Our unbeaten development squad came from behind to secure maximum points in this evening's London derby against Arsenal.
It wasn't a great start for the Blues and we were behind due to a freak Arsenal goal which their striker will certainly claim he meant. However, our mentality was strong and that has been a common theme in games where we are behind - the team never give up and work hard for each other to find a way back into the game.
Captain Billy Gilmour had a hand in both goals, assisting Armando Broja for the equaliser before somehow finding the net from an acute angle to put us in the lead. It was backs-against-the-wall in the second half but a solid defensive showing complimented our first-half goals to claim an important three points.
Andy Myers’s side started with two changes from the team that drew with Leicester a fortnight ago. Lewis Bate was in for his first start at this level alongside Gilmour, who was back in familiar surroundings after recently being promoted to part of Frank Lampard’s first team squad - the Scotland Under-21 international was our captain for the night.
Conditions were perfect on a busy night for Chelsea, with three teams in action - Myers’ men and Chelsea Women got the evening started, both kicking off an hour earlier than the men’s team at home to Manchester United.
It was a fairly even start to proceedings at Meadow Park with Chelsea just edging the possession numbers but we fell behind in unfortunate circumstances in the 16th minute. Arsenal’s top scorer, Folarin Balogun, picked up possession 30 yards from goal and found the top corner thanks to a timely gust of wind. It was a frustrating way to concede.
Arsenal took confidence from their goal and attacked down their left side again. Trae Coyle got the better of his marker and pulled the ball back for Balogun, whose shot curled over Karlo Ziger’s net.
A looping home effort was smothered by Ziger but spilled into the path of Balogun, who seemed to have a clear shot on goal but Levi Colwill raced back to get his body in the way of the strike and keep the Blues within touching distance of Arsenal. It was a great piece of defending from the young Blue.
The missed Arsenal chance proved important as moments later we drew level. Gilmour’s corner was perfectly met by Broja at the front post and he nodded us back into the game. At 1-1, it was Broja’s 16th goal of the season and his third in PL2.
Then we were ahead a little over 10 minutes later and it was a case of provider turns scorer as Gilmour forced the ball home. Tariq Uwakwe’s whipped cross missed Broja by inches but cannoned off Rob Holding, forcing Karl Hein into a diving save. The keeper could only parry it into the path of the waiting Gilmour, who squeezed the ball inside Hein’s near post. It was the Scotsman’s second PL2 goal this season and we were 2-1 up at the half-time interval.
Arsenal made two half-time defensive changes and they came back out looking a re-energised side. Balogun was busy in the box and attempted to pick out the bottom corner from a tight angle but luckily Ziger was alert and made an impressive save diving low to his left to keep our lead.
The home side had a golden chance to draw level after an hour’s play through Sam Greenwood. A threaded ball in behind the Blues defence caught out our boys and allowed the Arsenal number seven a free shot in the box - he opted for the lob but put too much power on the ball and it bounced out of play.
Myers’ first change came on 64 minutes, Bate was withdrawn and Tino Livramento was on in his place as Chelsea looked to build on their lead. The busy Ziger was called into action by Balogun again and, like with the previous chance, the shot-stopper dived low to his left to keep the ball out. It was an excellent save by the Croat, who looked like a giant betweent the sticks.
Chelsea were having to settle for possession on the counter-attack and almost made it count. Broja led the charge and slipped through Tino Anjorin, who raced into the box, cut on to his left foot and curled the ball inches wide of the target.
We were comfortable in the final stages of the game and saw out the win successfully. The win places the Blues back in top spot in the PL2 table. Myers’ men are next in action against Everton on Monday 2 March at Aldershot.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Karlo Ziger; Henry Lawrence, Dynel Simeu, Levi Colwill, Ian Maatsen; Lewis Bate (Tino Livramento 64), Billy Gilmour; Tino Anjorin, Luke McCormick, Tariq Uwakwe; Armando Broja
Unused subs Jack Wakely, Nicolas Tie, Jon Russell, Thierno Ballo
Booked McCormick 61, Broja 90
Scorers Broja 32, Gilmour 45
Arsenal Karl Hein, Zak Swanson (c), Tobi Omole (Mazeed Ogunbo 79), Matthew Smith, Rob Holding (Harrison Clarke h/t), Pablo Mari (Zech Medley h/t), Sam Greenwood, Jordan McEneff, Folarin Balaogun, Ben Cotterell, Trae Coyle
Unused subs James Hillson, Miguel Azeez
Scorers Balogun 16