EFL Trophy Report: Exeter 1 Chelsea 1 (3-4 on pens)

Our development squad took two points from their opening Papa John’s Trophy fixture away to Exeter, winning a penalty shoot-out 4-3 after a 1-1 draw in normal time.

Bryan Fiabema’s clinical finish had given the young Blues a lead they thoroughly merited on a beautiful evening in Devon. The striker expertly converted after Xavier Mbuyamba’s long pass released him on the stroke of half-time, showing no signs of nerves having missed a similar chance a couple of minutes earlier.

Chelsea played with poise and panache throughout and deserved all three points, keeping their more experienced hosts at arm's length. Teddy Sharman-Lowe in our goal did not have a save of note to make until Matt Jay’s stoppage-time penalty that beat him, while we could certainly have put the game beyond doubt before then, with the excellent Dion Rankine and Jude Soonsup-Bell both going close on several occasions.

Sharman-Lowe was the hero in the shoot-out, impressively keeping out Exeter’s first and fifth penalties. Fiabema had missed a spot-kick to win it, but our young goalkeeper saved the very next effort to ensure the Blues at least take two points back to London ahead of further trips in this competition to Bristol Rovers and Cheltenham Town.

The selection

Andy Myers made a quartet of changes to the side that started the PL2 draw with Manchester United at the Bridge on Friday, with three players he brought off the bench that night - Sam McClelland, Rankine and Soonsup-Bell – selected from the off. Fiabema led the line.

Assured opening

The young Blues settled quickly at a sunny St James Park, moving the ball at speed and with accuracy. With 10 minutes on the clock, Soonsup-Bell fashioned some space in midfield. He slipped in Rankine whose cross-shot needed saving by Harry Lee, and then the other wing-back, George Nunn, had an effort deflected behind.

Midway through the half, Harvey Vale exchanged passes with Fiabema and darted in behind only to clear the crossbar with his left-footed strike. Next it was Rankine showcasing his skill and speed, tricking his way past the Grecians’ left-back Callum Rowe and poking his shot past the post.

Chelsea continued to look the more threatening, Soonsup-Bell the next to be denied after Fiabema teed him up, and it wasn’t until shortly after the half-hour that our defence was rigorously tested for the first time, Mbuyamba and then McClelland effectively clearing dangerous crosses.

Deserved lead

The chance of the half up to that point arrived Fiabema’s way after a raking long pass pierced Exeter’s centre-backs. Perhaps affected by a possible nudge as he burst clear of Alfie Pond, he took the shot very early and miscued it.

The Norwegian made no such mistake on the stroke of half-time! Again it was a long pass from Mbuyamba that released him, and this time he kept his composure, coolly slotting under Lee at his near post.

Chelsea didn’t take our foot off the gas when play restarted, searching for a second goal that would likely kill the contest. Rankine’s performance deserved one and another mazy dribble took him past a couple of red shirts and into the box, where his low shot beat Lee but flashed a whisker wide.

As the game entered its final quarter, Soonsup-Bell dragged a shot wide after controlling Nunn’s quickly-taken free-kick. With 15 minutes remaining, Rankine again cut inside his man and bent a shot goalwards that Lee had to tip wide.

Sharman-Lowe had mostly been a spectator but did have to leap to his right to stop McClelland inadvertently turning Jay’s cross into his own net.

Late leveller

With normal time almost up, Chelsea conceded a penalty out of nothing, McClelland tripping Ben Seymour just inside the box. Jay thumped his spot-kick down the middle with Exeter’s first shot on target, and so to a shoot-out we went to decide who would claim the extra point.

Penalties

Vale scored to get us up and running, sending Lee the wrong way, and then Sharman-Lowe guessed right to stop Jay netting past him from 12 yards again.

Ben Elliott put us 2-0 up before Sam Nombe halved the deficit despite Sharman-Lowe choosing correctly. Nunn, Jevani Brown, Mbuyamba and Ben Seymour all finished with ease, giving Fiabema the chance to win it. He skied his effort, but James Dodd still had to score to keep the Grecians in it. He couldn’t, Sharman-Lowe’s outstretched leg superbly denying him, so the Blues grabbed a merited extra point.

What's next?

The development squad play West Ham United away on Sunday with a noon kick-off. Our next fixture in this competition is on Wednesday 13 October at Bristol Rovers. 

Chelsea (3-4-2-1) Teddy Sharman-Lowe; Xavier Mbuyamba, Sam McClelland (c), Bashir Humphreys; Dion Rankine (Declan Frith 88), George McEachran, Ben Elliott, George Nunn; Jude Soonsup-Bell (Lewis Hall 83), Harvey Vale; Bryan Fiabema
Unused subs Lucas Bergstrom, Jimmy Smith, Luke Badley-Morgan, Alex Gilchrist, Silko Thomas
Scorer Fiabema 45

Exeter City (4-4-2): Harry Lee; Josh Key, Alfie Pond (Matt Jay 78), Jonathan Grounds, Callum Rowe; Jake Caprice (Michael Lilley 62), James Dodd (c), Jordan Dyer, Owaru Edwards (Jevani Brown 74); Sam Nombe, Ben Seymour.
Unused subs Scott Brown, George Ray, Pierce Sweeney, Alex Hartridge.
Scorer Jay 90+1 (pen)
Booked Lilley 80

Penalties: Vale (scored), Jay (saved), Elliott (scored), Nombe (scored), Nunn (scored), Brown (scored), Mbuyamba (scored), Seymour (scored), Fiabema (missed), Dodd (saved)

Referee Robert Lewis
Crowd 1669
 

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