Our development squad were knocked out of this year's Papa John's Trophy on Tuesday evening, losing 4-1 to Arsenal at the Emirates.
We came up short in our round-of-16 clash against our London rivals Arsenal. A 4-1 loss knocks us out of this year’s competition and Xavier Mbuyamba's red card in the first half of this one makes the result a tougher blow to take.
We started the game well despite conceding first to a well-worked move which James Olayinka finished in the six-yard-box. He diverted a cross-shot from Joel Lopez into the goal.
After a series of missed chances, we were unfortunate to go a man down as the referee believed Mbuyamba to be the last man following his trip on Mika Biereth. Even with our handicap, Jayden Wareham dispatched a nice counter-attack with a drilled shot from outside the box to level the score.
The leveller was short-lived as Biereth found space in the box to tap home from a cross before the break before the Gunners grabbed a third after half-time as the tricky attacker Omari Hutchinson struck a wonder goal, which he curled beyond Teddy Sharman-Lowe.
Our fate was then sealed with a fourth goal as substitute Marcelo Flores was able to finish off a team move. We created a number of chances through Joe Haigh, George Nunn and Harvey Vale but were unable to get the job done.
Development squad boss Andy Myers went with the same front three that beat Leicester in Saturday’s 5-0 PL2 win. Wareham, one of the scorers in that game, had the game’s first real chance six minutes in, latching onto a poor back pass and after a couple ricochets in the box, he fired a shot which but for the keeper’s fingertips would have found the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
Despite our good start, it was the Gunners who took the lead. With their first real sustained period of pressure on our backline, a Joel Lopez cross-shot was turned in by James Olayinka to give them the opener.
We were edging the possession but our London rivals were creating the better openings and looking more threatening. A last-ditch Josh Brooking tackle prevented Omari Hutchinson from having a one-on-one with our keeper.
After a brief break in play due to an injury to Olayinka which forced him off, our young Blues began to get a foothold in the game. Harvey Vale delivered a wicked cross which was begging for a touch to divert it in and then Joe Haigh powered a slightly deflected left-footed shot over the bar. The resulting corner led to Alfie Gilchrist glancing a header just wide of the near post.
Down the other end, Hutchinson seemingly gave a nudge to Gilchrist who was floored but a foul was not given. The Arsenal man slipped in Mika Biereth who pulled a great save out of Sharman-Lowe.
A man down
Things went from bad to worse for us as Mbuyamba was dubiously sent off 10 minutes before half-time after he was adjudged to have been the last man following a tussle with Biereth.
Despite the disadvantage, we soon created a two-vs-two situation with Wareham on the ball and Jude Soonsup-Bell accompanying him. The in-form Wareham manufactured an angle and fired a brilliant shot beyond the keeper’s reach to draw us level.
Pariry was short-lived though as four minutes later a lofted ball to the back post found Biereth, who was on hand to finish and put the hosts swiftly back in front.
The second-half plan from Myers was clear; soak up pressure and try to hit them on the counter-attack. We did allow a number of half-chances to be created but nothing that really tested Sharman-Lowe in goal.
On the stroke of the hour mark, we created a fantastic opportunity to level the scoring for the second time in the game. Substitute Dion Rankine beat his man on the outside and dinked a lovely cross to the far post, where Vale came flying in for a header which dropped agonisingly wide. There were shouts for a high boot on Vale’s header but the referee waved away the penalty claims.
Almost immediately after this, the dangerous Hutchinson found himself on the right-hand side and after jinking his way towards goal he bent a curled effort beyond Sharman-Lowe.
Our 10 men were putting in a hard shift but were looking jaded and the north London outfit took advantage by adding a fourth. Following a cutback into the box, substitute Marcelo Flores was on hand to sweep home.
It was great to see our boys not give up and still attempt to compete and we were almost rewarded as a Charlie Webster cross was floated into the back post but with a man applying pressure, Haigh could only divert his header wide.
The Gunners could have had a fifth as Flores rounded our keeper and smashed an effort on goal, though Simons expertly headed over the bar. Another of the Arsenal substitutes, Khayon Edwards, then drew a great save from the busy Sharman-Lowe as he could not convert despite being one-on-one with our keeper.
Besides a late George Nunn chance which he volleyed over, the game was managed well by the opposition, condemning us to a defeat which knocks us out of the competition.
Our development squad will next be in action on Monday 17 January as we face Crystal Palace in the PL2 competition. Before then, our Under-18s resume their quest in the FA Youth Cup with a fourth round tie away at Watford on Thursday 13 January.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1) Teddy Sharman-Lowe; Josh Brooking, Xavier Mbuyamba, Alfie Gilchrist (Brodi Hughes 75); Xavier Simons (c), Lewis Baker, Ben Elliott (Dion Rankine h/t) Harvey Vale (Bryan Fiabema 75); Jayden Wareham (George Nunn 63), Joe Haigh; Jude Soonsup-Bell (Charlie Webster 63).Unused subs Prince Adegoke, Tariq UwakweBooked Baker 65; Nunn 84Sent off Mbuyamba 35Scorers Wareham 38
Arsenal (3-4-2-1) Karl Hein (c), Ryan Alebiosu (Joel Ideho 82), Joel Lopez (Khayon Edwards 82), Mika Biereth, Mazeed Ogungbo, James Olayinka (Tim Akinola 23), Salah Oulad M’Hand (Reuell Walters 62), Zach Awe, Jack Henry-Francis, Omari Hutchinson (Marcelo Flores 62), Brooke Norton-CuffyUnused Subs: Ovie Ejeheri, Marcelo Flores, Charles Sagoe JrBooked Ogungbo 45Scorers Olayinka 10; Biereth 42; Hutchinson 61; Flores 67