The Under-21s secured another good win on the road as they moved into fourth in the Under-21 league table. Liverpool’s win over Norwich on the same evening sent the Reds top though Dermot Drummy’s side kept the distance between themselves and the Reds to three points with two games in hand. The two sides meet on Monday (7 April) at Aldershot in a game where admission is free to all. It is also being screened live on Chelsea TV.
Andreas Christensen’s header put the young Blues ahead at the Britannia Stadium after five minutes and Alex Kiwomya grabbed the crucial second goal on the hour mark after rounding the goalkeeper and slotting the ball in. Lewis Baker grabbed a third in the final minute to seal the victory and secure an impressive three points for his team as they notched up their fourth successive clean sheet in the process.
Drummy made four changes from the starting 11 in last week’s 1-0 home win over Blackburn Rovers, as the trip north signalled the beginning of three key matches in six days for the Academy.
Mitchell Beeney returned in goal while Adam Nditi replaced Nathan Ake at left-back as the Dutchman continued his involvement with Jose Mourinho’s first team matchday squad ahead of their league game against the Potters’ first team tomorrow (Saturday).
Isak Ssewankambo, Alex Davey and Andreas Christensen made up the remainder of the back four, while Lewis Baker, John Swift and Marco van Ginkel continued in midfield. It was Van Ginkel’s third match involved with the Under-21 group in the last fortnight as he continues his rehabilitation from an anterior cruciate ligament injury. Izzy Brown started up front, supported from out wide by Alex Kiwomya and Reece Mitchell.
Chelsea started brightly and had the game’s first opportunity inside four minutes as captain Baker swept a great pass out to the right to find the advanced Kiwomya. The winger supplied a dangerous low centre into the box and Mitchell, operating from the left flank, dropped slightly deeper to find space and get a shot away, though Daniel Bachmann in the young Potters goal saved well.
However, Bachmann was soon picking the ball out of his net as the visitors took an early advantage a couple of minutes later. Baker’s deep free-kick was swung in from the right and centre-back Christensen nodded the ball past the goalkeeper from 10 yards for his third goal of the season.
Stoke responded and Nditi made an excellent sliding challenge on striker Peter Skapetis as the frontman advanced towards goal. From the following corner, Alex Grant headed narrowly wide as Joel Taylor delivered from the right.
Swift showed some clever footwork to get to the byline and then skip past a defender heading towards goal, though a helpful ricochet diverted the ball into Bachmann’s grateful hands. Down the other end, Adam Thomas fired a free kick a couple of feet over Beeney’s crossbar as Drummy’s side controlled possession and the hosts threatened on the quick break.
Mitchell and Ssewankambo combined, the latter pushing on from right-back and the former with a clever back-heel, but the defender’s low cross was smothered by Bachmann, before the home goalkeeper was forced to pull off a great double save to keep his team’s deficit down to one goal.
Strong pressing from the front helped win back possession for the young Blues and Bachmann did well to push Van Ginkel’s drive away, before reacting quickly to get back to his feet and deny Brown’s rebound on the follow-up. Skapetis went close to levelling in stoppage time before the interval, finding a yard of space inside the six-yard box, though his header was straight at a relieved Beeney and Chelsea’s lead remained intact at the break.
Stoke restarted strongly as Eddy Lecygne bent a free-kick from long distance over before Skapetis fired narrowly wide of Beeney’s far post. For Chelsea, Mitchell almost got on the end of a lovely clipped ball forward from Swift but its flight just evaded his forward run.
Stoke enjoyed their strongest spell of the match for the opening quarter of an hour of the second period. Davey was booked after bringing down Skapetis as the striker knocked the ball over his head and looked to get in behind, though Charlie Ward’s free kick was gathered confidently by Beeney.
Drummy made his first switch of the game shortly before the hour mark as Fankaty Dabo replaced Brown in a move that saw Kiwomya pushed into the central striker role. Brown, having spent time with the England Under-17s in recent weeks during their successful European Championship qualifying campaign, was withdrawn ahead of a busy week for the Academy.
The change paid instant dividends as our lead was doubled a minute later and it was Kiwomya through the middle who finished the move. Swift threaded a clever pass forward and Kiwomya skipped away from the last defender, rounded the goalkeeper and slotted home for his 10th goal of the campaign.
Van Ginkel shot wide while Skapetis continued to prove to be Stoke’s biggest attacking threat as he fired wide and then brought a strong block from Davey. The hosts were having to take risks and leave spaces for Chelsea to exploit on the counter-attack as they pushed forward searching for a route back into the game and Drummy’s side settled the win with a late goal from their skipper.
Dabo supplied from the right as the visitors poured forward in numbers and Baker arrived from deep and finished powerfully beyond the despairing dive of goalkeeper Bachmann to round off a deserved three points for the Blues.
Next up for the Academy is an Under-18 league game for Adi Viveash’s youth team tomorrow [Saturday] afternoon as they host Bolton Wanderers at Cobham.
After indicating several areas for improvement in performance following the win over Blackburn last time out, Drummy was pleased with the response of his players during the victory. Speaking to the official Chelsea website after the game, he said:’I know I’m sometimes critical of the boys because I’m developing them for the next level and it’s not just about getting results but we’ve played today and won against a tough side.
‘It was a fantastic header from Andreas Christensen for the first goal and a great delivery from Lewis Baker. I’ve been on to Lewis over the past few games and he responded fantastically today. We moved Alex Kiwomya to the number nine role with Izzy Brown playing so many games for England and it was good for him to get a great goal soon after that.
‘The third from Lewis topped off a performance from him that I expect week in week out to take him to the next level, so I was really pleased.’
Drummy also paid tribute to the contribution from his defence in recent weeks, over which time they have conceded just twice in six league outings.
‘We play good football but we have to credit the goalkeeper and the back line as well. Andreas Christensen and Alex Davey have been performing very well over a long period now. Isak Ssewankambo has got the right-back spot back at the moment and Adam Nditi came back in after being out for a while and did well. You also have to credit the others like Tika Musonda and Jordan Houghton who have a great training mentality day-in, day-out.’
The manager was also happy with the continued efforts and progress of Marco van Ginkel as the Dutchman played another 70 minutes as part of his ongoing rehabilitation.
‘We were initially going to see if he could do 90 minutes but we though 70 minutes was enough for him in the end. Sometimes there’s a risk when the tackles are flying in and you’re not quite as sharp as usual and we didn’t want to risk him getting a knock but he’s got to be pleased to have played three games on the trot now.
‘We’ve got a tough game against Liverpool on Monday at Aldershot where we have to balance the squad with Adi and the FA outh Cup a little bit in mind, and obviously we want to wish them all the best for that tie.’
Chelsea: Mitchell Beeney; Isak Ssewankambo, Alex Davey, Andreas Christensen, Adam Nditi; Marco van Ginkel (Ruben Loftus-Cheek 71), Lewis Baker (c), John Swift; Alex Kiwomya, Reece Mitchell, Izzy Brown (Fankaty Dabo 59)
Unused subs: Bradley Collins, Tika Musonda, Jordan Houghton
Scorers: Christensen 5, Kiwomya 60, Baker 89
Stoke City: Daniel Bachmann (c), Elliot Wheeler, Ryan O’Reilly, Charlie Ward, Alex Grant, Mason Watkins-Clark, Adam Thomas, Eddy Lecygne, Peter Skapetis (Karim Rossi 85), Keiran Monlouis (Reece Pappas 76), Joel Taylor (Jake Cook 73)
Unused subs: Dale Eve, Ed Sanders