RESERVE REPORT: WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 3 CHELSEA 2
A disappointing result for the Blues, even more so when taking into account the fact that we led on two separate occasions.
Patrick Bamford opened the scoring, finishing well after a defensive lapse from the home side, but Wolves were level soon after when Jake Kempton capitalised on a mistake by goalkeeper James Russell.
Almost from the kick-off, we were back in front when Bamford teed up Lucas Piazon inside the box to restore our lead but, once again, we were soon pegged back when Nenad Milijas drove a powerful effort into the bottom corner.
The second half failed to live up to the first 45 minutes in terms of goalmouth action, but Liam McAlinden headed home the winner for the home side with 15 minutes left to play.
Dermot Drummy made one change from the side which drew 2-2 at Swansea last week. With Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku unavailable, Bamford moved more centrally to spearhead the Blues' attack, with Islam Feruz (pictured below) coming into the side to play on the right of a front-three. Midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah skippered the side with Sam Hutchinson again missing out through injury.
Wolves, meanwhile, were able to field a relatively experienced side, particularly in central midfield where first-team regulars Karl Henry and Milijas both started, while Dorus De Vries and Anthony Forde have also featured for their first team this season.
The home side started the game brightly, with Forde forcing a corner inside the opening minute, only for the resulting kick to be cleared out of the stadium by Conor Clifford at the near post.
It was a lively opening from both sides, and a quick Chelsea break a minute later involving Billy Clifford, Piazon and Feruz would have paid dividends but for a last-ditch intervention by the left-back Kristian Kostrna.
Blues manager Drummy had spoken in the build-up to the match of the importance of matching Wolves physically, and Henry, a player known for his combative style of play, appeared to grab Billy Clifford (pictured below) around the face, a challenge that went unpunished by the referee.
Chelsea were enjoying plenty of possession during the early exchanges, and it was no surprise when the pressure eventually told in the 12th minute.
The Wolves defence failed to clear a harmless looking pass out from the back by Rohan Ince (pictured top), and it was Bamford who reacted quickest, latching on to the loose ball, before taking a couple of touches and calmly slotting past De Vries to give the Blues a deserved lead, his third goal of the campaign.
The goal, however, appeared to spark the home side into life, and seven minutes later they were level, this time taking advantage of an unfortunate error by Russell. Forde tried his luck from outside the penalty area, but as the keeper looked set to claim comfortably low down, the ball bounced up off him and straight into the path of Kempton who couldn't miss.
The goal was harsh on the Blues after a positive opening, but almost from the restart we were in front again. A quick attack saw Wolves fail to clear their lines, and as the ball broke to Bamford, he rolled it into the path of Piazon who scored for the second week in succession.
It seemed as though every time there was an attack, there was a goal, and in the 26th minute Wolves equalised for the second time. Milijas was afforded far too much time and space just outside the box, and his sweet left-footed strike was too powerful for Russell, beating the goalie and nestling in the bottom corner of the net.
Drummy will not be pleased with his side for throwing away the lead again so quickly after regaining it, and we were fortunate not to concede a third when an unmarked Kempton directed a free header wide of Russell's left-hand post.
As the half wore on, we were struggling to find any rhythm in our play; simple passes were going astray, needless free-kicks were given away and there was a lack of creativity in the final third.
Milijas's experience began to tell as the half drew to a close as the Serbian orchestrated proceedings from the middle of the park. Russell, meanwhile, was forced into an impressive double save from Ihiekwe as we failed to clear a Wolves corner.
Both sides emerged for the second half without any changes to personnel, and it was Forde who had the first real opportunity, firing an angled drive narrowly wide with Russell well beaten as the hosts looked to seize the initiative, while soon after McAlinden tested the keeper with a powerful strike down to his left.
Piazon came closest to giving the Blues the lead, cutting in from the left and evading his marker, only to see his stinging effort saved by the feet of De Vries as the game began to open up again.
Shortly after, the Brazilian was crowded out in the penalty area after racing on to a wonderful pass by the captain Chalobah, while Drummy made his one substitution of the night, replacing Feruz with Adam Phillip.
Both teams were struggling to carve out any clear-cut opportunities, and while the Blues looked to utilise the threat of Piazon down the left-hand side at every opportunity, it was Billy Clifford who went closest for us with a curling effort from distance that drifted over the bar.
Wolves, though, took the lead with 15 minutes remaining, when Jordan Cranston's delivery from wide on the left was headed home by the unmarked McAlinden, putting the home side in front for the first time in the match, and at such a pivotal time.
As the Blues pressed forward in search of an equaliser, Bamford felt he was brought down on the edge of the penalty area only for his appeals to fall on deaf ears, while at the other end, Russell did well to save from the substitute David Moli.
Wolves were content to sit back and invite the pressure on in the closing stages, and while Piazon and Bamford, in particular, remained a threat, De Vries didn't have to make a real save of any note.
Chelsea (4-3-3): James Russell; Todd Kane, Rohan Ince, George Saville, Aziz-Deen Conteh; Billy Clifford (Lewis Baker 90), Nathaniel Chalobah (c), Conor Clifford; Islam Feruz (Adam Phillip 61), Patrick Bamford, Lucas Piazon.
Unused substitutes: Mitchell Beeney, Alex Davey, Amin Affane.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-2): Dorus De Vries; Michael Ihiekwe, Olly Bashford, Ethan Ebanks-Landell (c), Kristian Kostrna; Anthony Forde (David Moli 78), Karl Henry (Sam Whittall 61), Nenad Milijas (Jim Kellerman 69), Jordan Cranston; Jake Kempton, Liam McAlinden.
Unused substitutes: Aaron McCarey, Ibraham Keita