Our development squad showed great character in Manchester on Friday night, coming from 2-0 down to secure a point and continue our unbeaten start to the season.
Goals from Billy Gilmour and Marc Guehi rescued our youngsters late on to take us top of the early Premier League 2 standings, though it required plenty of patience and persistence up against a City side who looked in control for long periods.
The hosts did their damage in 11 minutes either side of half-time, with Fisayo Dele-Bashiru forcing an own goal just before the break and Jayden Braaf doubling the lead shortly after the restart.
However, Andy Myers’s boys kept on fighting and slowly began to turn the tide in our favour. Gilmour pulled one back from the spot before Guehi converted from close range in the final minute to ensure a share of the PL2 points.
There were four changes from Monday’s impressive victory over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, with Charlie Brown among those returning up front and George McEachran back in midfield after a period of absence through injury.
Marcel Lavinier at right-wing and Karlo Ziger in goal were the other players recalled as Myers continued with the 4-2-3-1 system that has served his side so well in the opening weeks of the new season. Tariq Lamptey joined captain Guehi, Clinton Mola and Ian Maatsen in offering defensive protection for Ziger’s goal, while Gilmour partnered McEachran at the base of our midfield.
Further forward, Tariq Uwakwe lined up in the number 10 role, with Lavinier and Juan Castillo on the flanks in support of striker Brown. City included Morgan Rogers in their forward line, the England Under-17 international having been acquired from West Brom in the summer.
It was the former Baggie who went closest to breaking the deadlock in the opening half hour as the hosts were able to fashion the clearer sights at goal early on. His turn 25 yards from goal created the space to line up a shot and only the woodwork denied City the lead as the winger’s bending effort cannoned back off Ziger’s post. Prior to that chance, Mola had thwarted Nabil Touaizi with an excellent block inside the 18-yard box.
Myers’s men were enjoying more possession but failing to translate that into a serious threat on Louie Moulden’s goal. Brown provided the biggest worry for the young goalkeeper with 10 minutes on the clock after latching on to a searching forward pass from Guehi, though he was forced wide towards the corner flag and his cross for Uwakwe in the box was headed clear from danger.
Lamptey then emulated Mola with another crucial intervention in the penalty box, sliding in to poke the ball away from Rogers’s control as the forward advanced into a dangerous shooting position from the left.
City ended the half strongly as they pushed to break the deadlock. Adrian Bernabe went close with a deflected drive that wrong-footed Ziger but fortunately bounced just wide, while Braaf’s pace and trickery was proving difficult for his Dutch compatriot Maatsen to deal with.
The breakthrough goal arrived five minutes before half-time in slightly unfortunate circumstances for the visitors. Rogers fed Dele-Bashiru on the overlap and the attacking midfielder’s low delivery was turned past Ziger for an own goal via Guehi’s outstretched boot.
There was still hope for the Blues at the break and a restart on the front foot provided positive signs, though that optimism was dented further by a second City goal inside six minutes of the second period. Braaf burst away from Mola down the inside-right channel before placing an emphatic finish across the keeper and into the bottom corner, leaving Ziger with no chance.
Myers responded by making changes from the touchline, introducing Thierno Ballo and Tino Anjorin in quick succession, with the former offering a bright spark in the final third. His immediate involvement was a first-time left-footed cross towards Brown that required careful attention from the City defenders, before the Austrian took aim himself moments later but failed to trouble Moulden with a weak low strike.
City continued to create chances of their own and Touaizi was the man at the centre of the danger. The Spanish striker teed up Dele-Bashiru to fire high over the crossbar on the hour mark, before juggling an opportunity for himself five minutes later but again the accuracy let the hosts down.
Chelsea refused to give in and made life extremely difficult for their opponents in the final 20 minutes. There was a big shout for a penalty following a bizarre passage of play in which City keeper Moulden picked up a pass back from his own defender, gifting the Blues an indirect free-kick just a few yards out. Gilmour rolled it for Anjorin to strike and the ball appeared to be blocked by a defender’s arm, though referee James Bell waved away the appeals.
Rogers then headed away from under his own crossbar as we intensified our pressure, with Castillo bringing a smart save from Moulden and Anjorin denied by a brave block on the edge of the box.
With eight minutes remaining, the visitors halved the deficit but that chance only came courtesy of an important save from Ziger to keep the score at 2-0. Touaizi had escaped in behind on the break and advanced menacingly from the left wing, though our Croatian keeper stood tall before flinging out a foot to keep the ball out.
It was 2-1 moments later as Anjorin’s impact paid dividends, the 17-year-old driving forward into the box and falling under the challenge of a City defender. Unlike moments earlier, this time the referee pointed to the spot and Gilmour stepped up to confidently convert from 12 yards.
As we pushed for a leveller, it looked like Moulden would deny us as he first grasped Anjorin’s bending free-kick, then sprung to the top corner to claw out Gilmour’s goal-bound effort. With time running out, Guehi stepped in with a captain’s moment. A period of pressure in and around the City box brought rewards as the defender got on the end of a dropping ball to turn it in from close range.
There was even time remaining for us to go close to a winner as Anjorin fired a stinging shot at goal that Moulden spilled but gathered at the second attempt with Brown lurking nearby. In the end, a point apiece was a fair result and keeps our positive momentum going. Next up is Tottenham at Aldershot next Friday night.
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Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Karlo Ziger; Tariq Lamptey, Marc Guehi (c), Clinton Mola, Ian Maatsen; Billy Gilmour, George McEachran (Thierno Ballo 59); Marcel Lavinier (Tino Anjorin 63), Tariq Uwakwe, Juan Castillo; Charlie BrownUnused subs Jack Wakely, Lucas Bergstrom, Jon RussellScorers Gilmour (pen) 82; Guehi 89Booked Gilmour, Lavinier, Lamptey
Manchester City Louie Moulden, Jeremie Frimpong, Joel Latibeaudiere, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Tyreke Wilson, Tommy Doyle (c), Jayden Braaf, Adrian Bernabe (Benjamin Garre 90+2), Nabil Touaizi, Fisayo Dele-Bashiru, Morgan Rogers (Rowan McDonald 83)Unused subs Nathanael Ogbeta, Gavin Bazunu, Yeboah AmankwahScorers Guehi (OG) 40; Braaf 51Booked Harwood-Bellis
Referee James Bell