A busy and hectic Saturday saw Chelsea’s Academy Building and Community Pavilion officially opened by Sir Trevor Brooking and John Terry before a day of all-action football got underway on what was a fine first day for Chelsea’s teams. Dermott Drummy’s Under 16s beat River Plate in the morning’s opening kickoff before the Under 14 team clinched a mini-festival with a 3-1 aggregate win in two ties against FC Dnipro.
The opening ceremony saw official presentations of all Chelsea International Tournament 2008 participants – River Plate, Ajax, Bayern Munich, Suwon Blue Wings, FC Togliatti, Al-Nejmeh Lebanon, and Disney’s Soccer Showcase All-Stars – as well as all Chelsea academy teams from Under 9s to the Under 18s. This was followed by a powerful delegation of Frank Arnesen, Neil Bath, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Sir Trevor Brooking, Peter Kenyon and John Terry taking to the stage to officially open the tournament. Chelsea’s captain – England’s captain – then unveiled a plaque to commemorate the new site.
With that out of the way, it was time to turn to the action, and a strong Under 16 team featuring three Under 18 scholars in Vincenzo Camilleri, Kaby, and Marko Mitrovic. The team was strong throughout the squad and also included Rohan Ince and Milan Lalkovic, who have participated in Under 18 pre-season.
The opening match against Argentina’s River Plate could not have started more dramatically. Inside ten seconds Mitrovic had pounced on a loose ball and driven into the area, where he was impeded. A penalty was duly given to get the day off to a bang. He stepped up and slotted his spot-kick left-footed into the bottom corner with consumnate ease.
Whether it was nerves because of the occasion or just freakish incidents, a game already notable for incident became even more topsy-turvy four minutes later as River got a penalty of their own. Camilleri misjudged a slide tackle just inside the area and the second penalty was given. Juan Montero, a diminutive number 10, also scored his effort left-footed, easily beating Jamal Blackman.
The visitors nearly took the lead shortly after, taking a superb last-ditch tackle from Billy Clifford to keep the scores level before Chelsea took the lead again with a goal fit to grace any stadium on the planet. James Ashton brought the ball out of defence on the break and played a quick one-two with Aziz Deen-Conteh, releasing him into space. He fed Mitrovic, who played a one-two with Kaby, the return pass perfectly weighted for the Swede to get in behind the last man and send the ball spinning into the back of the net at the near post. It was a truly wonderful team goal.
They held the lead through to half-time (30 minutes each way) and looked strong at the start of the second half. Josh MacEachran was starring in midfield, showing his usual incredible touch and vision with no shortage of guile and strength in the battle. As River started to chase the game they came into it more and had the better of the second half proceedings, with another short winger wasting no fewer than three chances. Blackman also made a couple of noteworthy saves to keep his side ahead.
Anton Rodgers, Sadik Kamara and Nathaniel Chalobah all came off the bench in the second period and Rodgers went close with a couple of 20 yard prods at goal. Knott – captaining the team – came inside onto his right foot and curled an effort inches wide late on as Drummy’s boys held on for a well-earned tournament opening win.
Elsewhere on site, Chelsea are joined at the top of Group A by Korea’s Suwon Blue Wings, who comprehensively dispatched Al-Nejmeh’s Right to Play Lebanon 5-0. Group B’s big guns went head to head on the adjacent pitch, as an early Ajax goal saw them hold onto a 1-0 victory against Bayern Munich in a classic Netherlands vs Germany match-up which was never short of incident. The two remaining teams in Group B met at the same time, with Disney’s Soccer Showcase All-Stars holding onto a narrow 2-1 win over Russians FC Togliatti.
Also on Saturday was a mini-festival featuring Chelsea’s Under 14s. It was due to be a three-team tournament featuring Ukrainian duo FC Dnipro and Dynamo Kyiv but in the latter’s absence, the Blues played Dnipro in two matches with aggregate scoring. The first ‘leg’ finished 1-1 before they completed the day on the main match pitch. Chelsea came out on top this time with a 2-0 win, and it could have been more. Adam Nditi scored one and forced an own goal, with John Swift and Jake Hessenthaler both rattling the bar from distance. Both teams were presented with commemorative medals at the end of the match.
Sunday’s action gets underway at 10.30am with Chelsea meeting Suwon Blue Wings in a clash to decide the probably group winner. At the same time on various pitches the other six teams will all kick off their second matches, with the final round of group games starting at 5pm. A full report on the day’s action will follow on this site, and on CFCnet.
Selected Pictures from the day’s action can be viewed here.
Chelsea Under 16s team vs River Plate: Blackman, Clifford, Camilleri, Ince, Deen-Conteh, MacEachran, Ashton (Rodgers 30 HT), Kaby (Chalobah 57), Lalkovic (Kamara 50), Knott (c), Mitrovic
Goals: Mitrovic 1 (pen), 14
Chelsea Under 14s Squad: Mitchell Beeney, Bradley Simmonds, Greg Butler, Andrew Hall, Danny Stenning, Tom Howard, Callum Wright, George Bowerman, Freddie Champion, Andrew Musungu, Jake Hessenthaler, Ben Killip, Alistair Gordon, John Swift, Reece Mitchell, Adam Nditi, Ismail Seremba, Alex Davey