Chelsea Under-21s stretched their unbeaten league run to six games and won their third league game from the last four as they came from behind to win at Aldershot this evening (Friday).
Joe Dodoo had fired the visitors ahead after 20 minutes but headed goals from Jake Clarke-Salter and Reece Mitchell either side of half-time ensured Adi Viveash’s side took all three points.
There were five changes from the side that picked up three points at Madejski Stadium with a 3-1 win against Reading four days previously, with a first Chelsea appearance for January signing Matt Miazga (pictured top).
The American started in a back three alongside Dion Conroy and Clarke-Salter, with Bradley Collins in goal. Viveash opted for a 3-5-2 system with Alex Kiwomya and Reece Mitchell leading the line up front, while Mukhtar Ali and Josimar Quintero formed the central midfield pairing.
Kasey Palmer started in the midfield number 10 role supporting the two strikers, while Ola Aina and captain Fankaty Dabo operated at left wing-back and right wing-back respectively.
The opening 20 minutes were quiet in both penalty areas, with the visitors looking to impose their direct style of play on the game from the start. Miazga blocked well on the edge of the box as defender Elliott Moore’s strike arrowed towards goal, while Mitchell tested goalkeeper Daniel Iversen with a powerful low drive.
The Chelsea frontman saw another attempt deflected narrowly wide following positive build-up play down the right flank involving Dabo and Palmer but it was Leicester who struck first with the opener after 19 minutes. A long ball forward was flicked on by Jacob Blyth into the path of Dodoo’s supporting run and the forward finished confidently beyond Collins to break the deadlock.
Viveash’s side looked for a swift response and threatened as Ali warmed the palms of Iversen with a drive from 30 yards out and then Aina fired high and wide after cutting inside from the left flank. However, the equaliser arrived with nine minutes of the first period remaining as Clarke-Salter netted his second goal of the campaign.
Iverson denied Aina with a smart save following a corner from the left but Leicester failed to clear their lines and Clarke-Salter found space in the box to head beyond the Danish stopper from a few yards out.
Viveash made a switch at the break as Tammy Abraham replaced Kiwomya up front but it was Leicester who first threatened after the restart as Collins gathered a low strike from Dodoo. The game’s third goal was fashioned with 53 minutes on the clock and it was Mitchell wheeling away in celebration. The forward’s movement worked him some space and he guided a brilliant header into the far corner after Dabo had supplied an exceptional delivery from the right.
Leicester briefly threatened for an instant response as Matty Miles shot just off-target but it was the home side who grew in ascendancy and took control of proceedings. They knew a third goal would extinguish any lingering hopes the visitors were harbouring and Mitchell came close to adding his second of the evening midway through the half.
Dabo was once again the chief creator as he advanced down the right and supplied a teasing delivery across the face of goal. A super tackle thwarted Abraham at the back post but the loose ball fell for Mitchell, who swivelled and fired at goal but was denied by a stop from Iversen.
The hosts continued to show a growing maturity to close the game out in the final exchanges and ought to have added a killer third goal. Substitute Charlie Colkett shot wide before fellow newcomer Abraham was denied by an excellent stop as the goalkeeper’s flailing foot kicked his effort away.
The striker then inadvertently diverted a goal-bound attempt from Aina away from goal late on, though Viveash’s men defended resolutely in added time to keep the ball away from Collins’s goal and preserve maximum league points for the second time in five days.
After the game, Adi Viveash reflected on an evening where the development of the group was in evidence, citing the match as one his side would probably not have won six months ago. Speaking to the official Chelsea website, he said: 'It's a very good result for us. It was a professional performance against a very physical and imposing team.
'We're in a league position that I think we deserve to be in at this moment in time because you can see the growth of the group over the course of the season. We wouldn't have won that game six months ago but we closed it out so well. The only criticism I've shared with the players in the dressing room is that you need to kill the game off in that situation and we had three chances to do that where we just hit the goalkeeper, rather than him making a great save.
'I was disappointed with the goal we conceded because it was practically the only team we got caught not tracking a runner but we grew back into it and to come back to win against a powerful side like that is a superb achievement.
'I was pleased for the older boys within the group; Reece gets us the winning goal, which is a goal good enough to win any game really. He's playing regularly now for the first time since he was 16 when he broke his leg in the FA Youth Cup and he's really producing for us. It was a world-class delivery from Fankaty too and he put in two or three of those in the second half.
'I felt Mukhtar Ali was the best player on the pitch though, with Josimar not far behind. They did a brilliant job of winning second balls and used it intelligently when they won it back. That was key for us tonight.'
Academy action resumes tomorrow morning (Saturday) when our youth team host Everton in the elite play-off round of the Under-18 Premier League, live on Chelsea TV from 11am. The stakes are raised further next week when our Under-19s take on Ajax in the UEFA Youth League quarter-finals on Tuesday 15 March and our Under-18s travel to Ewood Park to face Blackburn Rovers in the first leg of the semi-final tie.
Chelsea (3-5-2) Bradley Collins; Matt Miazga, Jake Clarke-Salter, Dion Conroy; Fankaty Dabo (c), Mukhtar Ali, Kasey Palmer (Charlie Colkett 68), Josimar Quintero (Kyle Scott 82), Ola Aina; Alex Kiwomya (Tammy Abraham h/t), Reece Mitchell
Unused subs Nathan Baxter, Fikayo Tomori
Scorers Clarke-Salter 36; Mitchell 53
Leicester City Daniel Iversen, Darnell Johnson, Jason Akiotu (Michael Kelly h/t), Ryan Watson, Elliott Moore, Liam Moore, Matty Miles (Natheniel Oseni 72), Michael Cain, Jacob Blyth (c), Admiral Muskwe (Danny Rowe 82), Joe Dodoo
Unused subs Jonny Maddison, Harvey Barnes
Scorer Dodoo 19
Referee Ian Fissenden