Our Under-18s got their league season underway this morning and a point was their reward after 90 minutes of battle in Brighton.
We got off to a very quick start, Jude Soonsup-Bell finding the net in the opneing minute on the South Coast but we had to defend for much of the half after that. Our efforts couldn't stop Brighton scoring and they drew level shortly before the break.
A much better second-half showing saw the Blues control the game but lack the finishing touches displayed in the first minute. Soonsup-Bell went close to adding a second, as did Alfie Gilchrist soon after, but a point was the fair result on the opening day of the season.
The young Blues
Ed Brand’s first challenge of the season was picking an 11 to continue the strong form shown by his side last season. We started with a back-line of boys who played some Under-18s football last campaign, Luke Badley-Morgan being the only new scholar in defence. New boys Jimi Tauriainen and Edwin Andersson both appeared in Chelsea blue for the first time, while Soonsup-Bell led the line from the start.
Quick off the mark
As the men prepare to take on Brighton’s senior team on Monday evening, the Under-18s were at the training centre to open their season and it didn’t take long until the fruits of pre-season labour began to show.
Chelsea looked bright from the first kick and inside the first 60 seconds we were rewarded for the quick start. Harvey Vale picked up the ball in midfield and threaded a perfect pass through the Brighton back-line, which Soonsup-Bell picked up and fired into the bottom corner beyond the home keeper. It was an excellent start for the boys and one that took most by surprise.
The early goal proved a wake-up call for Brighton and our goalkeeper, Lucas Bergstrom, was called into action for the first time, responding well to the attack by spreading himself to make the save after rushing off his line.
His team-mates soon had their goalkeeper to thank again. With their height, Brighton posed a threat from set-pieces and Bergstrom was forced into a magnificent save low to his left from Ben Jackson’s towering header.
The pressure on Bergstrom’s goal was mounting as Brighton searched for a way back into the game. After 20 minutes of action, the Finn got a strong right hand to a dangerous-looking low cross but the ball only reached as far as midfielder Odell Offiah on the edge of the box, his arrowing shot rebounded off the bar and away from danger luckily for Chelsea.
Chelsea chances were limited but as our hosts failed to make their chances pay, our lead remained a slender one. Xavier Simons tried his luck with a well-struck volley following a Vale corner but Fynn Talley got strong hands behind the shot.
As half-time approached, Brighton eventually found the net and it was a goal the Blues will be disappointed to have conceded. A low ball in from the left was turned in by winger Jack Leahy who was unmarked in the box and that brought an end to the action of the first half.
The second half started at a much slower pace when compared to the first, both sides looking for a way to make a breakthrough without jeopardising the work already done. Brand opted for a change in personnel, replacing Andersson with youngster Silko Thomas. The swap provided a different style of play and renewed energy on the right side of our attack, which seemed to be the focus of our offensive play.
Ben Elliott replaced Tauriainen after an hour and at that stage Chelsea appeared to be in control of the ball much more, having nullified Brighton’s earlier constant attacking threat limiting them to just counter play.
Alfie Gilchrist was introduced for the final 12 minutes and went close to restoring our lead. He got up highest to meet Vale’s corner but couldn’t keep the attempt on target.
In a much better second-half showing, it was only Chelsea who looked like finding the net. Simons wriggled out of a tight spot and into a crossing position where Soonsup-Bell had a free attempt on goal. His header was just the wrong side of the post and out of play as the last attack that move brought an end to a mature performance from our Under-18s.
The youngsters are back at Cobham next Saturday when West Ham make the short trip across the capital for a London derby.
Chelsea (4-3-3) Lucas Bergstrom; Josh Brooking (Alfie Gilchrist 79); Charlie Wiggett, Bashir Humphreys (c), Luke Badley-Morgan; Jimi Tauriainen (Ben Elliott 66), Xavier Simons, Harvey Vale; Edwin Andersson (Silko Thomas ht), Jude Soonsup-Bell, Joe Haigh
Unused subs Kelechi Chibueze, Josh Tobin
Scorer Soonsup-Bell 1
Booked Simons (37)
Brighton Fynn Talley, Antef Tsoungui, Zak Sturge, Odel Offiah, Ben Jackson, Ed Turs, Jack Leahy, Collyer, Matt Everitt (c), Andy Moran, Marcus Ifill
Subs Todd Miller, Tommy Reid, Samy Chouchane, John Lucero, Marcus Dackers
Scorer Leahy (34)
Booked Offiah 41, Ifill 48