Chelsea's Under-19s ended their UEFA Youth League campaign with a draw against Lille OSC at Cobham this afternoon.
An own goal shortly after the first quarter gave Chelsea the lead which they held for the majority of the game but Lille pulled level two minutes from time when substitute Simon Ramet found the net from close range.
Sam McClelland and George Nunn could have stretched Chelsea's lead furhter after the breal but for an impressive double save to deny them both as the game ended with the points shared.
Andy Myers named a changed Under-19 side for the final UEFA Youth League game of this campaign. Jake Askew, Jordan Aina, Sam McClelland and Dion Rankine were all named in the starting 11 for the first time this season - further UYL squad debutants included Ethan Wady, Josh Brooking and Charlie Wiggett.
It was a battle between the sides who sat in second and third place prior to kick-off. Lille still had first place to fight for while the Blues were playing for pride at a wet and windy Cobham.
Jack Wakely captained this young side who more than held their own in the opening quarter – with possession in favour of the Blues, it took a fortunate but deserved own goal to break the deadlock.
Joe Haigh’s initial effort rebounded back off the post and into Thierno Ballo’s path, the Austrian’s attempt from two yards out somehow connected with the underside of the woodwork before the ball unknowingly cannoned off the head of Lille defender Yassine Ben Hamed and across the line, as flagged by the official on the nearside. It was a good start by Myers’s men.
Lille’s first meaningful chance came 10 minutes after our opener. Aguibou Camara broke Chelsea’s defensive line, beating the offside trap but it took a well-timed low dive to deny the winger the chance at levelling the scores.
The game evened out as we approached the interval but Chelsea continued to look a threat in attacking positions. On the left, Aina danced around the challenges of visiting defenders before he threaded the ball into the path of George Nunn. The number nine was through on goal but saw his attempt denied by the outstretched legs of goalkeeper Lucas Chevalier. We were a goal to the good at the end of a solid half.
Chelsea made another strong start following the interval and immediately after the introduction of Sam Iling-Juinior and Josh Brooking, 'keeper Chevalier produced a stunning double save to keep the Blues within touching distance of his team.
To begin with, Sam McClelland’s acrobatic effort was palmed back into the danger area before only an excellent reaction save denied Nunn’s header from hitting the back of the net.
A triple substitution 10 minutes from time saw Bashir Humphreys, Charlie Wiggett and Myles Peart-Harris introduced in place of Colwill, McClelland and Ballo respectively as Myers looked to preserve his side’s lead.
However, that lead was almost squandered moments later as newly-introduced Simon Ramet couldn’t direct the ball from a free-kick on target after he was picked out free at the back post. It was a let-off for the Blues as the attempt kissed the post on its way out.
As full-time approached, Lille looked dangerous in search of a goal and this time Ramet didn’t make any mistake in firing beyond Askew as he was first to react to a low cross. It was level at 1-1 with just two minutes of normal time remaining.
Upon full-time, Chelsea bowed out of this season's UEFA Youth League competition with a third-placed finish in Group H.
Chelsea (3-4-3) Jake Askew; Levi Colwill (Bashir Humphreys 80), Jack Wakely (c) (Samuel Iling-Juinoir 66), Sam McClelland (Charlie Wiggett 80); Jordan Aina Lewis Bate, Xavier Simons, Dion Rankine (Josh Brooking 66); Thierno Ballo (Myles Peart-Harris 80), George Nunn, Joe HaighUnused subs: Ethan WadyBooked: Haigh (35) Nunn (76)Scorer: Ben Hamed (Own-goal 16)
Lille: Lucas Chevalier (c), Ismaill Bouleghcha, Yassine Ben Hamed, Abdoulaye Zakha Bangoura, Nassim Innocenti (Baptiste Rolland 45), Joel Ngoya, Aguibou Camara, Rocco Ascone, Yakine Said (Jean Pierre Longonda Itamba Mboy 78), Ferhat Cogalan (Simon Ramet 64), Enzo Bardeli (Ibrahim Karamoko 78)Unused subs: Edouard Dejonge, Thomas Roetynck, Anzo LesageBooked: Ngoya (40), Bangoura (70)Scorer: Ramet (88)
Referee: Robert Harvey