Chelsea's development squad fell to their first Premier League 2 defeat in over a year at the the hands of Brighton on Friday night.
Brighton opened the scoring on the night after just six minutes when Tudor Băluță's strike from distance was on target and found an empty net. Chelsea struggled to find a way back into the game after conceding so early on - Thierno Ballo had our only meaningful chance of the first half and that saw us behind at the break.
A switch of system and personnel in the second half saw Chelsea become more of an attacking threat and chances started to fall our way, albeit sparingly. Ian Maatsen's test of Carl Rushworth's net was the best opporrtunity we had but it wasn't enough to earn a point and the door was left open for Brighton to double their lead, and that they did through Danny Cashman eight minutes from time to seal all three points.
The young Blues
Andy Myers handed Jack Wakely and Lewis Bate their first PL2 starts of the season, while Juan Castillo led from the left for the first time in the league. Fresh from his first Chelsea goal for the Under-18s, Bryan Fiabema was named among the substitutes.
Brighton got the game underway in front of the setting sun on a chilly night by the sea and they found themselves ahead in odd circumstances after just six minutes. A misplaced clearance out of the area by Karlo Ziger fell to the opportunist centre-back, Baluta, who aimed at an empty net from distance and hit the target to put his side ahead.
Chelsea responded well to conceding and took the game to the hosts whose goal came against the run of play – however the Brighton counter-attacks posed a constant threat.
Frustration for Chelsea
There was little to report mid-way through the first half. Both teams had settled and were forced to keep the ball on the floor as strong winds claimed anything that was struck in the air. But Chelsea were struggling to break down a resolute Brighton defence who were clinging on to their lead.
Tino Livramento required some treatment before returning to the field but he was unable to continue and that prompted a change in approach from the Blues. Levi Colwill was sent on as the replacement and we shifted system to play three central defenders with our wing-backs providing width.
We were made to wait until five minutes before the break for our first attempt on goal. It was from Ballo and his ambitious bicycle kick was saved by Carl Rushworth in the home goal.
Second half commences
We made a half-time change, Dion Rankine was sent on in place of Castillo to operate in the right wing-back position he occupied for the under-18s last season.
Within the first five minutes of the restart we had attempted a number of shots at Brighton’s keeper and that was a clear instruction from the boss during the break. It was something we were limited to before the interval.
Maatsen had our best chance of the game after 70 minutes. The Chelsea counter started from Wakely who cleared a Brighton corner, Jon Russell carried the ball up-field and switched play to the wing-back who was making up good ground on the left. After entering the box he let fly and with the ball heading for the top corner a good save from Rushworth kept the Blues at bay.
At this point it was all Chelsea and Bate was sacrificed for Fiabema as we searched for a goal to level the scores and find a way back into the game.
Brighton strike again
While Chelsea were chasing a goal Brighton seized their opportunity to counter-attack and they doubled their lead through Cashman who found the bottom corner from an angle. A devastating blow which ultimately put the game beyond the young Blues.
Our development squad travel to The Banks’s Stadium to take on Walsall in the EFL Trophy on Tueesday night, 7pm kick-off.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Karlo Ziger; Tino Livramento (Levi Colwill 39), Dynel Simeu (c), Jack Wakely, Ian Maatsen; Jon Russell, Lewis Bate (Bryan Fiabema 71); Marcel Lewis; Myles Peart-Harris, Juan Castillo (Dion Rankine ht); Thierno Ballo
Unused subs George Nunn, Lucas Bergstrom
Booked Maatsen 85
Brighton Rushman, Packham (Wilson 62), Cochrane, Crofts, Dendoncker, Baluta (Desbois ht), Yapi, Weir, Cashman, Jenks, Gwargis (Eneme 89)
Unused subs Tsoungui, Spong
Scorers Baluta 7, Cashman 82
Booked Crofts 75, Cashman 82, Yapi 86, Cochrane 88
Referee Ryan Atkin