Our development squad had to settle for their second draw of the season in Premier League 2 after seeing their lead snuffed out moments from time at Stamford Bridge.
Following an even first half that swung both ways, the deadlock was finally broken with 74 minutes on the clock when Harvey Vale converted his second spot-kick of the season for the hosts, who had been reduced to 10 men a quarter of an hour earlier when Josh Brooking was dismissed for a dangerous tackle.
As the clock ticked on, it looked like a first victory of the new campaign would be secured for Andy Myers’s side but United finally made their man advantage paid dividends when defender Alvaro Fernandez fired in a late equaliser.
It leaves both teams on two points after the opening two games of the PL2 season.
The young Blues had kicked off their PL2 campaign with a point away at Tottenham on Monday evening and there were three changes from that game as Teddy Sharman-Lowe, Josh Brooking and Jayden Wareham came into the side.
Wareham led the attack in Myers’s 3-4-2-1 system, supported centrally by Charlie Webster and Harvey Vale, and from wing-back by Silko Thomas and George Nunn.
United started much the better of the two teams under the Friday night lights at Stamford Bridge, with Sharman-Lowe called into action early on with an exceptional double save.
The teenage goalkeeper got down smartly to push Charlie McNeil’s initial effort on to the post and then reacted quickly to keep out the rebound from Charlie Savage, son of former Wales midfielder Robbie.
McNeil had another chance thwarted in the opening 15 minutes before the hosts finally settled and started to fashion opportunities of their own.
The best of those in the first period fell to Wareham, though in truth the striker did well to turn a half-chance into a decent opening following a bright break down the right.
Charlie Webster’s blocked strike span nicely into the path of Thomas, who delivered invitingly from the right into the six-yard box. Wareham reacted well to stab the ball towards goal but couldn’t hit the target.
Chelsea’s combination between Brooking and Thomas was reaping gradual rewards, with Nunn the latest beneficiary nine minutes before the break. A deep delivery dropped for the forward at the back post but his finish lacked composure.
Vale forced the only save of the half from United keeper Matej Kovar with a low right-footed drive, while George McEachran’s curling free-kick was just a little too high to trouble the Czech.
With nothing to separate the two sides at the interval, a dressing room debrief provided the opportunity for both coaches to make tactical tweaks in search of a first league victory of the campaign.
Myers’s men restarted brightest and went close with one of their most incisive moves of the match as McEachran fired a precise pass out left for the advancing wing-back Nunn. The former Crewe Alexandra man’s cutback cross was aimed towards Vale, though a little behind the midfielder, who got a shot away but missed the target.
McEachran then saw a shot on his less favoured right side blocked before the Blues were caught out and ended up losing a man as Brooking was shown red for a cynical and late challenge on Dillon Hoogewerf down the left.
Man down, goal up
Chelsea responded by bringing on defender Sam McClelland to maintain a three-man central defence, as well as introducing fresh firepower in the form of Soonsup-Bell. Despite the numerical disadvantage, United struggled to cut through and it was the hosts who soon got on top.
Vale fired a warning with a jink and poked shot that Kovar smothered, though the keeper was helpless a minute later as loose play out from the back was punished. Half-time arrival Dion Rankine pounced on a mis-hit pass out and shifted the ball to Webster, who in turn fed Soonsup-Bell.
With Joseph Olowu desperate to make amends, a risky last-ditch challenge was made and our substitute striker coolly played his part by dinking the ball over the defender and taking the contact. The referee pointed for a penalty and Vale stepped up to convert, just as he had done at Spurs at the start of the week.
The visitors had 15 minutes to respond with an extra man on the field and eventually that difference told as Fernandez fired in an equaliser with three minutes remaining.
The left-back went unchallenged on the edge of the Blues box, saw space to accelerate into the box and fired a shot that proved too hot for Sharman-Lowe to handle.
Despite stoppage-time drama that saw Kovar hobble off injured and Soonsup-Bell fire into the side-netting from a narrow angle, the points were ultimately shared.
The start of our EFL Trophy campaign, away at Exeter City on Tuesday night. Before then, our youth team travel to Tottenham in the Under-18 Premier League on Saturday morning.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1) Teddy Sharman-Lowe; Josh Brooking, Xavier Mbuyamba (c), Bashir Humphreys; Silko Thomas (Dion Rankine h/t), George McEachran, Ben Elliott, George Nunn (Sam McClelland 62); Charlie Webster, Harvey Vale; Jayden Wareham (Jude Soonsup-Bell 62)
Unused subs Bryan Fiabema, Ethan Wady
Scorer Vale (pen) 74
Booked Elliott 35; Webster 90+8
Sent off Brooking 61
Man United Matej Kovar (Dermot Mee 90+2), Charlie Wellens, Alvaro Fernandez, Joseph Olowu, Bjorn Hardley, Martin Svidersky, Shola Shoretire, Charlie Savage (Alejandro Garnacho 87), Charlie McNeil, D’Mani Mellor, Dillon Hoogewerf
Unused subs Marc Jurado, Mateo Mejia
Scorer Fernandez 87
Booked Shoretire 50; Olowu 73
Referee Alan Dale