RESERVE REPORT: SWANSEA CITY 2 CHELSEA 2
Goals from Patrick Bamford (pictured) and Lucas Piazon saw Chelsea's reserve side come from behind twice to earn a point in an enthralling clash at Llanelli's Parc y Scarlets.
A tense opening produced few clear-cut chances, with Chelsea's first good effort coming from Patrick Bamford, who latched onto Nathaniel Chalobah's pass before firing a low effort at Swans goalkeeper Jose Moreira at the near post.
Chalobah's evening would last just 19 minutes however. Having taken a knock five minutes earlier, the Blues skipper was replaced by Alex Davey.
As the first half continued the game began to open up, with Piazon at the heart of the action for the visitors. After latching onto a lofted pass, the Brazilian did well to keep his volley down, only to see his effort held by the diving Moreira.
The Blues again came close to breaking the deadlock on the half-hour mark. From Billy Clifford's corner, substitute Davey rose highest but his effort was cleared off the line as the visitors began a spell of dominance which would last for the remainder of the half.
Piazon created a series of chances, driving in from the left before moving the ball right for Conor Clifford to strike, his effort parried to safety by Moreira. Minutes later, a superb turn and pass from Piazon found Romelu Lukaku whose powerful effort was deflected wide for a corner. The resulting delivery fell to Piazon, his strike again blocked for a Chelsea corner as the hosts made it to half-time with the scores level.
A resurgent Swansea side took the field for the second 45-minute period, taking the lead on 49 minutes. From a corner, Joe Walsh's knock down was met by Gwion Edwards to net from close range.
As frustration grew in the Chelsea side, goalkeeper James Russell twice denied Lita to keep the visitors in the game. After Fede Bessone's deflected cross looped high into the air, the Blues keeper reacted first to punch clear under pressure from the Swansea striker. Lita then won a physical duel with Rohan Ince before unleashing a powerful near-post strike, parried to safety by Russell.
After absorbing further Swansea pressure, Chelsea equalised on 77 minutes as Lukaku's through ball found Bamford coming in from the right. He rifled his effort into the roof of the net to put Chelsea on level terms, kickstarting a pulsating conclusion to the match. It was the January signing's second reserve goal and first from open play.
Three minutes later, Lukaku came close to putting the Blues in front, showing excellent tenacity in the Swansea penalty area, only for his finish to be blocked on the line by Swans defender Alan Tate, before the hosts regained the lead on 84 minutes.
Receiving the ball on the left flank, Casey Thomas' superb run and cross found substitute Rory Donnelly in the Blues penalty area, his strike taking a wicked deflection past the stranded Russell, putting the hosts in front with minutes remaining.
Into the final minute of normal time, the impressive Piazon secured a point for Chelsea. Todd Kane's low ball into the feet of Lukaku allowed the Belgian striker to square for Piazon, who coolly slotted home to level the scores for a second time and register his third reserve goal.
Into six added minutes, Chelsea would have a chance to snatch a late winner, with Bamford going close to his second goal of the night, denied agonisingly by the crossbar as the two sides shared the spoils at the end of an entertaining game in South Wales.
After a fascinating clash, reserve team manager Dermot Drummy was pleased with a spirited performance from his side, despite missing chances to turn early dominance into goals.
'We got hold of the game and should have scored a couple in the first half,' Drummy told Chelsea TV.
'It's been a long trip, it's been nice to see Brendan [Rodgers, former Chelsea coach] and I'm pleased overall.'
Chelsea: James Russell; Todd Kane, Rohan Ince, George Saville, Aziz Deen-Conteh; Billy Clifford, Conor Clifford (Adam Phillip 62), Nathaniel Chalobah (c) (Alex Davey 19); Patrick Bamford, Romelu Lukaku, Lucas Piazon.
Unused subs: Mitchell Beeney, James Ashton, Lewis Baker.
By Daniel Clarke.
Highlights of the game will be in Chelsea TV's 'Blues News'.