Chelsea’s development squad battled back from 3-1 down to dramatically defeat Liverpool at Kingsmeadow tonight as Lewis Hall’s 95th-minute winner secured a first Premier League 2 victory of the campaign.
The young Blues showed character and quality in abundance to get something out of a game they were trailing for much of, getting their rewards with almost the last action as Hall headed in a cross from his fellow full-back Xavier Simons.
Off the back of a 6-1 loss to Arsenal on Sunday, heads could have dropped when Owen Beck put Liverpool ahead with six minutes played, but Chelsea dug deep to establish a foothold in the game and equalised shortly before the break through Bryan Fiabema.
We suffered two setbacks in quick succession early in the second half as a pair of Mateusz Musialowski strikes put Liverpool firmly in command, but excellent goals from George Nunn and sub Joe Haigh drew us level with 15 minutes left.
We shaded the closing stages in search of a decisive seventh goal, and it arrived in the fifth minute of stoppage time sparking pandemonium at Kingsmeadow!
Andy Myers made eight changes in total, with only Sam McClelland, recent first team sub Xavier Mbuyamba and Charlie Webster retaining their place from the defeat to Arsenal.
Myers switched to a 4-2-3-1 shape with George McEachran and Lewis Baker in front of the back four. Hall, usually a midfielder, put in a great shift at left-back, while Charly Musonda made his first competitive appearance in over two years following a long recovery from a serious knee injury. It was also Baker’s maiden outing this term.
Another slow start
As on Sunday it was the visitors who began the brighter, with Liverpool right-back Conor Bradley embarking on a slaloming run inside two minutes. It took him into the heart of our box where he poked the ball past Teddy Sharman-Lowe, who was grateful to see Simons read the danger to clear off the line.
However, Liverpool did lead six minutes in through the opposite full-back, Beck. He powered into the box and thundered a fierce finish past Sharman-Lowe, with the Blues appealing for a foul on McClelland in the build-up.
Liverpool sensed blood with Bradley shooting wide when well placed, and Simons required to make a vital tackle to thwart Jack Bearne. Sharman-Lowe then sprung to his right to deny Tyler Morton.
Better from the Blues
Baker had offered our one attacking moment of note early on with a driving run, and it was he who had our first shot of the game in the 18th minute, drawing a super stop from Marcelo Pitaluga after Musonda had cutely slipped him in.
After an end-to-end opening, the game settled as the Blues enjoyed more prolonged spells of possession. The raking passing range of McEachran had already been on display when he spread the play from right to left with five minutes of the first half remaining.
Hall controlled and his reverse pass reached Nunn, who wisely played his cross behind the retreating defenders. Fiabema read the delivery and swept the ball home on his left foot, giving the Blues just the boost they needed before the break.
Both teams had chances to go in ahead. At one end Sharman-Lowe kept out a James Balagizi effort, and down the other Webster saw his volley deflected just wide. Baker scored as we kept the pressure up from the resulting corner, but the offside flag denied him a goal.
Bearne had another chance to put Liverpool ahead when play restarted but struck his shot too close to Sharman-Lowe. Our keeper could do nothing about Musialowski’s excellently-placed strike from outside the box with 52 minutes on the clock, however, although again it looked like there had been a foul in the build-up, this time on Hall.
Three minutes later Liverpool had their third of the night, with Musialowski latching on to Max Woltman’s through ball and confidently finishing past Sharman-Lowe.
Back in it
On the hour Myers shuffled his pack, bringing on Haigh and Dion Rankine for Webster and Musonda, and the switch quickly paid dividends as the Blues reduced the arrears midway through the second period.
Rankine created space and found Baker, whose deep cross was expertly guided into the far corner by the leaping Nunn. Game on!
It was the other sub Haigh who drew us level just eight minutes later. He headed the ball forwards and when the stretching Liverpool defender Tom Clayton couldn’t clear, Haigh kept running off the left channel before coolly slotting the ball between Pitaluga’s legs. 3-3!
With a quarter-of-an-hour left, Liverpool broke and it needed Sharman-Lowe at this best to turn Woltman’s rising shot behind.
Chelsea kept probing and a couple of Baker set-pieces caused havoc in the Reds’ backline to no avail. Five minutes remained when Jayden Wareham, Myers’ third sub, battled hard to retain possession and get a shot away which Pitaluga held.
There were signs of tiredness as we entered six minutes of additional time but clearly none from our full-backs with just over 60 seconds left. Haigh deftly lofted a pass through to Simons on the right whose powerful cross reached his fellow full-back Hall at the back post. He couldn’t miss and didn’t, heading into the net and leaping for joy in celebration of a very welcome and hard-fought three PL2 points.
Our next PL2 fixture is against Blackburn at Cobham a week on Sunday, although some of this group will be involved in the UEFA Youth League fixture away to Juventus on Tuesday.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Teddy Sharman-Lowe; Xavier Simons, Sam McClelland (c), Xavier Mbuyamba, Lewis Hall; George McEachran, Lewis Baker; Charly Musonda (Dion Rankine 61), Charlie Webster (Joe Haigh 60), George Nunn; Bryan Fiabema (Jayden Wareham 73)
Unused subs Lucas Bergstrom, Josh Brooking
Scorers Fiabema 41, Nunn 66, Haigh 74, Hall 90+5
Booked Nunn 20, Baker 79
Liverpool (4-3-3): Marcelo Pitaluga; Conor Bradley (Tony Gallagher 63), Tom Clayton (c), Billy Koumetio, Owen Beck; James Norris, Tyler Morton, James Balagizi (Elijah Dixon Bonner 77); Jack Bearne, Mateusz Musialowski (Dom Corness 85), Max Woltman
Unused subs Liam Hughes
Scorers Beck 6, Musialowski 52, 55