UNDER-21 REPORT: CHELSEA 2 MANCHESTER CITY 1
The Under-21 side got back to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over Manchester City at Stamford Bridge today (Sunday). Goals at the start and end of the first half from John Swift (pictured) and Andreas Christensen were enough to earn maximum league points, despite a second half goal from substitute Jordi Hiwula ensuring a nervy last few moments.
Dermot Drummy made three changes from the side that went down 3-2 in their previous game at Everton. Mitchell Beeney replaced Jamal Blackman in goal, Lewis Baker returned to the side after his involvement in the first team squad for the Capital One Cup tie at Swindon and there was a start in defence from Tomas Kalas, returning from injury after two months sidelined.
Andreas Christensen partnered Kalas in central defence, with Isak Ssewankambo and captain Nathan Ake at full-back, while Islam Feruz continued to lead the line up front supported by Isaiah Brown and Alex Kiwomya from the flanks. Ruben Loftus-Cheek and John Swift made up the midfield trio with Baker.
The young Blues were looking to bounce back from defeat last time out against Everton, while the visitors from Manchester City, managed by former Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira, were featuring a number of players from their Under-19 side that thrashed Bayern Munich 6-0 during the week in the UEFA Youth League.
The opening exchanges were even as both sides tried to get a feel for the game in midfield, although Christensen had to be alert to clear the danger from the six-yard box after a tricky run down the left by Albert Ruznak inside the first five minutes.
However the deadlock was broken just a couple of minutes later as the hosts ventured forward on their first attack of the game. Brown and Ake combined down the left and the skipper managed to gain a few yards of space from the defender with a quick burst of pace, before delivering a deep cross towards Swift at the far post. The midfield man went in bravely and nodded the floating ball past Ian Lawlor in the City goal despite pressure from a number of defenders, notching his third goal in four Under-21 games.
A period of sustained City pressure followed as the visitors looked to get back on level terms quickly, however Drummy's side were defending patiently and pressing the ball at every opportunity, not allowing the midfield players time in possession.
Loftus-Cheek managed to steal the ball in midfield after one such spell and launched a quick break, feeding in Feruz down the right channel. However the striker's effort after cutting in on to his left foot was tame and wide.
The Blues remained confident in possession and were putting on some entertainment for the crowd in attendance inside Stamford Bridge. Ake, Swift and Brown dazzled with a few flicks and tricks down the left before the latter jinked his way into the penalty area. Despite losing his footing and tumbling to the turf the forward still managed to get an effort on goal, although Lawlor smothered the danger quickly.
Loftus-Cheek then saw an effort well saved behind by the visiting keeper after some further impressive footwork earned him some space inside the box, before City enjoyed their best spell of the game up to that point.
Ake had to be on full alert to deny Devante Cole with a terrific last-ditch tackle after Sinan Bytyqi had unselfishly squared the ball once played in through the middle, before full-back Greg Leigh's low delivery from the left was just a couple of inches ahead of the sliding Cole.
The young Blues had to remain patient without the ball and were causing most of their problems on the counter-attack, however it was City who continued to threaten to grab an equaliser. Seko Fofana had an effort fly high and wide after the bouncing ball set up nicely for him 25 yards out, while a loose ball from Ssewankambo at the back almost proved costly before the defender recovered his position and got the tackle in.
As the interval loomed Kiwomya shot wide after space opened up for him inside the right channel, before the hosts grabbed a second goal in first-half stoppage time. A corner from the left was flicked on at the front post and Christensen was on hand to prod the ball over the line from a couple of yards. The two-goal deficit at the break was somewhat harsh on City, however the Blues' impressive defensive work and intensity going forward had been rewarded with a decent cushion.
Chelsea kicked off the second half shooting towards the Shed End in the west London sunshine, however it was down the other end where most of the action remained as City looked for a way back into the game. Kalas was smart to divert behind a low cross from substitute Adam Drury with Cole lurking, while a few early set-pieces were also dealt with comfortably.
