Our development squad brought Premier League 2 action to Kingsmeadow for the first time this afternoon and christened their return with a win over West Ham.
In a game where Chelsea had to be patient, a positive display eventually paid off for Andy Myers's side. Dynel Simeu had the best chance of the first half but could only direct his header against the post, which meant we remained level at the break.
Another inspired substitute was the difference between the sides as Dion Rankine, making his PL2 debut, recorded a maiden goal minutes after taking to the turf. That was after Levi Colwill had twice threatened the West Ham goal searching for a breakthrough. There was still some resolute defending for Chelsea to do though, and a clean sheet complimented the afternoon's three points at Kingsmeadow.
The young Blues
Myers’ first team selection for the opening Chelsea matchday in PL2 was one full of experience. All players in the starting 11 had tasted football at this level previously, as had most of those on the bench excluding goalkeeper Lucas Bergstrom and midfielder Rankine. In total, there were five changes from the team fielded at Oxford United in the EFL Trophy last week. A late change to the Chelsea defence saw Colwill replace Pierre Ekwah Elimby, who picked up an injury in the warm-up.
There was a relaxed start to the game at Kingsmeadow, both Chelsea and West Ham looking to get the ball down and play where possible. West Ham were the first side to test the opposition keeper as Mesaque Dju stung the fingertips of Karlo Ziger, who saw the danger away for a corner-kick.
We had to be patient in our offensive play and it almost paid off from our first real attempt on goal. Marcel Lewis cut inside on to his favoured right foot and looked to pick out the bottom corner with a shot that Joseph Anang in the Hammers net managed to get a strong hand to.
Denied by the post
The best chance of the half fell to Chelsea when Lewis’ free-kick was whipped into the box where Thierno Ballo helped it on to Simeu, free at the back post. His header was a strong one which rebounded back off the woodwork and unfortunately out of his path. The game was opening up as we approached the break.
West Ham also threatened closer to half-time, a powerful strike from 20-yards forcing Ziger to get a hand to the ball to keep it away from danger and that move brought an end to the action in the first period.
Back out strong
The Blues looked much the stronger team after the restart and Colwill was twice denied by the visitors. His initial header was cleared off the line by a West Ham body before the second was well saved by Anang.
West Ham had Anang to thank again moments later as Tino Livramento found space on his favoured left foot and looked to tuck the ball inside the post. It required a spectacular save by the stopper, who once again denied Chelsea an opener.
Two changes saw Lewis Bate and Rankine introduced, the latter for the first time at this level and he was celebrating his first goal just minutes later. Myles Peart-Harris split the Hammers defence and the substitute latched on to the pass, setting himself before he slotted into the corner of the net.
The game wasn’t wrapped up there though. Sean Adarkwa of West Ham had a free header at goal in the centre of the box as Ziger was rooted to the spot but fortunately for the Blues, the ball dropped the right side of the post. With that, the final whistle eventually sounded to signal a winning start in Premier League 2 for the defending champions.
On Friday evening, the development squad make a trip south to take on Southampton’s newly-formed B team – our first trip of the league season.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Karlo Ziger; Henry Lawrence, Dynel Simeu, Levi Colwill, Ian Maatsen; George McEachran, Jon Russell (Lewis Bate 65); Tino Livramento (George Nunn 82), Myles Peart-Harris, Marcel Lewis (Dion Rankine 74); Thierno BalloUnused subs Lucas BergstromBooked Russell 11, Ziger 68, Maatsen 78, Lawrence 90Scorer Rankine 75
West Ham Joseph Anang, Will Greenidge (Dan Chesters 78), Emmanuel Lobgelo, Ossama Ashley, Tunji Akinola, Goncarlo Cardoso, Mesaque Dju, Bernardo Rosa (Louie Watson 71), Sean Adarkwa, Alfie Lewis, Oladapo AfolayanUnused subs Josh Okotcha, Dan Jinadu, Keenan Appiah-ForsonBooked Ossama Ashley 70
Referee Jacob MilesCrowd N/A