A late Arsenal comeback cancelled out two Chelsea goals as the Blues were restricted to a draw in the first game of 2020.
Chelsea were comfortably ahead and in control for large parts of this afternoon's game. Marcel Lewis opened the scoring in unorthodox fashion and had us ahead at the break. The second half saw much more action than the first, Lewis forcing a good save from the Arsenal keeper, as did Myles Peart-Harris after an hour.
Our dominance paid off after 70 minutes when substitue Joe Haigh slotted the Blues two goals up but Arsenal, who looked defeated for the majority of the game, sparked a comeback 10 mintues later. Midfielder Sam Greenwood arrowed a perfect free-kick into the top corner, giving the visitors the confidence to grab a second through Dennis Mathew just six minutes from the whistle, leaving no time for a Chelsea response.
Ed Brand named a slightly rotated team from the side that triumphed in the FA Youth Cup in Decemebr as Levi Colwill, Dion Rankine, Sam Iling-Junior, Lewis, Bashir Humphries and George Nunn came into the side, with schoolboy Harvey Vale named among the substitutes.
Arsenal got the game started in perfect conditions at Cobham and enjoyed their fair share of possession inside the opening stages as both teams aimed to assert some early authority on the game.
Iling-Junior was the only player inside the first 10 minutes from either team to register an attempt on goal, but his strike from an angle could only find the side-netting. Xavier Simons stung the hands of Hubert Graczyk from distance moments later and it was a confident start from the Blues, who were happy being patient in and out of possession.
A very good save from Graczyk was required to keep Chelsea at bay as we turned the pressure up on our north London counterparts. Peart-Harris painfully watched the keeper bat the ball away from only two yards.
The lead was ours moments later however when Lewis skilfully turned a bouncing ball in from close range, up and over the reach of the Arsenal goalkeeper using the crossbar to his aid. 1-0 Blues.
More heroics from the Arsenal stopper was required to keep Chelsea within touching distance before the whistle sounded for half-time. A welcome break for both teams.
Arsenal’s first attempt on goal came from their half-time substitute Dennis Mathew as he advanced on the left wing and took aim from distance, firing narrowly wide. The Blues keeper, Jake Askew, had largely been a spectator in this game and appeared to have his angles covered.
Arsenal were temporarily down to 10 men as they prepared a change in personnel for an injured player. This coincided with Lewis forcing the visiting keeper into another save as the forward turned a low centre towards goal. The number 10 looked hungry for his second.
We threatened again shortly after an hour’s play, with Peart-Harris at the heart of the Chelsea attacks. Firstly, he flashed a searching ball across the face of goal – even the slightest of touches from a Blue would have resulted in a goal. Moments later, the attacker’s run was picked out by Nunn but Graczyk closed down the angle quickly to make the save.
Those chances proved to be Peart-Harris’ last as he was replaced by Haigh in a like-for-like attacking swap. Brand was clearly looking to capitalise on his team’s chances and seal the game.
The substitution paid dividends two minutes later as Chelsea’s lead was doubled by Haigh. The chance stemmed from Iling-Junior’s well-hit cross which found Haigh six yards from goal, the attacker took his time before picking his spot coolly. 2-0 Blues as less than 20 minutes remained.
Against the run of play Arsenal pulled a goal back when Greenwood whipped a curling free-kick into the top corner from 25 yards. It seemed to be all to play for ahead of the final 10 minutes, 2-1.
The visitors drew level after 86 minutes, substitute Dennis Mathew scrambling the ball over the line after countless deflections following a corner-kick. However, the game wasn’t over and Chelsea stepped their play up a gear in hope of regaining their lead.
Iling-Junior, Vale, and Rankine all saw attacking opportunities in the dying moments but to no avail as the points were shared at Cobham, meaning the Blues remain top and unbeaten in the league, three points clear of closest rivals Fulham in second place.
Chelsea (3-4-3) Jake Askew; Charlie Wiggett, Sam McClelland, Levi Colwill; Dion Rankine, Xavier Simons, Bashir Humphries, Samuel Iling-Junior (Josh Brooking 90); Marcel Lewis, George Nunn (Harvey Vale 82), Myles Peart-Harris (Joe Haigh 68)Unused subs Ethan Wady, James ClarkScorers Lewis 31, Haigh 71
Arsenal Hubert Graczyk, Daniel Oyegoke, Mazeed Ogungbo, Charlie Patino (Catailin Cirjan 69), Zane Monlouis, Alex Kirk (Dennis Mathew ht), Sam Greenwood, Ben Cottrell (c), Luke Plange, Nathan Butler-Oyedeji, Ryan Alebiosu (Levi Lang 50)Unused subs Remy Mitchell, Levi Lang, Marcelo FloresBooked Ogungbo 72Scorers Greenwood 80, Mathew 86
- Additional photography by Mark Sandom