Goals from Charlie Webster and Mason Burstow were not enough to prevent defeat in the London derby at home against West Ham United.
Our development squad suffered their first defeat in the PL2 since August, in a pulsating game at Kingsmeadow.
Five goals, a red card and tremendous saves were at the centre of an action-packed London derby.
West Ham came out of the gates quickly and were two-nil up by the half-way point of the first period despite our young Blues' positive start. George Earthy and Divin Mubama were their goalscorers.
Nonetheless, we battled hard to get ourselves back into the game as Webster struck a fine shot from distance which found the top corner.
Hutchinson and Burstow went close to getting us level, but before the break it was the Hammers who dealt a huge blow to our chances, as Mubama scored a fine solo goal.
The second period saw us create numerous opportunities to get something out of the game as Hutchinson and Malik Mothersille both went close.
Burstow then gave us our second as he was in the right place to finish off a fine team move.
Despite our efforts at an equaliser, the away side stood firm and saw the rest of the game out.
An unfortunate event during the game was that 10 minutes before the full-time whistle, Derrick Abu was sent-off for a second bookable offence.
Mark Robinson’s men were looking to extend the four-game winning streak that they had put together and the undefeated start to 2023.
We looked threatening in the opening moments of the game, as the neat combinations our side have become renowned for this season were on show again.
Burstow had our first clear opportunity, and he swung a left boot at the ball after Hutchinson’s lay-off and it only just went wide.
Despite our promising start though it was the young Hammers who took the lead through Earthy, as he latched onto a loose clearance from Bergstrom and slotted underneath the keeper to give his side the lead.
It went quiet following the goal as neither side committed bodies forward but then we created a good chance to level.
Burstow did well to deliver into the box having been under pressure from two opponents and Mothersille met the header, but he could not steer it on target.
Goals coming fast
The away side doubled their lead soon after as our young Blues failed to clear from a corner kick with Mubama prodding home. A floated cross found Kaelan Casey at the back-post and he put the ball back into a dangerous area and after a scramble between Mubama and Bergstrom, the striker managed to turn the ball into the net.
We halved the deficit almost immediately after their goal as Mothersille laid the ball off for Webster who unleashed a fierce strike which flew into the top corner of the net.
We were beginning to get our confidence back after a slow start as Hutchinson jinked his way into the box and his powerful shot needed to be tipped over by the goalkeeper.
Hutchinson was picking up the ball in good positions and he had a half chance from distance as the young Hammers’ backline stood off him, but he failed to keep his shot down as it went over the bar.
Hammers on top
Just as it looked like we were going to equalise before the break, it was Mubama who gave him a second and his side a third as he did well to beat Brooking and then he calmly cut in and fired into the far corner of the goal.
There were strong penalty shouts, but they were waved away by the referee as Williams’ shot appeared to come off the arm of a West Ham defender.
We had the first chance of the second period and some good work down the left saw Casadei lay off Webster who had a go at getting his second, but his blocked shot fell to Mothersille whose eventual shot was straight at the keeper.
An unbelievable save from Hegyi denied Burstow an almost certain goal after his header was tipped onto the bar by the West Ham goalkeeper before being cleared away.
Increasing the pressure
We were keeping the pressure on our opponents as a period of sustained pressure saw Hutchinson fire goalwards from just outside the box, but his shot was parried away.
Almost immediately after this Casadei rose highest to meet a Derrick Abu cross but his header just went over.
The goal finally came, and it was Burstow who finished off a fine team move as Hutchinson combined with second-half substitute Harvey Vale and the latter put in a delightful cross which Burstow tucked away.
Appiah-Forson and Swyer had chances to extend their side's lead but a combination of good defending from Abu and poor finishing prevented a fourth West Ham goal.
As we pushed for an equaliser, West Ham caught us with a counter, and it was stopped illegally by Abu, and he was then sent-off for a second bookable offence.
We came agonisingly close to drawing level as Vale was involved again and he delivered a great cross which found Hutchinson at the back post, but his effort was cleared spectacularly off the line by Luizao.
In stoppage time Webster’s volley drew out another great save from Hegyi who was keeping out our young Blues.
We did still have some defending to do and Jayden Wareham cleared a header off the line after a corner from the young Hammers.
We suffered our first defeat since August in the PL2 as West Ham managed to hold on and secure the three points.
Our development squad’s result tonight means that remain top of the league for the moment but Manchester City with two games in hand have a chance to climb above us.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Lucas Bergstrom; Derrick Abu, Josh Brooking (c), Zak Sturge, Dylan Williams (Juan Castillo 77); Cesare Casadei, Charlie Webster; Dion Rankine, Omari Hutchinson, Malik Mothersille (Harvey Vale 59); Mason Burstow (Jayden Wareham 90+2).
Unused subs: Ted Curd, Jude Soonsup-Bell.
Sent-off: Derrick Abu 79
Booked: Derrick Abu 25
Scorers: Charlie Webster 31; Mason Burstow 69.
West Ham United (4-2-3-1): Krysztian Hegyi; Junior Robinson, Luizao, Keenan Appiah-Forson (Archie Woods 90), Kaelan Casey, Levi Lang, George Earthy (Dan Chesters 71), Freddie Potts, Divin Mubama, Kamarai Swyer, Regan Clayton (Ollie Scarles 78).
Unused subs: Michael Forbes, Jacob Knightbridge.
Booked: Regan Clayton 11.
Scorers: George Earthy 12; Divin Mubama 27; 45+3.