It’s been a long double-header of club and international action, with a number of Chelsea youngsters off representing their countries in competitive and friendly fixtures around the world, whilst some stayed behind to feature in loan action. We recap everything right now.
We’ll start at the very top, with senior international football, where Miroslav Stoch was in the Slovakian fold once again He remained on the bench throughout as they drew 2-2 at home to neighbours the Czech Republic on Saturday, perhaps due to not training much in the build-up after a knee injury. However, he started in a young attack away to Northern Ireland, with Vladimir Weiss of Man City on the opposite wing, and was lively in a stunning performance. Weiss Snr’s team won 2-0 in Belfast to leave them tantalisingly close to their first ever place in the World Cup Finals.
At Under-21 level, Michael Mancienne and Daniel Sturridge both featured across England’s first two qualifiers of this new campaign, starting in Macedonia. Both completed 90 minutes in the 2-1 win, with Sturridge looking lively and Mancienne rarely troubles. In their second match against Greece, Sturridge scored his first goal at this level after just five minutes, tappining in Stanislas’ cross to give his team the lead. However, after having a couple more chances he was forced off with an injury, and Greece were able to get themselves a share of the spoils as it finished 1-1. Big striker Konstantinos Mitroglou caused Mancienne and partner James Tomkins a bit of bother, using his size and strength to his advantage.
Meanwhile, Ryan Bertrand was not involved in either fixture, and for Wales, Rhys Taylor wasn’t called upon for their clash with Italy, as he was only on standby. Patrick van Aanholt wasn’t needed in the same circumstances for the Oranje’s first qualifier against Finland, but Jeffrey Bruma was, making his first start in this age group and completing an impressive 90 minutes in a 2-0 win. After the game he spoke of his desire to push on from here, and how he is rated back at Chelsea:
The transfer ban is positive for me, because there cannot be any more competition for places to come in from the outside. But I’m already close, only the fourth central defender down the list.
Gokhan Tore’s first Under-21 involvement for Turkey came in the form of 66 friendly minutes in a 4-3 win over Besiktas, before he was brought down to earth by a crushing 4-0 defeat to Georgia. He came on as a 36th minute sub but was unable to influence matters.
At Under-19 level, Jacob Mellis returned to international football for the first time in just over a year to be a part of Noel Blake’s new look team which beat Russia 2-0. He was a late addition to the squad with Adam Phillip, who didn’t feature. Gael Kakuta was due to have been called back from the Sendai Cup in Japan with France’s Under-19s after the Lens controversy broke, but he appears to still be with Les Blues. The much-talked about youngster played in their first match against the hosts, scoring twice in a 3-3 draw. He should go on to play against Brazil and South Korea in the rest of the competition.
Over in Ireland, Conor Clifford captained his Under-19 team in their Four Nations Tournament, and had a successful week. They opened with a 1-1 draw against Holland, where he played the entire match, and followed it up with a 2-0 win over Turkey, where he scored both goals. Given a bit more of an attacking license for his country than he is at club level, he was able to steal the show with two fine finishes. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to call himself the tournament’s victorious captain, as a final game defeat to Portugal cost them their chance of success. He was withdrawn at half time in that fixture, with his work impressive throughout.
Down in the Under-17s, and Anton Rodgers was also involved in a tournament, as Sean McCaffrey and his boys entered the Syrenka Cup. A late addition to the party, Anton was a 68th minute substitute in their 2-1 defeat to Russia to open up, and played the first half of their second match against Sweden, in which they were defeated by the same scoreline. They were able to finish with a flourish though, beating Romania 4-1, with Anton adding the final goal in composed fashion, slotting away from a through ball.
There was some league action to report on from Blues loanees in League One, albeit brief. Before heading off for Under-19 duty, Mellis played the first half of Southampton’s goalless draw with Colchester, earning a booking before being withdrawn, presumably with the midweek in mind. Tom Taiwo missed Carlisle’s 3-0 drubbing of hapless Tranmere with an ankle injury he picked up against Leyton Orient, who played Southend on Friday night. Lee Sawyer played the last twenty of that one, entering the fray at 0-0, and being a part of a late show which saw Lee Barnard grab a hat-trick. Finally, Liam Bridcutt impressed for Stockport upon returning from suspension but couldn’t help avoid a 2-0 defeat at Leeds.