CHALOBAH COLLECTS YOUNG ENGLAND ACCOLADE

Chelsea Academy product Nathaniel Chalobah has been named the England Men’s Youth Player of the Year.

The 18-year-old, currently on-loan at Watford, was given the honour as part of the FA’s England awards ceremony at their new national centre, St George’s Park, on Sunday evening.

It recognises Chalobah’s performances for England U21s and England U19s in 2012 and was voted for by England coaches.

A previous European champion at Under-17 level, in the summer he was part of the Under-19 side that reached the semi-finalS of the European Championships in Estonia.

He played his first Under-21 game against Northern Ireland in November and along with Josh McEachran, is in the squad for a match against Sweden Under-21s in Walsall on Tuesday.

At Chelsea, Chalobah was captain of the side that won the FA Youth Cup last season and was an important member of the squad that won the national reserve league championship in 2011.

He has been an unused sub for the first team as well as playing in pre-season games. A central defender or midfielder, he also played right-back for England U19s.

Watford manager Gianfranco Zola is primarily deploying Chalobah in midfield. He has made 24 appearances for the Hornets.

SUPER EAGLES MARCH ON

Chelsea’s trio of Nigerians is through to the semi-final of the African Cup of Nations after a surprise victory over Ivory Coast in Rustenburg on Sunday.

John Mikel Obi, Victor Moses and Kenneth Omeruo will now face Mali on Wednesday after seeing off the threat of former Chelsea team-mates Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou, not to mention current Premier League rivals the Toure brothers and Arsenal’s Gervinho.

All three completed the 90 minutes, with Moses in particular a constant menace to the Ivory Coast defence following his matchwinning penalties against Ethiopia in their previous game.

Like that game earlier in the week, the winger was given the responsibility of set-pieces, and regularly delivered accurately. Early on Ideye Brown headed his free-kick high and shortly afterwards he stung the palms of Ivory Coast goalkeeper Boubacar Barry with a vicious drive.

Omeruo had the unenviable task of marking Drogba, but kept the striker largely quiet for a man Chelsea fans are so used to seeing so much from. He did wriggle free once in the first half but shot off target, shortly before Emmanuel Emenike gave the Nigerians with a fizzing drive from a free-kick, with which Barry should have done far better.

Just into the second half Kalou was booked for taking a tumble inside the Nigeria box, but his side were soon level when Drogba was fouled on the edge of the box and his cross was turned home by Newcastle’s Cheik Tiote.

Brown headed another Moses corner wide as Nigeria reacted well to the leveller, and they went back in front 12 minutes from time when midfielder Sunday Mba drove deep into Ivory Coast territory before pulling the trigger and seeing his shot loop up off the backside of Sol Bamba and over Barry into the net.

In injury time Drogba headed Ivory Coast’s final chance over at a free-kick, and the Super Eagles were through to the last four. They have so far improved as the tournament has progressed.

It means Chelsea will be without two important figures for a little longer, but without a victory in the tournament since 1994, we can only wish them well.

UNDER-21 REPORT: CHELSEA 1 SUNDERLAND 0

The Under-21s won their third game on the spin against Sunderland at Cobham this afternoon. Islam Feruz’s goal moments before half time was enough to see off the threat of the young Black Cats, though Chelsea also had Jamal Blackman to thank for the points after the keeper made a good penalty save midway through the second half to preserve their 1-0 lead.

Dermot Drummy made one change to the side that beat Middlesbrough 3-2 at Stamford Bridge last time out, with Nathan Aké replacing the missing Lewis Baker in midfield, alongside Ruben Loftus-Cheek and skipper George Saville.

Alex Kiwomya and Milan Lalkovic continued either side of Feruz in attack, while the back five of Jamal Blackman, Tika Musonda, Alex Davey, Andreas Christensen and Adam Nditi remained in place.

The hosts enjoyed a bright start at a chilly Cobham and could have been ahead after just two minutes. Christensen strode purposefully out of defence and lofted a pass over the top to Kiwomya, whose lobbed effort just didn’t quite have enough on it to outwit the onrushing Ben Wilson in the Sunderland goal. At the other end Blackman made a comfortable save from Ryan Noble, however the opening exchanges were controlled by Chelsea.

Saville had a chance fly over the bar after good work down the left by Lalkovic and the overlapping Nditi, before Feruz shot similarly high and wide from a free kick won by Saville, after the midfielder showed strength and skill to burst out from midfield.

Chelsea were largely enjoying control of possession, leaving Sunderland’s main weapon to be on the break. One such opportunity was fashioned after a quarter of an hour, though Noble’s effort just trickled past Blackman’s far post. It was the visiting keeper who remained busiest as the half wore on, saving well from Feruz, Lalkovic and then Nditi, while also having to be smart and quick off his line as Feruz fed Lalkovic in behind.

