Under-21s report: Chelsea 2 Manchester City 1

The Under-21s got the defence of their league title off to an excellent start with a home win against a strong Manchester City side at Aldershot Town FC.

Pablo Maffeo had put the visitors in front after just three minutes and it took a big effort from the young Blues, and 74 minutes, to regain parity in the game. Ola Aina’s wicked delivery from the right caused problems and Maffeo sliced into his own net.

That goal ensured a grandstand finale and the youngsters grabbed the winner late on in stoppage time as Alex Kiwomya’s deflected cross found its way through to substitute Charly Musonda, and the Belgian fired into the bottom corner to earn his side all three points.

Team news
Adi Viveash’s first starting 11 as Under-21 manager featured four of those who began the final game of last season at Old Trafford, where the young Blues clinched the league crown with a 2-1 win. Aina and Andreas Christensen continued in defence, alongside returned-from-loan players Nathaniel Chalobah and Todd Kane, while Mitchell Beeney started in goal.

Lewis Baker, who scored the winning goal in Manchester back in May, captained the team from midfield next to Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Charlie Colkett, while Patrick Bamford led the line up front supported from out wide by Alex Kiwomya and Jeremie Boga.

First half
Patrick Vieira’s Manchester City were beaten semi-finalists in last year’s play-offs as Dermot Drummy’s side won twice in the north-west to secure the league title, and the visitors demonstrated their qualities inside the opening five minutes with the game’s opening goal. A corner from the left was initially met by the defending Bamford, though his header clear wasn’t decisive and Maffeo reacted quickest to turn the loose ball past Beeney and beyond the covering Kane on the line.

The Blues responded as Bamford fired narrowly wide on the half-volley and then Loftus-Cheek was quickly thwarted by goalkeeper Angus Gunn after a brilliant clipped pass forward from Colkett. Down the opposite end, Kane was cautioned for a foul on Mathias Bossaerts and Sinan Bytyqi stepped up to flight a bending free kick onto the top of the crossbar.

City continued to create the better of the chances and Beeney denied Devante Cole with an excellent save down low to his left after the wideman had escaped in between Aina and Chalobah down the left flank. However, Viveash’s side were working hard to regain a foothold in the contest and soon enjoyed a flurry of opportunities before the break.

Colkett and Boga combined brilliantly down the left to create an opening, with the former pulling off an inventive back-heel not too dissimilar to his assist for Dominic Solanke’s Youth Cup final winning goal, however the French youth international’s effort was stopped well by Gunn. Boga again tested the City goalkeeper after drifting in dangerously from the left, while Maffeo had to pull off an excellent block to deny Kiwomya as the winger prepared to pull the trigger.

Cole again threatened for City with the final chance of the half, firing narrowly beyond the far post at the end of a quick break forward after possession was lost by Chalobah, as the visitors gave a warning of their danger.

Second half
Chelsea started the second period brightly and a combination between Boga and Bamford fashioned a wonderful opportunity for Baker eight minutes after the restart, though Gunn once again demonstrated alertness and speed off his line to make the save behind. From the following corner, Bamford headed over as he stretched behind himself, though the hosts were building steady pressure as they pushed for the equaliser.

Loftus-Cheek had an effort deflect a couple of feet past the far post and Baker’s left-footed free-kick curled just over, though the pace of Ambrose on the break continued to cause the hosts problems and Aina had to time his challenge perfectly as the forward forayed into the penalty area.

Cole came closest to doubling the City advantage as he rounded Beeney and arrowed a strike towards goal, though the recovering Christensen on the line headed the danger away and that intervention proved crucial a few moments later as the hosts grabbed the leveller. An attack down the right saw Aina deliver a wicked low cross across the face of goal and, with forwards lurking around him, Maffeo sliced a clearance into his own net to level the scores.

The drama intensified and the game was balanced intriguingly in the final 10 minutes as City were reduced to 10 men. Solanke spun off his man and looked to accelerate on to the high pass forward before he was pulled back by Facey and the defender was handed his second booking of the evening. Chelsea made the numerical advantage count as they grew in superiority in the final exchanges and grabbed a winner in stoppage time.

Kiwomya advanced down the right and his deflected cross found its way all the way through to substitute Charly Musonda, whose low drive into the bottom corner flew beyond the despairing dive of Gunn and earned his side all three league points.

Manager Reaction
Viveash reflected afterwards on a testing opening game to the league season but praised his side’s second half performance. Speaking to the official Chelsea website, he said: ‘It was a really tough game against a really strong, physical team. They caused us problems but the game was everything I expected it to be.

‘The early goal rocked us a little bit and it looked for long periods like it was going to decide the game, like it does in many Premier League games, but in the second half we were outstanding. In the first half we weren’t great with the ball in defensive situations and we were a bit sloppy in losing possession and handing them opportunities but in the second half we had a lot more drive, passion and quality on the ball. It was a fantastic end to the game and a brilliant win for us.’

The manager also credited Musonda’s attitude in responding to the disappointment of not starting the game by coming off the bench to inspire the victory.

‘It was nice for Charly to score because it was a difficult decision for me to leave him out. He’s had an outstanding pre-season, scoring and creating goals, and he was unlucky to miss out tonight but he responded in the perfect way.’

Chelsea Mitchell Beeney; Ola Aina, Nathaniel Chalobah, Andreas Christensen, Todd Kane; Lewis Baker (c), Charlie Colkett (Charly Musonda 55), Ruben Loftus-Cheek; Alex Kiwomya, Patrick Bamford (Dominic Solanke 66), Jeremie Boga
Unused subs Bradley Collins, Fankaty Dabo, Jordan Houghton
Scorers Maffeo o.g. 77, Musonda 90+2
Booked Kane

Man City: Angus Gunn, Mathias Bossaerts, Angel Tasende, Pablo Maffeo, Shay Facey, George Glendon (c), Sinan Bytyqi, Seko Fofana, Thierry Ambrose (Jordy Hiwula 61), Oliver Ntcham (James Horsfield 64), Devante Cole
Unused subs: Ian Lawlor, Jack Byrne, Jose Pozo
Scorer: Maffeo 3
Booked Ntcham, Facey
Sent off Facey

By Sam Poplett