PL2 report: Chelsea 2 Arsenal 2

Our development squad were denied three PL2 points by a last-minute goal from the Gunners at Aldershot.

Martell Taylor-Crossdale’s maiden goal at the senior academy age group was quickly cancelled out by Vlad Dragomir before Dujon Sterling restored our lead 20 minutes into the second period. However, Arsenal levelled in the final minute of normal time and Jamie Cumming produced a point-saving stop late on. Sterling thought he had snatched the points with the final kick of the game but his header was ruled out for offside, much to the frustration of the home side.

There were four changes from our 1-1 Checkatrade Trophy draw at Yeovil Town in midweek, with first team squad members Jake Clarke-Salter and Charly Musonda drafted in along with Sterling and Harvey St Clair.

Clarke-Salter lined up alongside Trevoh Chalobah, Josh Grant and Sterling in a back four protecting keeper Cumming, while Musonda, St Clair and Kylian Hazard provided the attacking support for striker Taylor-Crossdale. Ruben Sammut and Jacob Maddox acted as the base in central midfield.

The Gunners started with six players to have featured for Arsene Wenger’s senior side this term, including the attacking quartet of Joe Willock, Chuba Akpom, Marcus McGuane and Eddie Nketiah. However, it was the hosts who started brightest in the Aldershot sunshine as they settled confidently in possession and enjoyed the early territorial advantage.

Hazard, scorer of our last goal at Aldershot against Swansea in PL2, had the contest’s first effort after 10 minutes following a poor clearance from Arsenal keeper Deyan Iliev. Maddox latched on to the loose ball and advanced before finding the Belgian, though his scuffed shot brought an easy save.

There was less the visiting Macedonian stopper could do four minutes later as Edwards’s side struck first in the London derby. A neat move down the left between Musonda, St Clair and Grant saw the latter supply a low cross into the six-yard box and Taylor-Crossdale was on hand to net his first goal at the development squad age group.

The 17-year-old went close to adding a second a few minutes later as he latched on to the end of Sterling’s delivery from the right but side-footed just wide, with the linesman also ruling he had strayed narrowly offside.

Our advantage lasted four minutes as a hopeful long pass down the left channel caused problems for the Chelsea backline. Dragomir’s run saw him reach the dropping ball first and a cushioned finish over the advancing Cumming restored swift parity.

It was a disappointing equaliser to concede in both timing and manner but we continued to enjoy the better of proceedings as Taylor-Crossdale forced a good stop from Iliev with a powerful drive from the right. The Arsenal keeper remained one of the busiest men on the field but the Blues were largely restricted to efforts from distance as the half progressed.

Musonda was denied by a low save to the keeper’s right before St Clair and then Musonda again conjured chances that failed to seriously test the 22-year-old between Arsenal’s posts. The only chance of note from the visitors before the break saw Dragomir advance to the right byline but his cutback was plucked from the air by the alert Cumming.

The second period began in inconspicuous fashion until Musonda provided a spark, jinking through a crowded midfield and towards the 18-yard box before his effort at goal was blocked by a defender. Down the other end, Josh Da Silva did well to skip past Sterling and fire a low centre across the face of goal but his supply lacked a finish in the box and Grant cleared at the far post.

The game’s third goal came with 25 minutes remaining and owed much to the quick feet of Hazard, channelling the trickery of his older brother. The 22-year-old skipped away from two challenges inside the box before firing a low shot that was parried by Iliev and gratefully received by Sterling, the defender’s shot on the rebound squirming underneath the keeper and over the line.

Maddox almost extended the advantage straight away as the midfielder broke into the box and curled inches wide with a left-footed attempt before St Clair forced another smart save down low from Iliev after progressing purposefully down the left flank.

Arsenal were forced into swapping their keepers in the final 10 minutes following a knock to the header for Iliev before a grandstand finish to the action. The visitors stole an equaliser in the final minute of normal time as Joe Willock received the ball in space and directed his finish into the bottom corner from close range.

It could have been worse for Edwards and his youngsters as they were caught on the break while pressing for a late winner, the Gunners racing forward in numbers before working the ball to Marcus McGuane at the far post. With the angle narrowing, the midfielder fired towards the near post but Cumming was equal to the effort and made an impressive save to push the ball round the post.

In the opposite penalty area, the home crowd thought the Blues had won it with the final kick of the game. A free-kick was hooked towards goal by Grant and floated over the head of sub keeper Hugo Keto before Sterling nodded it over the line. However, the linesman’s flag was raised quickly on the near side, bringing an abrupt end to Chelsea celebrations and ensuring a share of the league points.

 

Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Jamie Cumming; Dujon Sterling, Trevoh Chalobah, Jake Clarke-Salter (c), Josh Grant; Ruben Sammut, Jacob Maddox; Kylian Hazard (Cole Dasilva 89), Charly Musonda, Harvey St Clair; Martell Taylor-Crossdale
Unused subs Joseph Colley, Marcin Bulka, Juan Castillo, Charlie Brown
Scorers
Taylor-Crossdale 14; Sterling 65
Booked Maddox 23; Sammut 44

Arsenal Deyan Iliev (Hugo Keto 82), Jordi Osei-Tutu, Josh Da Silva, Ben Sheaf, Julio Pleguezuelo (c), Zech Medley (Tolaji Bola 82), Vlad Dragomir, Joe Willock, Chuba Akpom, Marcus McGuane, Eddie Nketiah
Unused subs
Charlie Gilmour, Joseph Olowu, Tafari Moore
Scorers Dragomir 18; Willock 90
Booked Willock 57

Referee Christopher O’Donnell

 

-Additional pictures courtesy of Mark Sandom