Under-18s beaten in friendly tournament

Our Under-18s concluded their pre-season action this week with a four-team mini-tournament held at Cobham and involving Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United.

Each side faced one another across three days in shorter 70-minute matches as the focus for Joe Edwards and his side shifted to testing themselves against top-quality opposition before the new season kicks off next weekend.

A total of 18 players featured for the young Blues across the tournament as minutes were shared around, though there was slight disappointment on the results front as the hosts were beaten in each of their three games.

A side featuring Dominic Solanke, Bradley Collins, Kasey Palmer and Reece Mitchell went down 2-1 in their opener against Tottenham on Thursday evening, with striker Tammy Abraham’s late penalty not enough to cancel out earlier goals from Shayon Harrison and Ryan Loft.

Day two saw a younger Chelsea side come up against a strong Arsenal and a goal midway through the opening period from midfielder Dan Crowley put the Gunners ahead before substitute Gedion Zelalem added a second late on.

The final day of action brought the Blues up against Manchester United and, after striker Ike Ugbo had thumped the base of the post inside the opening 10 minutes, a well-worked goal saw United take the advantage and subsequently close the game out well. However, the win wasn’t enough to give United the tournament crown as Spurs’ 2-0 wins over both Arsenal and United saw them triumph with three wins from three.

youth friendly_cobham

Edwards reflected at the end of the festival on small mistakes being punished by quality opponents but admitted the tournament had been productive for him and his players. Speaking to the official Chelsea website, he said: ‘We had five friendlies before this festival and we always knew the level would go up and the age group would go up as well.

‘We’ve only had a couple of second- years with us and we’ve been mainly made up of new scholars and a few Under-16s, whereas the other teams have had quite a few second-years involved. That’s been a good taster for our boys because youth football is often like that, particularly in the early part of the season.

‘To play against second-years, and of the quality of United, Spurs and Arsenal, you do get punished for little mistakes you make and lapses in concentration. We’ve been in control of games and then just been punished out of the blue and we’ve lost games because of that. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way against this sort of quality opposition but that’s what we want to test ourselves against.

‘It’s been a really productive exercise for us and it’s hopefully given the boys some motivation that we’ve still got some work to do before the season starts.’

The Under-18s’ campaign gets underway next Saturday 16 August as they host Southampton at Cobham. The previous evening, on Friday 15 August, Adi Viveash’s Under-21s start their season with a home clash against Manchester City at Aldershot Town FC. The match kicks off at 7pm and entry will be free of charge to all spectators.

By Sam Poplett

Pictures courtesy of Mark Sandom