Chelsea’s Under-18s fell to a frustrating defeat against Crystal Palace at Cobham on Friday afternoon.

Chelsea started the game well and looked to have opened the scoring within the first quarter, however the referee was uninterested in protests that claimed Charlie Wiggett's header had crossed the line.

There remained nothing between the sides at the interval and Chelsea came back out looking to assert our authority on the fixture, however we were unable to get firm grip on the game to allow us to play our football, and Crystal Palace took their rare chance well. Victor Akinwale was the scorer, he tucked the ball out of reach of Lucas Bergstrom for the opener.

Palace defended their lead resolutely and we struggled to cause enough trouble to deserve a levelling goal, ultimately falling short of a result on the afternoon.

The young Blues

Head coach Ed Brand named two changes from last Saturday’s draw against Southampton. Josh Tobin was at the heart of midfield for his first appearance at this level, in place of Joe Haigh. While Jimi Tauriainen was back among the starting places for Harvey Vale who featured for the development squad on Tuesday night. Last week’s debutant and goal scorer, Alex Kpakpe, kept his place at left-back, while schoolboy Lewis Hall took a place on the substitutes' bench.

Blues denied

Overcast conditions added an extra yard of pace on to the ball at Cobham at the start of the weekend when the men also play our south London counterparts. Chelsea enjoyed the better start but Charlie Webster and Josh Brooking were unable to apply the finishing touches to decent moves, however we were seeing plenty of the ball through Tobin in the middle.

Despite the dominance Chelsea were unable to quickly turn our possession into chances but there were shouts in the area for a Blue breakthrough. Wiggett headed at goal from Tauriainen’s corner-kick, those in Blue protested to the referee who had no interest in giving Chelsea the goal and we remained level after 30 minutes.

Conditions worsened

The heavens opening up coincided with the game taking a much more physical turn, no more evident than when Brooking, who had the better of his marker on the right, advanced towards the box but was illegally apprehended. Tauriainen stepped up to take the resulting free-kick which favoured a left-footed strike but the attempt was one he would have been disappointed with.

As half-time approached a misplaced Bashir Humphreys pass was intercepted in a dangerous area and Crystal Palace’s attempt to punish us almost paid dividend. Luckily Rowan Smith’s goal-bound shot was crowded out just in time to keep us level.

Devastating blow after a positive restart

We showed good intensity after the interval with Silko Thomas, who had switched wings, providing a low cross for Tauriainen in the centre but the tall Finn’s connection wasn’t strong enough to trouble the Palace net. That would conclude his afternoon as Edwin Andersson was sent on in his place.

So few Chelsea chances in the game would soon prove costly as against the run of play Palace were ahead. The ball was slipped through the defence to forward Victor Akinwale and his tame effort trickled beyond Bergstrom in the Chelsea net.

Chelsea chase

Brand opted for changes to try to get us back into the game. There were Under-18 debuts for Lewis Hall and Derrick Abu who provided fresh legs as we entered five minutes of normal time.

We pushed forward at every opportunity and Brooking had enjoyed the space on the right all afternoon. His whipped cross for Ben Elliott was glanced on by the midfielder but there was nobody in Blue to finish off the move.

Next it was the turn of Andersson to try his luck. He advanced down the left flank and cut on to his right foot but the Palace keeper did well to hold the effort, and that saw our afternoon end in defeat.

What’s next?

After the international period the Under-18s will take to the road to make the short trip to near neighbours Reading on October 17. Kick-off is 11am.

Chelsea (4-1-2-2-1) Lucas Bergstrom; Josh Brooking, Charlie Wiggett, Bashir Humphreys (c), Alex Kpakpe (Derrick Abu 83); Josh Tobin (Lewis Hall 83); Ben Elliott, Charlie Webster; Jimi Tauriainen (Edwin Andersson 53), Silko Thomas; Jude Soonsup-BellUnused subs Kelechi Chibueze, Malik MothersilleBooked Brooking 85

Crystal Palace Joe Witworth, Noah Watson, Tayo Adaramola, Aiden Steele, Cardo Siddik, Rayn Bartley, Rowan Smith (Dylan Thiselton 25), Jack Wells-Morrison, Victor Akinwale (Maliq Cadogan 75), Fionn Mooney, David OmilabuUnused subs Lion Bello, Kevin Gonzalez, Jesuran Rak SakyiScorer Akinwale 66Booked Siddik 68

Photography by Mark Sandom

Academy midfielder Jon Russell has today completed a season-long loan move to Accrington Stanley.

It is the first experience of senior football for the youngster, who turns 20 next week and will join fellow Blue Tariq Uwakwe at the Crown Ground.

Russell has been training at Chelsea since the age of seven and has emerged as a key player for our development squad over the past year. A tall box-to-box midfield player, he has added goals to his game of late, scoring against the senior sides of Plymouth Argyle and Oxford United in recent EFL Trophy ties.

Accrington finished 17th in League One last season and have started 2020/21 with one win and two defeats from their opening three matches. They travel to AFC Wimbledon this weekend.