucas Piazon. Todd Kane skippered the side at right-back, while Adam Phillip, who impressed during last week's friendly against Charlton, had to be content with a place on the substitutes' bench.
A neat move down the left inside the first minute saw half-hearted penalty appeals from the home supporters, George Saville and Marin linking well to release Aziz Deen-Conteh, who went down under the weight of a challenge from Brad Smith.
The referee appeared to have called it correctly when he waved play on, and from the resulting break, a deflected Samed Yesil effort wrong-footed Jamal Blackman in the Blues goal before dipping inches over the bar.
The visitors should have taken the lead 18 minutes into the game as Blackman parried a driven Coady centre which fell invitingly into the path of Yesil, who could only fire high and wide when he should have done better.
With Feruz, who is more often accustomed to playing through the middle, a virtual spectator for the opening quarter of the game, the Scot and Marin opted to change flanks in a bid to open up the Liverpool defence, but with little success.
At the other end, Nathan Ake made an expertly-timed tackle to halt the run of Yesil, while a minute later the striker, who had looked dangerous throughout the first half, headed over.
There was no faulting our effort or desire, but as an attacking unit we were struggling to impose ourselves, with moves continually breaking down on the edge of the penalty area.
It was Liverpool looking more likely to open the scoring, and 10 minutes before the break we had the foot of a post to thank for keeping the score level as Adam Morgan's effort from distance smacked against the upright.
Rodolfo Borrell's side were beginning to dominate as the half drew to a close, and it was Yesil who again threatened to break the deadlock, only to see his left-footed strike cleared off the line by Ake as everybody inside the stadium waited for the net to bulge.
Three minutes before half time Drummy made his first substitution of the night, replacing Ruben Loftus-Cheek with Jeremie Boga, and the substitute, with his first touch, almost gave us the lead, pouncing on a loose ball and firing past Peter Gulacsi, only to see it blocked on the line.
The Blues emerged for the second half with one change to personnel, Adam Phillip replacing the returning Marin.
After a fairly flat opening 45 minutes, we came out positively for the second period with both Saville and Patrick Bamford going close in quick succession, while it took an impressive save low down to his left by Gulacsi to deny Feruz.
Liverpool, meanwhile, continued to threaten, particularly through Yesil, and it took another last-ditch block from Ake to deny the young German after he was slipped in by Dani Pacheco.
It proved to be Yesil's last involvement, as minutes later he was withdrawn, replaced by Michael Ngoo, but the forward had certainly done enough to suggest he may yet have a big future in the game.
Phillip fizzed a trademark free-kick narrowly wide of Gulacsi's left-hand post as we looked for the breakthrough, while Billy Clifford, who had worked tirelessly trying to breach the Liverpool back-four, dragged an effort well wide from a decent position.
The visitors took the lead midway through the second half when a looping cross from the left found Robinson, whose header dipped into the bottom corner with Blackman beaten, but if the opening goal was a blow, worse was to come.
Minutes later, with the Blues still stunned, Borrell's side launched a quick break, and as the ball found its way through to Morgan, the nippy wide man was brought down in the box by Deen-Conteh, the referee showing no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Coady was the player entrusted with taking the kick, and he calmly rolled the ball into the bottom right corner, sending Blackman the wrong way.
The two-goal deficit was harsh on us, and while our youngsters could have been forgiven for allowing their heads to drop, the reaction spoke volumes.
Refusing to give in, we dug deep as Liverpool looked to put the game out of reach, and we were rewarded 10 minutes from time when Patrick Bamford ghosted into the penalty area and fired home, ensuring a tense climax to the game.
The striker had what looked like a legitimate penalty appeal waved away moments later, but from the subsequent attack Liverpool put the game out of sight, Adorjan firing a low, powerful drive into the bottom corner from outside the penalty area.
The Blues huffed and puffed in the closing minutes, but the substitute Ngoo raced away in added time to compound our misery with virtually the last kick of the game.
Drummy was understandably frustrated at the end of the game, and when pressed on whether the scoreline was a fair reflection on the game, he was brutally honest.
'Yes, I think it probably was,' said the Blues manager. 'They shaded the first half and had the better of the chances for sure.
'We'll get the boys in and have a look at certain things. These are young, developing players who will inevitably make mistakes, but we need to work hard on the training pitch to ensure we learn from it.'
Chelsea (4-3-3): Jamal Blackman; Todd Kane (c), Alex Davey, Nathan Ake, Aziz Deen-Conteh (Andreas Christensen 72); Billy Clifford, George Saville, Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Jeremie Boga 43); Islam Feruz, Patrick Bamford, Marko Marin (Adam Phillip h/t).
Unused substitutes: Mitchell Beeney, John Swift.
Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Peter Gulacsi; Brad Smith, Stephen Sama, Andre Wisdom, Jack Robinson; Conor Coady, Craig Roddan; Adam Morgan, Krisztian Adorjan, Dani Pacheco; Samed Yesil (Michael Ngoo 56).
Unused substitutes: Joao Teixeira, Jamie Stephens, Marc Pelosi, Jordan Ibe.