UNDER 21 REPORT: CRYSTAL PALACE 2 CHELSEA 2
Dermot Drummy's side were twice behind in their first away game of the season but were able to call on the shooting prowess of George Saville to earn a point at Selhurst Park.
The 19-year-old midfielder, one of the older players in the side, twice found the net with long-range efforts, scoring in each half.
Crystal Palace, with a pacy attack, were able to cause problems with passes in behind the Chelsea defence and took the lead inside the first quarter of an hour. However Chelsea responded well and were good value for the 1-1 score at the interval.
Palace went ahead again following a swift counter-attack before Saville's second 65 minutes into the game. Both sides had chances after that but with an even second-half, the draw was probably a fair result.
Lewis Baker was fit to return after an injury suffered in a recent training ground friendly and replaced Marko Marin in the only change from the team that lost to Liverpool in the previous game. He played on the left wing with Islam Feruz flanking centre-forward Patrick Bamford on the right.
Billy Clifford was the more forward of the fluid midfield three with George Saville and Ruben Loftus-Cheek the deeper pair.
There was early work for Jamal Blackman in the Chelsea goal, diving to make sure a shot from a very narrow angle by Ibra Sekajja was off-target.
Feruz was the first to test the Palace keeper with a low shot soon after but the first goal came at the other end with just 13 minutes played.
A lack of concentration by the Blues left Blackman with no choice but to leave his area in a race to the ball with the Eagles centre-forward Sekajja. A crunching tackle was won by the Chelsea keeper with the Palace man left in pain but the home side had the last laugh when the ball found its way to Stuart O'Keefe. The Palace captain was patient with his finish into a net guarded by only one defender.
The Selhurst Park pitch was showing no ill-effects of heavy rain earlier in the day and steadily Dermot Drummy's side began to establish a foothold in the game. After Aziz Deen-Conteh had perhaps fortuitously been awarded a free-kick out wide, Bamford challenged strongly for a header from Baker's delivery. A corner resulted which was met by Loftus-Cheek but his header went over.
Palace were being pressed further and further back and Clifford, who had been probing away in midfield, tried a curler from 20 yards as the Palace defence stood back, but couldn't find the target.
Chelsea however were almost caught out once more when Bayan Fenwick slipped a pass behind Deen-Conteh but this time Blackman's covering run worked out okay.
On 41 minutes Palace finally paid the price for not closing down our midfielders. The combative Saville had a minute earlier won the ball with highly-committed challenge but now further up the pitch he showed another side of his game, firing the ball high into the net with a shot too powerful to be stopped by a touch from Lewis Price's glove.
The Blues were able to head into the dressing room at half-time deservedly level.
The home side were the first to threaten after the restart, Deen-Conteh judged to have fouled and the free-kick towards the far-post area just evading the red-and-blue shirts running there.
The Blues were given a free-kick at the other end and Palace afforded Saville room again as it was played square but this time the midfielder's shot was blocked.
The home side retook the lead 10 minutes in. Bamford, in attempting to play the ball back to the Chelsea midfield, misdirected the pass and Palace broke from their own half. Bamford and colleagues gave chase but Jason Banton had the pace to stay ahead and finished low past Blackman.
Deen-Conteh was booked for blocking a run shortly before Loftus-Cheek was replaced by Conor Clifford, back from his loan spell at Portsmouth.
It was another one of the midfield that was at the heart of the next action though, Saville taking a pass from the right from Baker and setting his sights perfectly again, this time rifling the ball into the bottom right-hand corner from well outside the area.
Shortly after Deen-Conteh charged from into the area and smashed a shot just over before at the other end, Banton was a whisker away from his second of the game.
Those attempts were indicative of a more balanced contest than for much of the first half. Blackman dived full-length to keep out a free-kick from Fenwick and then saved in open play from substitute Reise Allassani who had caused some problems since coming on.
Chelsea had the chance to win it late on but when substitute Jeremie Boga threaded a first-time pass behind the Palace central defence, Bamford's touch was loose and the opportunity to shoot passed by. Feruz fired over from an angle soon after.
There was an unfortunate end to the game for Conor Clifford who took a blow to ribs, forcing Chelsea down to 10 men for a short period.
'I definitely think we should have won the game in terms of the possession we had,' said manager Dermot Drummy, 'but we didn't turn that into quality in the final third and we have to work on that.
'Palace came strongly in the second half but towards the end Patrick Bamford over-touched at the end of a great move and had Islam Feruz put the ball across the box rather than shoot we could have nicked it. But the boys had to battle for the draw and will look at it as two points lost but that is a good learning experience.
'George Saville has a lovely strike on him in training and it is nice to see long-range shooting sometimes because we do play it intricately around the box a lot of the time. He scored two great goals.'
Chelsea Jamal Blackman; Todd Kane (c), Alex Davey, Nathan Ake, Aziz Deen-Conteh; Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Conor Clifford 63), Billy Clifford (Jeremie Boga 79), George Saville; Islam Feruz, Patrick Bamford, Lewis Baker (Adam Nditi 86).
Palace Lewis Price; Alex Wynter, Aaron Martin, Quade Taylor, Matt Parsons: Hiram Boateng; Bayan Fenwick, Stuart O'Keefe, Kadell Daniel, Jason Banton (Reise Allassani 72); Ibra Sekajja.