We showed tremendous strength of character to come back from 1-0 down to take the lead at the Training Centre, only to gift the visitors their advantage back.
Ryan Loft’s late penalty – his second goal of the day – led to a frantic finish as we sought an equaliser, but after an injury-interrupted last few minutes it was the Blues who emerged victorious from the Barclays Under-18 Premier League encounter.
The visitors flexed their muscles right from the off and after Charlie Wakefield surged into space on the left inside 60 seconds – only to lash high and wide – Mukhtar Ali curled a third-minute free-kick over the wall and against the woodwork.
Both goalkeepers then made important blocks with their legs, first Chelsea’s Nathan Baxter denying Loft and then Alfie Whiteman getting low to keep out Wakefield’s effort on the counter.
It was clear that we were facing a test of physical strength as well as skill as the first half progressed, with the Blues winning a number of free-kicks in our territory. Ali sent one into the wall and Isaac Christie-Davies curled another one wide within three minutes of each other, with our defensive quartet of Chris Paul, Japhet Tanganga, Christian Maghoma – a regular for our Under-21s this term at 17 years of age – and Nick Tsaroulla (pictured, below) ensuring the visitors were unable to capitalise when they had possession.
Ike Ugbo almost stole the lead for Chelsea when he nipped in ahead of Whiteman but nodded wide as the ball was floated in from the left on 26 minutes, but the visitors’ pressure finally told eight minutes later. Christie-Davies worked the ball to Ali inside a congested 18-yard box and he swept low into the net to give the away side the advantage.
We stuck to our task, though, and grabbed an equaliser four minutes before the break against the run of play. Zenon Stylianides found Loft with a through ball and the striker got the ball out from under his feet before finishing coolly beyond Baxter from the right side of the box.
We made an ideal start to the second half and took the lead within 45 seconds of the restart as Charlie Owens’ in-swinging free-kick from the left evaded everyone in the Chelsea box and flew inside the far post.
However, we were left kicking ourselves for not playing to the referee’s whistle on 59 minutes as Christie-Davies opportunistically lashed home a loose ball in the box with our players standing off it while vehemently appealing for hand-ball following a cross from the left.
A response to the equaliser very nearly arrived within a minute, though, as a ricochet on the half-way line saw Kazaiah Sterling sent galloping into Chelsea territory, but the forward fired just wide under pressure from two retreating defenders.
The Blues regained the upper hand on 63 minutes when Miro Muheim’s corner was cleared only as far as Ali, whose low drive from the edge of the box took a slight deflection on its way into the net. The diving Whiteman got his fingertips to the ball, but couldn’t keep it out.
It was 4-2 in unfortunate circumstances on 76 minutes when substitute Keanan Bennetts passed back to Whiteman from the right side but Ugbo stole in before the ball reached the keeper and fired inside the near post.
The intensity levels from our players didn’t subside in spite of that setback and on 86 minutes we made it 4-3 when Dylan Duncan was hauled down in the area by Josh Grant and Loft stepped up to send Baxter the wrong way from the resulting penalty.
It was very much game on at that point with Sterling and Bennetts both looking lively in search of openings, but they found Chelsea’s defence in stubborn mood.
There was drama deep in stoppage time, though, as Owens hoisted a free-kick into the box, Maghoma headed upwards and Tanganga then nodded towards the far post, where Chelsea’s Muheim appeared to collide with the upright as he went up for another aerial challenge.
Play was immediately halted for the latter to receive treatment – thankfully he appeared okay after the stoppage – and from the resulting drop-ball we won a throw-in on the left side. Determined to grab a late equaliser, the ball was worked to Bennetts in the box, he laid it off for Loft but the front man’s fierce shot was always rising and just cleared the crossbar.
Chelsea subsequently retained possession for the rest of the additional spell to ensure they took all three points.
Spurs U18s: Whiteman, Paul, Tsaroulla (Muscatt 78), Owens, Tanganga, Maghoma, Edwards (Bennetts 64), Stylianides, Loft, Duncan, Sterling. Substitutes (not used): Marsh, Oteh, McDermott (GK).