Our development squad could count themselves rather unlucky to lose 1-0 at the hands of Manchester City, who now top the Premier League 2 table.
The first half highlighted the game plan which was to soak pressure and allow possession to the away side but be effective and quick on the counter. We contained them well and created a number of situations to score. Jude Soonsup-Bell hit the post with a second-half header but seven minutes after that chance, City found the net through James McAtee.
The Blues then had a flurry of chances to equalise as Soonsup-Bell, Charlie Webster, Xavier Mbuyamba and Jayden Wareham all had gilt-edged opportunities. Substitute Wareham had the best of the openings from five yards out but his effort was diverted onto the crossbar by City goalkeeper Cieran Slicker.
In the end, it was another hard-to-take defeat for Andy Myers's boys, who are now 11th in the table, two points clear of the drop zone.
There were several changes made by Myers from the side that started against Crystal Palace a week ago. Teddy Sharman-Lowe returned between the sticks after a short lay-off, while Lewis Hall, George McEachran and Tariq Uwakwe also started the game.
Soonsup-Bell and Xavier Simons, who were second-half substitutes in last week’s loss to the Eagles, were both handed starts as well.
It was a fast-paced start to the game with both sides having sights of goal. City's Kayky flashed a ball across the face of goal which whizzed past everyone in the box.
On our end a great run and through ball from Ben Elliott to Soonsup-Bell gave the strilker an opening but his shot was blocked. Soonsup-Bell was in the thick of the action as he latched onto a long ball beating the offside-trap. His shot, one-on-one with the keeper, was skied high and wide. It was a great chance to open the scoring.
City were enjoying the possession but our boys were keeping them at bay and providing a threat of their own.
Back and forth
Again, we were taking opportunities to push our opponents back as great work in the middle allowed Soonsup-Bell to break free. After releasing McEachran, his reverse pass was inches away from finding Haigh in the middle in another warning to the away side.
It was clear that the tactic was to counter-attack the Citizens but we almost invited too much pressure as nimble play between Oscar Bobb and James McAtee released Kayky. His side-footed shot was saved by the right foot of Sharman-Lowe.
Down the other end, Simons on a rare foray forward fired in a dangerous cross which was almost diverted into the back of the net by City defender Finley Burns. The boys deserved credit for their first-half performance as they kept City at bay for most of the half and created the more threatening openings.
The second half began with a similar pattern as we soaked up a lot of City pressure without allowing any real chances on our goal. With 53 minutes on the clock, we created the biggest chance of the game as Elliott played a great threaded pass forward to release Uwakwe on the right.
His cross found the head of Soonsup-Bell at the near post and the forward stooped low enough to divert his header goalwards, only for his effort to rebound off the post.
On the hour mark, Kian Breckin fashioned City’s first real opening of the second period as he fired in an effort which was saved well by Sharman-Lowe. The resulting corner was played short into Carlos Borges, who dribbled his way into the box, and it appeared that he was pushed by Haigh in the box. Play carried on and McAtee found the bottom corner to give the away side the lead.
Great fight and spirit
The goal did not demoralise us as we pushed our opponents back into their half with a series of corners and free-kicks. Captain Simons put in a great delivery which found Webster in the six-yard-box but his volley was straight at Slicker in the Citizens’ goal.
A blocked effort which looked goal-bound from Xavier Mbuyamba showed how close our development squad were to equalising before a loose ball in the middle of the park was picked up by Webster, who drove towards the goal and unleashed a powerful shot which was parried well by the City stopper.
Wareham was next to test Slicker’s gloves as he bent a right-footed effort to the far corner of the goal but the goalkeeper added to his catalogue of saves with another fine stop.
Dion Rankine was introduced from the bench and quickly able to release McEachran after intercepting a lazy ball from McAtee but the wideman failed to hit the target with his shot. It was another chance gone begging for our side.
It was looking like one of those days for our young Blues as Simons soon won a header from a corner, which found Wareham who turned and shot. With it looking destined for the goal, a point-blank save from Slicker onto the crossbar prevented yet another chance for the equaliser.
That proved to be our final action of note as Myers's men suffered back-to-back league defeats since the New Year restart. Next up is a trip to Arsenal next Friday 4 February.
Chelsea (4-3-3) Teddy Sharman-Lowe; Xavier Simons, Xavier Mbuyamba, Josh Brooking, Lewis Hall; Charlie Webster, George McEachran, Ben Elliott; Tariq Uwakwe (George Nunn 80), Jude Soonsup-Bell (Jayden Wareham 65), Joe Haigh (Dion Rankine 61)
Unused subs: Lucas Bergstrom, Billy Gee
Manchester City (4-2-3-1) Cieran Slicker; CJ Egan-Riley (c), Finley Burns, Luke Mbete (Sammy Robinson 45), Josh Wilson-Esbrand (Juan Larcis 17); Romeo Lavia, Kayky, Kian Breckin (Darko Gyabi. 76); Oscar Bobb, James McAtee, Carlos Borges
Unused subs George Murray-Jones, Shea Charles, Darko Gyabi
Scorer McAtee 60
Booked Robinson 63; Breckin 68; Slicker 83; Lavia 90+1
In other Academy news, our youngsters have been drawn at home to either Manchester United or Birmingham City in the quarter-finals of the Under-18 Premier League Cup. The tie is due to be played on Saturday 12 February.