Our youngsters recorded back-to-back wins in the Under-18 Premier League for the first time this season as they ground out a result to take three points back home from Wales.
It was the second time this month our Academy teams have been to Swansea and claimed a one-goal winning margin following a 1-0 win for the development squad in Premier League 2 at the start of September. Goals from Tino Anjorin and Sam McClelland inside the opening 15 minutes handed Andy Myers’s side a perfect start but their morning was far from straightforward at the Landore Training Ground.
Dan Williams found the top corner for the home side with a stunning strike against the run of play after half an hour and, while Karlo Ziger in the Chelsea goal was rarely troubled throughout the remainder of the contest, it required a battling display to keep the points safe. The win takes the youth team third prior to the remainder of the league programme this weekend.
Our last outing garnered the most impressive result and performance of the early season for Myers’s men, a 3-1 home victory over Arsenal a fortnight previously, though the international break had acted to pause that growing momentum somewhat. A trip to Swansea resumed domestic commitments and there were two changes to the Chelsea side from the win against the Gunners as James Clark and Armando Broja returned.
The Blues retained their 3-4-2-1 system and the back three plus goalkeeper were unchanged as Ziger, Dynel Simeu, Jack Wakely and McClelland all kept their places in the side. Clark replaced Tino Livramento at right wing-back, the schoolboy having helped England’s Under-17 side to triumph at the Syrenka Cup in recent days, while Ian Maatsen continued on the left.
Clinton Mola captained the team alongside Anjorin in central midfield, while Marcel Lewis and George Nunn provided the attacking support to lone striker Broja. Our youngsters had won 5-0 on each of their previous two visits to Wales but were looking to bounce back from a defeat last time out on the road, August’s disappointing 2-0 reverse at Tottenham still leaving a bitter taste in the mouth.
It was a positive start on an overcast morning in Swansea, with Anjorin knitting play from a deeper midfield position and the width provided by the wing-back system always offering options to the visitors in possession. An early cross from Clark was defended well by Cameron Evans, who headed clear under pressure from Broja, but it didn’t take long for us to break the deadlock.
Anjorin scored in victories over the Netherlands and Russia for England Under-18s last week and the in-form midfielder continued his goalscoring form on his return to club duties. Picking up a loose ball on halfway, the 16-year-old drove at the heart of the Swans defence before drilling a perfect strike across goal and into the bottom corner. It was his third Chelsea goal of the season and provided a strong platform from which the Blues could build.
The advantage was extended within four minutes and, while McClelland’s name was on the scoreboard, the goal owed much to the perseverance, clever movement and aerial threat of Nunn.
An intelligent bending run down the left channel caused problems and the forward delivered a low centre towards Broja that forced Ben Erickson to turn the ball behind for a corner. Nunn threatened more severely from the set-piece, planting a header on to the crossbar, and McClelland was on hand to swipe in the rebound for his first Chelsea goal.
Swansea were aiming to add to their solitary point on the board in the Under-18 Premier League southern section so far this season and they continued to compete as the first period went on. Arnor Gudjohnsen, the younger half-brother of our former Icelandic forward, acted as the focal point of the attack and enjoyed success in winning flick-ons in the air, though it was a stunning strike out of nowhere that hauled the hosts back into the game.
With little danger detected, Dan Williams picked up a pass 30 yards from goal and the ball skimmed up off the wet surface nicely for the midfielder to fire at goal. His connection was perfect and the shot flew through the air, bending away from Ziger’s dive and nestling in the top corner.
Myers urged his side on from the sidelines, coaxing them to mix their game and exploit the space often left in behind by a high Swansea defence. Broja capitalised on a loose pass from Owen Evans but was thwarted by Nathan Sheppard, the home goalkeeper, who scrambled low to his right and clawed the ball from danger.
The second half started in similar fashion as Maatsen advanced down the left flank and supplied Nunn, whose sweeping left-footed effort flashed narrowly wide of the near upright. Down the other end, a quick free-kick set Marc Walsh running at the back three but his finish was wayward and failed to trouble our Croatian keeper.
Knocks to Mola and Broja forced Myers into early changes and it was Swansea slowly claiming a grip on the game as they increased their intensity off the ball. Clark did well to head clear under his own bar before Walsh made progress down the left, evading two tackles before advancing from the byline, though a combination of McClelland and Ziger ushered the ball to safety in the six-yard box.
The visitors improved on the ball to take the sting out of Swansea’s threat in the final 20 minutes. Anjorin went close to finding the back of the net with a deflected effort from distance that looped inches over, while Maatsen soon fashioned a sight at goal for substitute Jon Russell but the midfielder placed his shot just wide.
Swansea carved out one last opportunity for themselves in the final minute as a long ball over the top tempted Ziger to come racing out of his 18-yard box and a mistimed tackle handed the hosts a free-kick. It ought to have been more dangerous but Jayden Reid missed the target by some distance and time was up.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1) Karlo Ziger; Dynel Simeu, Jack Wakely, Sam McClelland; James Clark (Marcel Lavinier 90+1), Clinton Mola (c) (Jon Russell 51), Tino Anjorin, Ian Maatsen; Marcel Lewis, George Nunn; Armando Broja (Pierre Ekwah Elimby 65)
Unused subs Jake Askew, Henry Lawrence
Scorers Anjorin 11; McClelland 15
Swansea City Nathan Shepperd, Ryan Bevan, Luke Motruk, Daniel Williams, Cameron Evans, Ben Erickson (c), Shaquille Wynter-Coles (Jayden Reid 29), Tivonge Rushesha, Arnor Gudjohnsen, Owen Evans (Will Rickard 84), Marc Walsh (Bradley Gibbings 69)
Unused subs Josh Hutchings, Jake Thomas
Scorer Williams 31
Referee Daniel Flynn