The Under-21s earned three league points in a narrow victory at Cobham. A great strike from Islam Feruz midway through the first half was enough to give Dermot Drummy’s side victory.
The hosts had opportunities to extend the advantage throughout the first half but visiting goalkeeper David Raya kept the lead slender with a string of saves, before Blackburn improved after the break. Yet Chelsea remained in control and secured another important win.
Drummy made three changes from the side that secured a 0-0 draw at Manchester United last time out. Marco van Ginkel started in midfield as he continued his rehabilitation from a knee injury sustained in September and he was joined in the middle by Lewis Baker and John Swift.
Jamal Blackman returned in goal and, in the only other change from last week’s match, striker Islam Feruz came back to lead the line up front. Isak Ssewankambo, Alex Davey, Andreas Christensen and captain Nathan Ake made up the back four, while Feruz was supported from the flanks by Jeremie Boga and Alex Kiwomya.
Izzy Brown joined up with the England Under-17s after last week’s game in the north-west and scored earlier today as the young Three Lions beat Albania 1-0.
The opening 10 minutes were even as both sides enjoyed small spells of possession without threatening either Blackman in the Chelsea goal or Raya down the opposite end. Feruz saw the game’s first shot deflected behind for a corner and, after Van Ginkel turned the loose ball back into the box, the Scottish youth international swivelled well to fire at goal, though Raya saved comfortably.
The visitors were defending deep and in numbers, forcing Chelsea to remain patient as they worked the ball across the field waiting for openings. Swift brought another save from Raya after a great switch of play from Van Ginkel to Kiwomya on the right and it wasn’t long before the deadlock was broken.
Playing on the shoulder of the last defender, Feruz was released in behind after a long spell of possession and finished emphatically into the roof of the net for his 10th goal of the season. Captain Ake almost doubled the lead moments later as his run was found with an excellent ball over the top from Baker, though the Dutchman was first denied by Raya and then bent a left-footed strike just wide.
Swift (pictured below) fired wide after hard work and strong endeavour fashioned an opportunity for himself, before the midfield man turned provider for Baker with a centre from the right. Again Raya was equal to it, getting down well to stop and gather at the second attempt as the goalkeeper remained the visitors’ busiest man on the field.
Baker found himself in behind on a couple of occasions in the latter stages of the half. Initially the presence of the onrushing goalkeeper and some good defending thwarted his advances, before he then teed up Swift with a header back and his midfield comrade’s shot was blocked and looped up comfortably for Raya.
Baker shot narrowly wide again in the final few minutes of the half as Chelsea continued to dominate and went in at the break with a one-goal advantage.
The young Blues were forced to make a switch early after the restart as injury forced Boga to depart from the action and Reece Mitchell was introduced in the Frenchman’s place down the left flank. Luke Wall had the visitors’ first sight at goal a few minutes later after good work down the right, though couldn’t quite connect cleanly to the shot and the danger passed.
Yet Blackburn were much improved on their first-half display, pushing higher up the pitch and initiating some forward forays of their own. The Blues had to defend a corner from the right strongly after an hour before Drummy made his second switch. Van Ginkel (pictured below) was replaced by Ruben Loftus-Cheek with the Dutch international having got an hour of action under his belt.
Kiwomya got in behind down the right beyond full-back Bradley Bauress but his cutback was intercepted, while Feruz advanced in a similar position down the left but his touch saw the opportunity pass. Down the other end, Hugo Fernandez Molina had a good chance to level the scores from a central free kick but fired over, before Chelsea were forced into some robust aerial defending to keep the clean sheet protected.
Substitute Adam Nditi stung the palms of Raya in the final minutes as the young Blues saw the game out strongly to secure another league win.
Next up for the Academy is a league trip to Manchester United for the Under-18s tomorrow [Saturday].
Chelsea Jamal Blackman; Isak Ssewankambo, Alex Davey, Andreas Christensen, Nathan Ake (c); Marco van Ginkel (Ruben Loftus-Cheek 61), Lewis Baker, John Swift; Alex Kiwomya, Jeremie Boga (Reece Mitchell 52), Islam Feruz (Adam Nditi 86)
Unused subs Bradley Collins, Tika Musonda
Scorer Feruz 25
Blackburn David Raya, Hugo Fernandez Molina, Bradley Bauress, Hyuga Tanner, Sam Lavelle, Darragh Lenihan (c), Devarn Green, Jack Doyle, Dean Rittenberg (Deniz Pero 72), Will Beesley, Luke Wall (Tom Paul 72)
Unused subs Paulo Jorge, Callum Williams, Robbie Cotton
By Sam Poplett
Pictures courtesy of Mark Sandom