Marlon Lopes then lined up a dangerous-looking central free kick about 25 yards out, however the City captain, who grabbed a hat-trick against Bayern Munich in the week, opted to pass rather than shoot and the chance was quickly snuffed out on the edge of the Chelsea box. There was an opportunity for a quick Chelsea break then as Brown burst forward and the hosts had three men attacking against two defenders, though the wideman's pass through to Baker was slightly overhit and the danger cleared.
Drummy's first change of the game saw Kiwomya make way for Lamisha Musonda in a like-for-like swap on the right wing, while Vieira shuffled his striking options by replacing Cole with Jordi Hiwula up front.
As the hour mark passed Brown saw a header float just over the bar after good work down the right by Swift, before Ssewankambo took a knock that meant he could no longer continue and was replaced in defence by Alex Davey, with Kalas moving to right-back.
Yet it was the visitors' change that was to pay more immediate dividends as Hiwula grabbed a goal back with 20 minutes left to play. Good work down the right by full-back Drury and Jason Denayer fashioned the opening and, after a square ball across goal left Beeney helpless, the striker tapped home from a couple of yards.
That goal opened up what had been a tight contest, while the introduction of Jeremie Boga also provided Drummy's side with additional attacking prowess. It was the Frenchman's pressure, combined with that of Baker, that created a chance that ought to have seen the game put to bed, as the latter stole the ball from Ruznak and advanced towards goal, only for Lawlor to make a very good low save to keep his side in the game.
Feruz then fired wide as Chelsea kept up the pressure on the visitors while Kalas's effort from Baker's low corner flew only narrowly over Lawlor's bar. Yet it was City with the predictable late rally as they sought a dramatic equaliser and Beeney had to make a very good save down low with his legs to deny Fofana in stoppage time. Christensen and Davey defended the box strongly in the final few minutes and the hosts held on for all three points to secure their fourth win of the campaign.
'It was very pleasing because it was a really tough game,' said Drummy afterwards. 'I thought they caused us a lot of problems. They played really well and we had to dig deep and take our chances and fortunately we got the goal right before half time.
'It was a great first goal. Nathan Ake involved, he was outstanding all game, and once again John Swift getting into the box at the right time. But in the second half we really had to dig deep. I think the trip to Steaua and getting back at 5am the following morning, even though the boys had a day off, was tough on them so I'm really pleased that we've got that mentality.
'The second goal was crucial because they could have scored. It was a scrappy goal, which we don't normally score, but a pleasing goal to get and when you go in 2-0 up it's so important. We were really strong in the second half, Andreas defended resolutely and Mitchell made a very good save at the end.
'We couldn't press them high because our energy levels weren't there but also Man City played a great game in playing and building from the back so they didn't give us the ball cheaply and we had to work for it.'
Drummy also reported on a positive return from injury for Kalas and indicated the defender wouldn't be the only one in the group spending time with the first team next week.
'Tomas is back now and got 90 minutes and I'll talk to José and the medical team about where he goes next. We're off until Tuesday and then the boys who aren't on international duty will go into training at the next level with the first team and José will see them so they've got to really recover well.'
The next match for Drummy's side is a trip to the Stadium of Light to face Sunderland after the international break on Saturday 19th October.
Chelsea Mitchell Beeney; Isak Ssewankambo (Alex Davey 67), Tomas Kalas, Andreas Christensen, Nathan Ake (c); Lewis Baker, Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Jeremie Boga 75), John Swift; Alex Kiwomya (Lamisha Musonda 57), Isaiah Brown, Islam Feruz
Unused subs Ben Killip, Kevin Wright
Manchester City Ian Lawlor; Shay Facey (Adam Drury h/t), Greg Leigh, Ellis Plummer, Jason Denayer; George Evans (George Glendon 79) Seko Fofana, Marlon Lopes (c); Sinan Bytyqi, Albert Rusnak, Devante Cole (Jordi Hiwula 62)
Unused subs Angus Gunn, Louis Hutton
By Sam Poplett.
- Pictures courtesy of Mark Sandom.