A Thierno Ballo double earned Chelsea’s development squad a deserved three points on Friday evening.
We began the game in seventh place with Everton sat just above us but level on points. The reverse fixture was back in November and the Toffees scored two and kept a clean sheet in Southport that evening. Andy Myers’ team entered the game keen to avenge the last result against the Merseyside team and earn the first win of 2021.
Heavy spells of possession in threatening positions meant we were on top for large parts of the first half. A number of Blues had good attempts on goal before we managed to find the target. George Nunn was closest, firing against the post after 30 minutes.
Thierno Ballo was back in the starting side and back among the goals when he turned home a cross after 36 minutes and we looked to take the lead into the break. Everton had other ideas though and with their first attack which resulted in a shot on target, found the net seconds before the whistle sounded for half-time.
The intensity of the first half had worn down as we reached the second 45 minutes but we managed to regain the lead with plenty of time on the clock. Ballo again gave Chelsea the advantage which turned out to be enough for the win at full-time.
From the outing last week Andy Myers named two changes to the team which faced Everton on Friday night. In came Dujon Sterling and Ballo as Harvey Vale dropped to the bench and Tino Anjorin was not involved in the matchday squad.
Physical battle key
There was a chill in the air as we got the game underway in Kingston and much like in our recent meetings with the Toffees, the physical battle proved key from the first whistle. That was no more evident than when Myers was forced into a change inside the opening quarter. Jude Soonsup-Bell was unable to continue after a clash in the box and George Nunn was brought on as his replacement.
Searching for an opener
We were having early joy on the left and the first meaningful chance registered for either side was the product of some smart Henry Lawrence and Marcel Lewis combination play. The former got the ball out of his feet and crossed for Nunn who touched it for Dujon Sterling to strike, but the deflected attempt dropped just wide.
From the resulting corner, Levi Colwill jumped highest to meet the cross and almost found the target with a bullet header, but couldn’t keep the ball on target. Our offensive intent was intensifying as we reached the midpoint.
Our next chance came moments later, and was the best yet. George McEachran was in midfield space and threaded the ball through the away defence for Tino Livramento to chase. After catching the pass he had just the keeper to beat but fired straight at the man in pink who made the save look easy.
Post denies Nunn
Then Nunn went one better, this time beating the keeper but not the post. After three strikes of the woodwork last weekend, the boys in Blue were left holding their heads when the substitute’s left-footed strike from the edge of the box rebounded off the upright. We were getting closer with every shot.
Ballo tucks it away but Blues stung late on
We eventually breached the Everton defence and net, courtesy of some neat play on the left. Lewis Bate broke free and gave possession to Lewis who forced his way into the box. After reaching the by-line, the former cut the ball back for Ballo to apply the finishing touches from the centre.
We looked good value for the goal and a half-time lead was much deserved. However Everton forced a goal of their own right at the end of the half. A cross from the left was slammed home by Rhys Hughes and we were level at the break.
Ballo bags again
The second half saw a lot less action but we remained in control of things and slowly began to apply pressure on the visiting defence after an hour’s play.
Eventually the pressure paid dividends when we broke at speed down the right and scored what would be the winning goal. This time Ballo’s burst into the box was perfect to squeeze home Sterling’s cross at the near post.
Late Everton push
Everton weren’t about to let us see out the game easily though and threatened from then on. Forward Nathan Broadhead went racing into the centre and collected Tom Cannon’s cross seemingly with only Karlo Ziger to beat, but a heroic recovering block from Sam McClelland kept our lead intact.
Then, a partially-cleared Everton free-kick was volleyed towards goal by Ryan Astley who tried his luck from distance. Fortunately for us the crossbar would eventually come to our own rescue as the ball bounced off the woodwork and out of play.
Ziger was required to make his first and only save of the evening after 84 minutes and thankfully he did so well. Everton were in behind our defence and had three men in yellow racing down on goal, the Croatian keeper spread himself well and was equal to the shot. Countless clearances were needed by our defenders in the final minutes as the boys did well and clinched the first three points of 2021 on home soil.
Next up for the development squad is Manchester City in PL2. Kick-off at Cobham on Sunday 21 March is 10:30am. While our Under-18s take on West Brom at Cobham tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon, kick-off is 12 noon.
Chelsea Karlo Ziger; Dujon Sterling, Sam McClelland, Levi Colwill; Henry Lawrence, George McEachran, Lewis Bate (c), Valentino Livramento; Thierno Ballo (Dynel Simeu 86), Marcel Lewis (Harvey Vale 68), Jude Soonsup-Bell (George Nunn 17)
Unused subs Ethan Wady, Quevin De Castro
Booked Livramento 79
Scorer Ballo 36, 68
Everton Harry Tyrer, Kyle John Thierry Small, Ryan Astley, Con Ouzoundis, Joe Anderson, Einer Iversen (Mackenzie Hunt 84), Luke Butterfield (Tom Cannon 72), Nathan Broadhead, Isaac Price, Rhys Hughes
Unused subs Jack Barret, Rhys Welch
Booked Price 63; Astley 66
Scorer Hughes 45
Referee Elliott Swallow