It was Feruz once again proving to be a handful for the opposition defence, bending a curling effort just beyond the far post after expertly making space for himself in the box, before the deadlock was finally broken moments before the break.

Lalkovic sped away down the right flank, beating a couple of Sunderland defenders before finding Feruz with an inviting ball across the six-yard box. The little striker did the rest, firing home for his eighth Under-21 league goal of the campaign, and his sixth in four since Christmas.

The second period began much as the first had played out, with Wilson saving comfortably from Ake and then low from Saville after a clever turn from the captain on the edge of the box. Feruz then used his pace and quick feet to beat his man in the area but his driven delivery across goal was just behind the lurking Ake.

The visitors then had a golden chance to equalise after a penalty was awarded for a foul on Mandron. Jordan Laidler stepped up but his effort down to Blackman’s right was well saved by the goalkeeper to keep the Blues ahead. Noble then flashed a dangerous ball across the face of Blackman’s goal as the visitors looked for an equaliser, while Mandron had a header from an inswinging free kick fly over the bar.

Dion Conroy entered the fray with 20 minutes to play, replacing Loftus-Cheek in a move that saw Christensen move forward into midfield, before Connor Hunte replaced Kiwomya shortly afterwards.

It was the schoolboy Hunte who almost grabbed a second right at the death for the Blues, as Saville slid him in on goal after an incisive breakaway, but the winger was denied by a good save from Wilson. However, Feruz’s first half goal was to prove enough as Drummy’s boys held on for their third win in as many games since beginning their new league campaign.

Chelsea: Jamal Blackman; Tika Musonda, Alex Davey, Andreas Christensen, Adam Nditi; Nathan Ake, George Saville (c), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Dion Conroy 68), Milan Lalkovic, Islam Feruz, Alex Kiwomya (Connor Hunte 71).

CHELSEA TV EXCLUSIVE: MATA'S THOUGHTS ON TYNESIDE LOSS

Before leaving St James’ Park on Saturday evening, Juan Mata spoke to Chelsea TV about the manner in which a lead turned into defeat against Newcastle.

A clip of the interview can be seen here. The midfielder, one to the goalscorers on the day, talks about the way Newcastle play and what Chelsea need to work on to improve results.

The full interview is available now via the channel’s online access and on Weekend Review on Sky Digital channel 421 at 6.30pm on Monday.

FINAL WHISTLE VERDICT: MUST COUNTER THE COUNTER

After the match at Newcastle, Rafael Benitez highlighted two main aspects contributing to defeat from a game in which Chelsea had played well for prolonged spells.

Fine goals by Frank Lampard and Juan Mata gave the Blues a 2-1 lead by midway through the second half. But then we were caught on the break and Moussa Sissoko scored twice to win it for the home side, and it was the manner of those goals and injury to Demba Ba that were the main talking points.

Our Senegalese striker had to go off near the end of the first half having been kicked in the face by Fabricio Coloccini. He suffered a broken nose which bled for five minutes reported the manager. He will see a specialist before an estimation can be given for length of any time out.

‘It was a penalty and a red card for me,’ Benitez stated.

‘In the middle of the park, an incident like that is carry on, then go back and a free-kick. In the penalty area it is carry on, then go back and then a penalty and a red card.

‘We lost a player with a broken nose, used a substitution but we had a great reaction in the second half, but it wasn’t enough. ‘

On Chelsea’s second-half display…
‘The reaction was fantastic, we scored great goals, had chances but we made the mistake in allowing Newcastle to play counter-attack, and it is something we have to improve.

‘We didn’t stop them winning the second balls when they were clearing. We have to manage the situation better, but still the players did a great job second-half. We have been playing well in a lot of games. I’m really pleased with the effort in the game but we have to improve the way we manage the game, we have to show more experience.’

Looking ahead…
‘The character the players showed in the second half shows something is right. If we cannot control these games then it is something we have to improve, but today we had a good reaction that was positive and next week we have players that are coming back. Hopefully we can play well and win and carry on.

‘Every single game we had good chances, we have played good football in the majority of them, and when we couldn’t we still had chances to win.

‘The team has good team spirit and I am confident we will finish in the top three.’

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew predicted the match would prove to be the best he will witness all season.

‘It was a fabulous game,’ he said. ‘When you play the top sides it is important to knock them off their stride and put them under pressure.

‘We got the goal but the second half Chelsea came out and showed what fabulous players they have. We were struggling for 10 or 15 minutes and they scored two fabulous goals. That can knock the stuffing out of a team and they fold, but we wouldn’t let that happen.’