Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James got their first taste of competitive action this season as our development squad’s fine start to the campaign continued with a hard-fought victory over Brighton at Stamford Bridge.
Hudson-Odoi played an hour and James the first half as the young duo stepped up their recovery from Achilles and ankle injuries respectively, sustained earlier this year. They were both involved in the opening goal, although most of the credit must go to Henry Lawrence, who finished sublimely from an acute angle midway through the first half.
It was a game of little goalmouth action, but Hudson-Odoi was certainly the standout player in an attacking sense. It was great to see his acceleration and trickery again after nearly five months sidelined. James too completed a half with no problem.
Victory tonight was assured when Marcel Lewis scored his first goal for the development squad with a little over a quarter-of-an-hour to go, slamming the ball home from close range after the visitors couldn’t clear a corner. Although Brighton netted with virtually the last kick, it mattered not and the final result keeps us top of the PL2 table.
There were five changes to the side that started our last game, the draw with Tottenham a fortnight ago. Alongside Hudson-Odoi and James, Nicolas Tie, Jack Wakeley and Lewis were also included.
Hudson-Odoi wasted no time getting involved in the play, showcasing some neat early touches and also withstanding a couple of robust challenges from the visitors. In the eighth minute he swung over an inviting deep cross that Tariq Lamptey ran on to but headed wide.
Lawrence had already displayed his defensive worth with a clearance off the line when he superbly put Chelsea ahead. Brighton’s Peter Gwargis was the man he denied at one end, kicking the back-post volley to safety, and then he took the ball from Hudson-Odoi after a switch of play by James, drifted inside the full-back and delicately curled a shot over the reach of McGill and into the far corner of the Shed End net. 1-0 to Chelsea in the 19th minute.
Almost immediately Charlie Brown couldn’t quite touch in a low Lewis cross, and then nobody was on hand to make the most of an inviting delivery from Hudson-Odoi, who had beaten the defender with speed and skill.
Eight minutes before the break Hudson-Odoi had the crowd applauding with some sublime skill inside our half that got him out of a crowded area.
From a James corner, Wakely headed straight at McGill after captain Marc Guehi had won the first aerial challenge. The Brighton keeper rolled the ball out, and Lewis Freestone was allowed to run unchallenged and slip Ryan Longman in. Tie did well to force him wide, Lawrence cleared the resulting shot away from near the goal-line again, and then Gwargis put a second chance wide.
Thierno Ballo replaced James at the break, while Hudson-Odoi would see 15 more minutes of action. Tino Anjorin was his replacement.
Before then, Tie sprawled to his right to keep a shot out, and Hudson-Odoi curled a free-kick on target but too close to McGill. McEachran should then have done better than shooting high and wide after we had stolen possession high up the pitch.
That miss mattered not though as we did double our lead with 73 minutes gone. McEachran’s corner was met by an unmarked Anjorin whose volley hit Brown, wasn’t fully cleared by a defender thus allowing Lewis to pounce for his maiden goal at this level.
Lawrence had a similar effort to his goal but on this occasion saw it fly over the bar, and Brown rattled the outside of the post after latching on to an Anjorin pass.
With five minutes left Lamptey embarked on a thrilling run through the middle which ended with a sweet strike well stopped by McGill.
Brighton had the final word in the last minute of stoppage time as Alex Cochrane headed in from six yards out, but it couldn’t sour another excellent evening’s work for our development squad.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Nicolas Tie; Reece James (Thierno Ballo h/t), Jack Wakely, Marc Guehi (c), Henry Lawrence; George McEachran, Clinton Mola; Tariq Lamptey, Marcel Lewis (Marcel Lavinier 83), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Tino Anjorin 61); Charlie Brown.Unused subs Karlo Ziger, Armando BrojaScorers Lawrence 19, Lewis 73Booked Mola 45+1
Brighton Tom McGill; Warren O’Hara, Lewis Freeston, Hayden Roberts; Archie Davies, Jack Sprong (Ted Jones h/t), Jordan Davies (Danny Cashman 81), Alex Cochrane; Peter Gwargis (Bojan Radulovic 69), Ryan Longman, Taylor Richards.Unused subs Hugo Keto, Romaric YapiScorer Cochrane 90+4Booked Freestone 31, J.Davies 69, Cochrane 89
Referee Lloyd WoodCrowd 3,614
-Additional pictures courtesy of Dan Davies and Mark Sandom