Under-18s report: Chelsea 2 Aston Villa 2

Our youngsters dropped their first home points of the campaign as Aston Villa twice came from behind to share the spoils at Cobham this morning (Saturday).

Tino Anjorin had handed us the lead within the opening couple of minutes before Jacob Ramsey levelled from close range with half hour on the clock. Manager Jody Morris made changes and one of his replacements, Martell Taylor-Crossdale, did enough to restore our advantage in the second half but another equaliser towards the end of the contest ensured the league points were shared.

Morris made four changes from the 2-0 win at Reading that started the calendar year with another three points, two of which were enforced as Marcel Lavinier missed out with illness and Juan Castillo stayed with the development squad ahead of their trip to Sunderland later in the weekend.

Villa were the only side to take points from our youngsters at home last term, frustrating Morris’s men in a 0-0 draw last January, though it took just two minutes for the hosts to break the deadlock in this latest contest. Lining up in a 4-3-2-1 shape, the league leaders converted with their first attack of note as schoolboy Anjorin produced a simple close-range finish to finish a flowing forward move. It was the 16-year-old midfielder’s third goal of the campaign on his eighth start.

The early goal initiated an open first 20 minutes on a grey and chilly morning at our training ground. Colin Odutayo tried to exploit some hesitation in the Chelsea defence but ran out of grass down the left before Jack Wakely won an important header in the box to avert the danger from Mason Birch’s right-sided free-kick.

Leading the line up front for the visitors was often a lonely task but Dimitri Sea ought to have made life more difficult for Nicolas Tie in the home goal after 10 minutes. The striker led a promising two-versus-two break but his final shot from the left lacked the requisite power.

The Blues were able to fashion frequent sights at goal but could not add to their one-goal tally. Emmanuel Idem made a good stop to keep out Charlie Brown’s header before Conor Gallagher, Tariq Uwakwe and Tariq Lamptey all took aim from range but struck wide of the far post from the right.

The lack of additional goals was punished with 30 minutes on the clock as the Villains drew level. Marc Guehi had read the danger and made a well-timed sliding challenge to thwart Mason Birch’s progress into the box but the wideman picked himself up and delivered a perfect low centre for Ramsey to tap in at the back post.

The first league goal our youngsters had conceded at home since September was sure to inspire a response but Idem was not notably tested until the final minute of the first period, palming away a sweet strike on the spin from the lively Anjorin.

Morris made a double switch at the interval, introducing Martell Taylor-Crossdale and Under-16 Marcel Lewis to add to the team’s attacking options. The impact was swift as Villa’s stopper was twice called into action within minutes of the restart, first diving to his right to push away Anjorin’s effort before reacting quickly to divert Lewis’s downward volley behind.

Another good save, this time from Uwakwe’s well-hit drive, added to our frustrations as the one-way traffic continued to build pressure on the Villa goal. Gilmour’s deflected drive then flew narrowly wide and, from the resulting corner swung in by Uwakwe, Guehi headed against the woodwork.

The half-time changes saw Gallagher moved deeper into central defence and, while largely untroubled as the Blues dominated possession, the skipper was tested on the hour mark as Sea ran in clear down the left channel. It was a sink-or-swim chance for the forward but the Frenchman dragged a left-footed shot wide.

The game’s third goal finally arrived a few minutes later and Taylor-Crossdale was the man celebrating his 14th goal of the campaign. Panzo delivered from the left and Uwakwe did well to win his header before the striker swung once, then twice at the loose ball, which bounced agonisingly over Idem and into the back of the net.

It was far from a goal of beauty but was enough to restore our lead and the hosts should have gone on to make the points safe in the following 10-minute spell. Guehi and Taylor-Crossdale spurned great opportunities from close range before Idem tipped Anjorin’s stinging strike over the crossbar.

The Blues were made to pay again as the visitors came from behind for a second time with 15 minutes remaining. Villa made progress down the left flank and some slack defending allowed Sea to steal in and finish beyond Tie.

With a quarter of an hour to go, the hosts knew there was still plenty of time left. Callum Stretch did just that to make a crucial block to deny Uwakwe before Taylor-Crossdale’s header was clawed away by the visiting keeper. The final opportunity came with the clock ticking into additional time as Lewis was brought down 20 yards from goal. Uwakwe stepped up and curled a left-footed effort towards the top corner but the ball clipped the frame of the goal and bounced behind.

Villa had once again done enough to deny us a Cobham victory, though Arsenal’s draw earlier in the morning ensured our six-point lead at the top of the Under-18 Premier League southern section remains intact.

 

Chelsea (4-3-2-1) Nicolas Tie; Tariq Lamptey, Marc Guehi, Jack Wakely (Marcel Lewis h/t), Jon Panzo; Conor Gallagher (c), Billy Gilmour, Tariq Uwakwe; Tino Anjorin (Daishawn Redan 86), George McEachran; Charlie Brown (Martell Taylor-Crossdale h/t)
Unused subs
Karlo Ziger, Clinton Mola
Scorers Anjorin 2; Taylor-Crossdale 63

Aston Villa Emmanuel Idem, Jake Walker (c), Josh Williams, Jack Birch, Callum Stretch, Dominic Revan, Colin Odutayo, Lewis Brunt, Dimitri Sea (Ben Guy 88), Jacob Ramsey, Mason Birch
Unused subs
Michael Tait, Keiran Boucher, Luke Ige, Charlie McConnachie
Scorers Ramsey 30; Sea 74

 

-Pictures courtesy of Mark Sandom