Young Blues in action at Brighton

Our Academy sides travelled to the South Coast yesterday (Tuesday) for a double-header against Brighton and Hove Albion at their new training complex, with the Under-21s recording a 1-1 draw and the youth team triumphing 4-2.

With their league campaign kicking off next week, the Under-21s started with many of the players expected to be involved against Manchester City on Friday 15 August at Aldershot. Dominic Solanke and Mitchell Beeney featured for Adi Viveash’s side for the first time this pre-season, having spent time with Jose Mourinho’s first team squad through most of July, while there were also starts for Nathaniel Chalobah, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Alex Kiwomya and Charly Musonda (pictured top).

The visitors could have taken the lead inside the opening few minutes after good work down the right from Kiwomya fashioned a chance and there were mass appeals for a handball on the line, though the referee waved away the penalty shouts. A competitive contest followed and the young Blues did take the lead half an hour later, with Ola Aina’s determined foray from left-back creating an opportunity for Solanke. The England Under-17 striker was upended as he prepared to shoot at goal and Musonda stepped up to confidently dispatch the spot-kick into the bottom corner.

However, Brighton came back strongly in the second half and were level after 70 minutes through a combination of two former Chelsea academy players. George Cole and Daniel Pappoe both signed one-year contracts at the Amex this week after leaving the Blues following nine years in the youth ranks and Cole’s deep corner from the left found the defender at the far post, where he nodded in past Beeney to ensure the match finished level.

Viveash reflected afterwards on a competitive afternoon’s work against an academy recently awarded Category 1 status. ‘It was a good game,’ he told the official Chelsea website. ‘I was very pleased with the first half, where I felt we did really well in pressing high and creating lots of chances.

‘Alex Kiwomya was very prominent for us and I thought we got better as the half went on. The move for our goal was the best of the game but in the second half we drifted away a little bit.

‘We’re trying to get people through minutes so we had to make a few changes in the second half but it was good for Nathaniel to get a strong 65 minutes and it was great for us to get Ruben Loftus-Cheek back out on the pitch again and through 55 minutes. Dominic needed his 45 minutes; he hasn’t played a lot of football of late and he’s a bit rusty so we need to be careful with him and getting him back up to speed but it’s been another very worthwhile exercise for us and now we move on to our final challenge of pre-season at Derby on Sunday.’

Earlier in the afternoon, the Under-18s made it five pre-season wins from five games as they ran out 4-2 winners. They fell behind inside five minutes before an Issac Christie-Davies inswinging free-kick caused problems and forced an own goal to level the score. Then, a brilliant passing move culminated in Josimar Quintero delicately finishing beyond the goalkeeper from 10 yards.

New scholar Hubert Adamczyk grabbed his second goal in two games with a caressed right-foot finish into the bottom corner after 34 minutes before Tammy Abraham was found by Quintero and continued the afternoon’s theme of tidy finishes to send the youngsters in 4-1 up at the break. The hosts pulled a goal back in the final 10 minutes but the young Blues were good value for their victory and assistant manager Jody Morris told afterwards how it was important for the players to manage their fitness levels at times in the game ahead of a demanding week.

‘We’re a bit light on numbers at the minute,’ he said, ‘with a couple of injuries and some of the younger boys away at the Nike Cup finals, so we spoke beforehand about the players managing themselves and we had a game plan to press quite high in the first half and then come off a bit after the break and control the game.

‘I was impressed with the maturity of the boys to take that on board in the second half. They realise they have a busy schedule coming up with the festival at Cobham at the end of the week and three games in three days and they took on the information we gave them about that.

‘I felt we played really well. We were a bit off it in the first 15 minutes in terms of working out the press and getting the ball back but once we solved that out I thought we dominated the game. Tammy’s goal was fantastic and it’s great to have him back and playing a strong 70 minutes. He’s been out for a while and his return has given a real boost to the whole group. His enthusiasm for football is great and he showed his qualities again today. When we get all our boys back together the group is looking very strong for the new season.’

Next up for the Under-18s is the three-day festival, held this year at Cobham, where the youngsters will take on youth sides from Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham. The tournament is behind-closed-doors and supporters will not be admitted. The Under-21s’ final friendly before their league opener is at Derby County on Sunday 10 August.