UNDER-21 REPORT: CHELSEA 2 NORWICH CITY 0

Posted on: Sat 14 Sep 2013

Summary
Our Under-21s made it three wins in a row with a 2-0 victory over Norwich City at the Electrical Services Stadium in Aldershot.

A Josh McEachran brace early in the second half, one of which came from the penalty spot, put us in control of the contest following a goalless opening 45 minutes, and after taking the lead the result never looked in serious doubt.

Both sets of players deserve great credit for what was an entertaining match played in torrential rain from the outset, and while it took until the 52nd minute for us to make the breakthrough, it was no more than we deserved.

Chances went begging at both ends late in the game, but McEachran had proved the difference with two goals in the space of seven minutes, and we now look forward to an away game at Everton a week on Monday.

Team news
McEachran returned to the Chelsea side having not featured since sustaining an injury in our opening-day clash with Tottenham Hotspur, while Billy Clifford, who made a significant impact after coming on as a substitute against Leicester City, also started. Nathan Ake captained the team alongside Andreas Christensen in the centre of defence, and in attack both Islam Feruz and Isaiah Brown were given the nod.

First half
It was almost the worst possible opening to the game for Drummy's young side as the visitors wasted a glorious opportunity inside the opening 30 seconds.

Having exchanged passes with McEachran, Adam Nditi attempted to play the ball back to Jamal Blackman, but Jamar Loza pounced on the loose ball and with only the goalkeeper to beat dragged his shot inches wide.

It was a lucky reprieve for the Blues, but a couple of minutes later we were unfortunate not to break the deadlock ourselves when Clifford, after linking up well with Brown wide on the left, worked his way inside and curled a delightful effort towards the far corner, which Remi Matthews tipped around the post.

Moments later Clifford (pictured below), who had started brightly, again went close, this time with a fizzing strike from distance which was marginally too high. Perhaps taking the wet conditions into account, shots at goal from long-range seemed to be the order of the day, with Lewis Baker trying his luck twice in quick succession.

Under-21s


After the early scare we had settled well and were beginning to dominate possession, but Norwich remained a threat, particularly on the break, and it took an expertly-timed challenge by Christensen to thwart Loza as the striker looked set to race through on goal.

Feruz had started the game as the central striker, flanked by Brown and Swift, but with most of our attacking play in the opening half-an-hour stemming from wide areas, he was struggling to impose himself on proceedings.

Having scored four times in his opening three games, Brown had provided more than just a glimpse of his ability in front of goal, but it was his defensive work which caught the eye 10 minutes before the break when he showed great desire to track the run of Jacob Murphy and dispossess the Norwich winger, much to the delight of the home supporters who had braved the conditions to get behind our youngsters.

As an attacking threat, Norwich had been almost non-existent for much of the first half, but Blackman had to be alert when a deflected Jacob Murphy strike, which looped up into the air, almost caught him off guard, and he was quickly called into action soon after when he saved a stinging strike from the overlapping Harry Toffolo after the left-back was played in by Jacob Murphy.

Second half
Much like the first half, it was the away side who had the first sight of goal after the restart, and it took an excellent block by Nditi to thwart Cameron McGheean.

With our first attack of the second half, however, we were awarded a penalty in controversial circumstances after Clifford went down in the box following a tangle with McGheean.

McEachran was the player entrusted with taking the kick, and the Blues midfielder made no mistake, calmly striding forward and firing into the back of the net for his second goal of the season.

On the balance of play it was a lead our performance had merited, and even better was to come seven minutes later.

As the ball broke to McEachran on the edge of the box, he took a touch before exchanging passes with Brown, easing away from his marker and crashing his strike past Matthews to double our advantage.

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It was a goal of the highest quality and, after a fairly quiet opening 45 minutes, McEachran's class had risen to the fore and was proving the difference between the two sides.

Norwich, to their credit, responded well to going 2-0 down, and Blackman was forced into a decent stop with his feet to deny Jacob Murphy as they looked to force their way back into the game.

Drummy made his first substitution of the night by replacing Swift, who had worked tirelessly out on the right-hand side, with the fresh legs of Alex Kiwomya, whose pace has so often in the past proved crucial late on in matches.

With 20 minutes remaining the game was almost put out of the visitors' reach; Clifford picked out the advancing Ake with a sublime pass, and though the Dutchman's strike was a decent one, Matthews was equal to it and pushed the ball over the top of the bar.

The Blues were looking to kill the game off as the clock ticked down, and after Ewan McNeil had cleared a Kiwomya effort off the line, Clifford was denied the goal his display deserved by another fantastic save by Matthews.

Jacob Murphy went close again for Norwich as the game edged towards its conclusion, but the winger could only steer his strike into the side-netting when he should have done better.

Drummy was understandably pleased with the performance, and he singled out his central-defensive duo for special praise.

'We played some good football but they're a strong side, they're quick on the break and they can hurt you, and I thought Ake and Christensen were superb,' he said.

'It was nice for Josh to get a couple of goals and play 90 minutes, he's a very good player.

'They could have scored a couple, but on the flip side we created some great chances and their keeper made some good saves.'

Chelsea (4-3-3): Jamal Blackman; Isak Ssewankambo, Andreas Christensen, Nathan Ake (c), Adam Nditi; John Swift (Alex Kiwomya 56), Josh McEachran, Billy Clifford; Lewis Baker, Islam Feruz (Ruben Loftus-Cheek 75), Isaiah Brown.
Unused substitutes: Mitchell Beeney, Alex Davey, Dion Conroy.

Norwich City (4-4-2): Remi Matthews; Ewan McNeil, Kyle McFadden, Adel Gafaiti, Harry Toffolo (Harry Barker 73); Jacob Murphy, Cameron McGeehan, Harvey Hodd, Josh Murphy; Reece Hall-Johnson, Jamar Loza.
Unused substitutes: Liam Priestley (GK), Ben Wyatt, Cameron Norman.

- Chelsea TV's highlights of the game can be viewed now via the channel's online access.