It’s been a busy few days for the youth and reserve teams at Chelsea, including wins and losses for the Under-18s, and international representation across the board, as well as the usual loan interest. It’s all here, as always, on CFCnet.
We’ll start with the Under-18s, and their friendly last week at Cobham against FC Tolyatti, who the club has a working relationship with. An Under-17 Blues line-up (featuring a small smattering of schoolboys) beat the Russian visitors 5-0, with goals from Marko Mitrovic, Kaby, Bobby Devyne, Gokhan Tore, and a trialist who is currently unidentified. He scored a peach of a long range effort but the goal of the game went to captain Gokhan, who added his name to the list of highly adept free-kick takers in the youth ranks by dispatching a peach from 25 yards.
Unfortunately, the form wasn’t to carry over to the weekend’s fixture away to West Ham, where despite atrocious conditions the match went ahead and Chelsea lost 3-1. In high winds with heavy rain making the pitch incredibly hard to play on, a brace from England Under-16 striker Robert Hall and a late goal from Conor Okus did for Dermot Drummy’s team, who scored through Marko Mitrovic’s sixth of the season. There was a sour note as Billy Knott’s great goalscoring run – having netted six times in his last six games – came to an end when he was sent off for dissent, marking his first competitive game against his former club (joining Chelsea at 14) in an unfortunate manner. It’s also a concerning development for the youth team, who have now had Kaby, Lalkovic and Knott sent off this season, and all three were involved in dissent either for their first or second bookings.
Team: Haxhia, Sampayo, Mills, Strickland, Knott, Saville, Kaby (c), B.Clifford, McEachran, Lalkovic (Devyne), Mitrovic (Prosenik)
It has also been revealed that James Ashton has picked up another injury, having only just recovered from a problem he picked up at the start of the season. He joins recent casualties Philipp Prosenik (concussion) and Sam Walker (foot) on the sidelines.
On the international front, a number of the club’s players were representing their countries around the world, and nobody will have been happier to do so than Gael Kakuta, who played his first competitive football since September after the CAS suspended his ban. He linked up with the French Under-19 party for the Limoges Cup. He made his comeback with 45 minutes in the 1-0 win over Poland, then featured for an hour in a 3-3 draw with Greece, creating a goal for Maxime Bourgeois. Les Bleus finished a disappointing tournament with a 2-2 draw against Switzerland.
Fabio Borini marked his first call-up to the Italian Under-21 squad by making his bow at that level, coming on as a half-time sub during their trip to Hungary. It wasn’t to end well for the Azzurrini though, as they crashed 2-0 and have almost no chance of qualifying for the Finals in Denmark in 2011. He will hope to play, and perhaps score, against minnows Luxembourg tomorrow. Things were better for Jacopo Sala at Under-19 level, playing 66 minutes in a 5-0 win over Albania and following it with a half in a 4-0 win over San Marino. He is set to feature against the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday, for whom Conor Clifford has been playing over the last few days.
The Irish beat Albania 2-0 and San Marino 5-0 with Conor playing the entire match on both occasions, going close to a goal a few times. Both sides have qualified for the Elite stage already, but Conor will miss a potential face-off against his Chelsea team-mate as he has once again been drafted into the Under-21 squad ahead of the midweek match away to Armenia. Jan Sebek has been the club’s only other Under-19 representative, joining up with the Czech squad for wins over Malta and Cyprus – starting the latter fixture for his first appearance for any Czech national team. He will likely return to the bench for tomorrow’s game against Holland.
Up at Under-21 level, England duo Ryan Bertrand and Michael Mancienne started in defence for England at Wembley in a 1-0 friendly victory over Portugal. Mancienne was replaced after 76 minutes, whilst Jack Cork came on at the same time (not for Mancienne though). Daniel Sturridge remained as an unused sub but is more likely to feature tomorrow as Stuart Pearce’s boys make the trip to Lithuania. Things were just as comfortable for Jeffrey Bruma, who is now firmly entrenched as a starting centre-back for Holland’s Under-21s. The Jong Oranje beat Liechtenstein 3-0 in Den Bosch and now head for Rotterdam where they face a massive fixture tomorrow night against Spain.
With the internationals cleared up, we’ll now turn our attentions to all things domestic, where Nana Ofori-Twumasi became the club’s thirteenth loanee of the season, joining League Two team Dagenham & Redbridge for at least a month. He went straight into the team at right-back and was outstanding on his professional debut as the Daggers beat Accrington Stanley 1-0 in a tough away game and subsequently went top of the division. He is the club’s only representative in the division, but there’s still lots to talk about in League One, even without Lee Sawyer (who has now left Chelsea altogether).
We’ll go back to last midweek first of all, where Tom Taiwo played for Carlisle in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and was his usual impressive self in a 3-1 victory at Chesterfield which puts them into the Northern Section Semi Finals. Tom conceded a penalty late in the first half but made amends in the second by providing the assist for Matty Robson’s headed equaliser, and went close to scoring himself. He was also involved in an unfortunate and ugly incident with Spireite Gregor Robertson, who suffered a broken leg during a clean and fair challenge. Tom’s instincts and behaviour in preventing further injury to the stricken Robertson led to Jon Coleman of the Cumberland News & Star writing up a fine piece on how impressive Tom has been as a person, not just as a footballer. He is certainly doing Chelsea proud, but wasn’t able to help avoid a 3-2 defeat in League action away to Bristol Rovers on Saturday. Booked for unsporting behaviour in the first half, but seems to have played well without being his usual busy self, the booking slowing him down somewhat.
Jacob Mellis was also involved in JPT action as Southampton beat Charlton 2-1 on their own way to the Semi Finals (Southern Section) but only got 8 minutes at the end of the game, losing out to fellow loanee Michail Antonio for a starting berth. He was to remain a sub for the weekend visit of Brighton, now managed by ex-Blue Gustavo Poyet, and remained unused in a 3-1 defeat. With the unbeaten run now over, perhaps Jacob can force himself back into the team and take the chance he really should have had after returning from England Under-19 duty in fine form. Liam Bridcutt finishes up the League One report with 90 mins in Stockport’s 2-0 defeat at Walsall.