Our development squad missed the chance to go top of the Premier League 2 table when a rapid start to the game by the visitors and wasteful finishing by the hosts combined to inflict our first defeat in four games in this competition and second of the season.
Liverpool were 2-0 up by half-time, Rafael Camacho scoring with the game only a couple of minutes old and their captain Matthew Virtue netting their second. There had been spells with the Blues on top but the Reds were the more dangerous.
Chelsea manager Joe Edwards did his work at half-time and it was a very different second half with our skipper Josh Grant pulling a goal back almost straight away. Had his side been sharper in front of the target they would undoubtedly have been in the lead before an hour was played. Instead it was Liverpool who grabbed the game’s final goal from a set-piece.
Let’s hope for better fortune in the Liverpool penalty area when the two senior sides lock horns at Stamford Bridge later today.
There were five changes to the PL2 starting line-up from the U21s side that had lost at Newport in the Checkatrade Trophy midweek. Ethan Ampadu, Tariq Lamptey, Lucas Piazon, Juan Castillo and Callum Hudson-Odoi were all added to the side for today’s lunchtime kick-off at Aldershot.
Chelsea started slowly and paid the price. Liverpool had a good chance inside the first minute but Jamie Cumming got enough of a hand on Liam Millar’s shot to tip it wide, but our goalie could do nothing to prevent Rafael Camacho’s firm strike hitting the net barely a minute later.
The home side steadied the ship. Hudson-Odoi tested the Liverpool keeper with a low curler and Billy Gilmour attempted a lob from distance before missing the target with two firmer-struck shots from similar range.
Though the young Blues were having the lion’s share of the ball and territorial advantage, Liverpool were proving to be swift on the break and midway through the opening half, they had Chelsea pushed back when they doubled their lead. Camacho was involved again, turning sharply past Amapdu playing in central defence and sending the ball into the six-yard box where Matthew Virtue was on hand to score.
This time, the Chelsea response to that further set-back was not as strong as after the first goal. A brief scramble in front of the Liverpool net after Hudson-Odoi had put the ball into the danger zone was the closest we came to making something happen before the break.
In added time before the whistle blew, Ampadu was able to athletically block a shot that may have done further damage before at the other end, Piazon scuffed a half-chance wide.
The contrast between the end of the first half and the beginning of the second could hardly have been starker. This time the Reds were the team slow out the traps and Grant capitalised when he slotted from close-range to make it 1-2.
The supply was a Hudson-Odoi cross from the right where he had switched to good effect. The nippy Tariq Lamptey was stretching Liverpool down that flank too and after good work from Piazon who was bringing experience to the midfield, the full-back found Daishawn Redan who headed powerfully but over.
Just prior to that, Redan had met a Castillo cross from the left at the back post but shot wide before Piazon shot straight at the keeper. It was almost a chance a minute. Redan, with his right foot, drilled wide when he should have worked the keeper at least. That was the young Dutch striker’s last opportunity of the afternoon. Martell Taylor-Crossdale took his place.
There was a lingering feeling that not taking more of our chances would cost, and so it proved when Virtue was allowed to hook in a corner with his boot to restore the two-goal Liverpool lead.
Still the Chelsea chances came. A shot from substitute Conor Gallagher rebounded off the keeper to Hudson-Odoi but the 17-year-old’s follow-up was straight back at Grabara. Hudson-Odoi then teed the ball up for Taylor-Crossdale who would have scored if he had got more than a faint touch with his head.
Next up for Joe Edwards’ squad will be the first game in a two-legged knockout against Molde as the UEFA Youth League campaign begins. That takes place on Wednesday.
Chelsea Cumming; Lamptey, Ampadu, Guehi, Grant (c) (Uwakwe 85); Piazon, McEachran, Gilmour (Gallagher 65); Castillo, Redan (Taylor-Crossdale 61), Hudson-Odoi.
Unused subs Ziger, Nartey
Scorer Grant 47
Booked Ampadu 34
Liverpool Grabara; N Williams, Lewis, Johnston, Juanma, Chirivella, Adekanye (Coyle 73), Virtue (c), Millar, Jones (Gallacher 80), Camacho (McAuley 90)
Unused subs McKenzie-Lyle, Christie-Davies.
Scorers Camacho 2, Virtue 23, 68
Booked Camacho 80, Coyle 84