Our development squad collected four goals and three points on the road as they turned an impressive performance into victory in Premier League 2.
While home comforts remain hard to come by, the young Blues have travelled extremely well and this was their fourth league win this term, continuing their 100 per cent record and taking them joint-top of the table. George McEachran provided life to an uneventful first half as he fired in from a corner before three Chelsea goals in 11 minutes put the matter to bed late on.
Charlie Brown’s goal after 74 minutes was key, establishing a critical advantage, before Tariq Uwakwe headed in a third and Juan Castillo’s finish from the left made it 4-0. Manchester City did find the net before the end but it not enough to spoil another enjoyable trip for our youngsters.
Edwards’s side had won three from three on the road in Premier League 2 this term utilising a 3-5-2 system that provided width and stability off the ball. It was, therefore, no surprise that the visitors lined up with the same system in Manchester, with three changes made from last month’s victory at West Ham.
Richard Nartey replaced Josh Grant in defence, while Conor Gallagher made his first start of the campaign in midfield and Martell Taylor-Crossdale joined Daishawn Redan up front. The central defensive trio was completed by Joseph Colley and Marc Guehi protecting goalkeeper Jamie Cumming, while Tariq Lamptey and Castillo continued at wing-back.
McEachran and Billy Gilmour paired in central midfield as two of four league ever-presents, with Lamptey and Castillo the others. City started the day two places and two points better off in the league standings and with a penchant for inspiring eventful contests, their seven PL2 fixtures spawning 40 goals to date in 2018/19.
On a bright and mild lunchtime in the shadow of the Etihad Stadium, the hosts took it upon themselves to control the early possession game, taking on our 3-5-2 with their typical 4-3-3 prescription. Cumming was forced to work inside five minutes, reacting smartly at his near post to push Nabil Touaizi’s shot behind after a clever pass from Ian Poveda.
Guehi’s powers of anticipation and bravery were then tested as the hosts advanced down the left wing, with the 18-year-old throwing himself down in front of the ball to make a crucial close-range block. The Chelsea threat was infrequent, Lamptey occasionally causing problems for his opposite number Nathanael Ogbeta but Daniel Grimshaw’s goal largely remained untroubled.
Cumming watched and gathered Taylor Richards’s speculative drive from distance as Paul Harsley’s side probed but the game lacked tempo and the regular stoppages in play failed to help. Poveda and Touaizi combined well after a quarter of an hour, capitalising on a slack pass on halfway from McEachran, though Poveda’s effort on the half-volley had too much height to worry Cumming.
The Blues gradually sharpened in the final third and Castillo provided a warning, escaping in behind right-back Alpha Diounkou and delivering low into the six-yard box, though Colin Rosler read the danger well and cleared. Our first real opportunity came 30 minutes in as pressure from the front paid dividends in forcing an error from City’s play out from the goalkeeper.
Gallagher charged the ball down and continued chasing as it spun up into the air above Grimshaw. The two challenged in an aerial duel and the midfielder won it, though his header bounced just the wrong side of the keeper’s post.
With the half petering towards a quiet conclusion, the deadlock was broken two minutes before the interval and it arrived courtesy of a Chelsea set-piece. A wild defensive clearance had given Gilmour the chance to swing in a delivery from the left and the loose ball fell kindly for McEachran, who had time to set himself and steady his stride before firing into the net from 10 yards. It was the midfielder’s second goal in two games, having previously not netted since March.
City looked to the bench for a source of inspiration at half-time and introduced Welsh winger Rabbi Matondo to provide it. The home team had averaged almost three goals a game in all competitions but were now faced with the challenge of breaking down a resilient and well-organised rearguard, motivated by the task of protecting their one-goal lead.
Increasingly tactical as the clock ticked on, this contest had the feeling that every small detail mattered. Edwards swapped one of his forwards for a midfielder, Uwakwe taking the place of Redan, after Taylor-Crossdale had earlier been forced off with an injury and replaced by Brown. City had most of the ball but the visitors had much of the green turf to exploit whenever they could turn over possession.
Chances were more fleeting and restricted in the second period, with Cumming’s most severe task being to grasp the ball down low after a deflected cross from the right. Lamptey’s speed was useful on the counter-attack and one such forward burst brought appeals for a penalty, though the referee was not convinced.
With 16 minutes remaining, Edwards’s boys bagged a second goal that provided them with a crucial cushion. Once again, it owed in part to ineffective 18-yard box defending as a clipped cross headed towards the corner by Colley was never properly dealt with by neither Grimshaw nor his defenders. The loose ball bobbled around before Brown provided the decisive touch, emphatically smashing in from a few yards out.
If that did not convince the visitors that the points were safe, their third four minutes later certainly did. Castillo collected an assist on this occasion, whipping the ball in from the left touchline for Uwakwe to plant a firm header into the top corner at the back post. Castillo then switched from provider to finisher, his gallop down the wing leaving defenders trailing in his wake before the Dutchman buried a confident finish across goal and into the far corner for his first goal of the season.
The afternoon was spoiled somewhat late on as Cumming’s clean sheet was stolen, substitutes Matondo and Lorenzo Gonzalez combining for the latter to poke beyond the keeper from inside the six-yard box. However, it was far too little, too late for City as the Blues moved level with Arsenal and Everton on 14 points.
Chelsea (3-5-2) Jamie Cumming; Joseph Colley, Richard Nartey (c), Marc Guehi; Tariq Lamptey, Conor Gallagher, George McEachran (Josh Grant 79), Billy Gilmour, Juan Castillo; Daishawn Redan (Tariq Uwakwe 62), Martell Taylor-Crossdale (Charlie Brown 49)
Unused subs Jake Askew, Renedi Masampu
Scorers McEachran 43; Brown 74; Uwakwe 78; Castillo 85
Manchester City Daniel Grimshaw, Alpha Diounkou, Colin Rosler, Cameron Humphries (c), Nathanael Ogbeta, Iker Pozo, Ian Poveda, Adrian Bernabe (Tom Dele-Bashiru 83), Nabil Touaizi (Lorenzo Gonzalez 60), Taylor Richards, Benjamin Garre (Rabbi Matondo h/t)
Unused subs Jeremie Frimpong, Tom Scott, Tom Dele-Bashiru
Scorer Gonzalez 87
Booked Poveda, Rosler, Diounkou
Referee Garreth Rhodes