UNDER-18S REPORT: CRYSTAL PALACE 3 CHELSEA 3
Our Under-18s showed tremendous desire to maintain their unbeaten record, fighting back from 2-0 down to earn a point in a six-goal thriller away at Crystal Palace.
The hosts had taken an early lead when Jerome Williams scored with a stunning left-footed strike which gave Chelsea goalkeeper Ben Killip no chance inside only three minutes, and worse was to come.
Shortly after they doubled their advantage with yet another remarkable goal, the right-back Mandela Egbo acrobatically volleying his effort beyond Killip to put them firmly in the ascendancy.
It was a time when heads, particularly young ones, could be forgiven for dropping, but Adi Viveash's side are certainly not lacking in the character department, and the deficit was quickly reduced as Alex Kiwomya [pictured above] finished off a flowing move to make it 2-1.
Jordan Houghton played the ball out from the back into Isak Ssewankambo who, in turn, found the lively Jeremie Boga. The youngster showed a lovely turn of pace to evade his marker before picking out the run of Kiwomya, who took the pass in his stride before calmly rolling his effort under the advancing goalkeeper.
It was Boga who was again the architect of the equaliser shortly before the break, this time feeding Chike Kandi, who did well to control the ball with his right foot before finishing impressively with his left to restore parity at a crucial time.
Both sides had chances to take the lead during the second half, but it was Palace who looked to have stolen it when they went 3-2 up 12 minutes from time.
The home side, who had a number of second-year scholars in their starting line-up, had won three on the bounce heading into the game, and after taking the lead once again will have felt they had done enough to secure all three points.
With the clock ticking down, though, Conor Hunte set off a run down the left-hand side which saw him beat three men, and as his subsequent shot was blocked in a crowded penalty area, it fell to George Cole, who sent a powerful volley into the back of the net to rescue a well-deserved point for the Blues.
Viveash was delighted with the character shown by his players, but insisted with three more away games to come over the course of the next few weeks, the tests are not going to get any easier.
'At the end of the game we had four Under-16s on the pitch, which is great for their development,' said the Chelsea manager. 'While for Ola Aina, who came on in the second half, it was a youth team debut, and he was very assured up against their best player.
'To have that desire to not lose football matches is fantastic, I'm very proud of what they've achieved so far as they are a very young group.
'We're now going to be sternly tested because we play Liverpool away next week and then both Middlesbrough and Fulham.
'They are all really tough games, it's nice for the boys to be top, but the main thing is that they're playing some really good football and scoring a lot of goals.'Chelsea (4-3-3): Ben Killip; Jonathan Muleba (Ola Aina 60), Jordan Houghton, Kevin Wright, Isak Ssewankambo; Jesse Starkey (Charlie Colkett 70), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (c), Jeremie Boga; Alex Kiwomya, Chike Kandi (Conor Hunte 60), George Cole.