Our youngsters fell to a derby defeat in the Under-18 Premier League away at Arsenal.
It took 25 minutes for the hosts to break the deadlock as Folarin Balogun fired them in front before Tyreece John-Jules doubled the advantage moments after the second half restart. With half hour remaining, Sam Greenwood made it 3-0 and ensured a comeback was put beyond Andy Myers’s side on a windy afternoon in Hertfordshire.
There was one change from last weekend’s gutsy win at Aston Villa as schoolboy Lewis Bate replaced Myles Peart-Harris in midfield. Nicolas Tie kept his place in goal following two penalty saves in the Midlands and the Frenchman was protected by a back three of Dynel Simeu, Sam McClelland and Pierre Ekwah Elimby.
The Blues needed three points to keep alive their outside title ambitions and they settled quickly against the league leaders. Bate sliced a shot that almost fell kindly for the advancing Lawrence in the box but just escaped his teammate, before a corner was scrambled to safety by the Gunners.
Neither side managed to fashion a clear sight at goal during a quiet opening. Mark McGuinness went close to meeting a corner swung in from the right after quarter of an hour but the big centre-back couldn’t quite reach the high ball, handing the visitors a chance to counter-attack. Lewis collected the ball on halfway and threaded a promising pass forward for Ballo running in behind but the Austrian was beaten to it by Tom Smith, the goalkeeper.
Arsenal slowly started to grow in threat and Balogun fired a warning shot with a speculative effort from 30 yards that sailed high over the bar. Yet the England Under-18 striker was more unnerving in front of goal shortly afterwards, latching on to a ball into the box before finishing beyond Tie at the second attempt.
It proved to be the one real notable opportunity in the first period and Balogun’s 17th league goal of the season was all that separated the sides at the break. However, a slow restart from the Blues was swiftly punished as the Gunners extended their advantage through John-Jules, who trapped a high ball forward and rounded the keeper before slotting into the net.
Myers introduced Peart-Harris in response, seeking more urgency and penetration in the final third, though it was the league leaders who soon scored again and secured the points in the process. A delivery from the right drifted across the six-yard box and away from Tie’s grasp, with the knockdown eventually converted from close range by Greenwood.
Stung by the severity of the deficit, the Blues tried to rally. Substitute Armando Broja spurned a headed chance before Tie kept it at 3-0 with a string of saves from John-Jules then Balogun. Broja rattled the woodwork in added time, the closest we came to troubling the scoreboard as we suffered defeat in the league for the first time since August.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1) Nicolas Tie; Dynel Simeu, Sam McClelland, Pierre Ekwah Elimby; Marcel Lavinier (c), Lewis Bate, Jon Russell (Myles Peart-Harris 51), Henry Lawrence (James Clark 79); Thierno Ballo, Marcel Lewis (Armando Broja 60); George Nunn
Unused subs Jake Askew, Jordan Aina
Arsenal Tom Smith, Vontae Daley-Campbell, Zak Swanson, Matthew Smith (c), Mark McGuinness, Harry Clarke, Sam Greenwood, Ben Cottrell, Folarin Balogun (Miguel Azeez 81), Tyreece John-Jules (Yunus Musah 69), Trae Coyle
Unused subs Mazeed Ogungbo, Arthur Okonkwo, Matthew Dennis
Scorers Balogun 25; John-Jules 48; Greenwood 58