Chelsea 1-2 Spurs (PL2) - report from Stamford Bridge
Fri 13 April 2018, 21:10|Tottenham Hotspur
Two Keanan Bennetts free-kicks saw our 10 men come from a goal down to secure Premier League 2 survival against nemeses Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Friday night.
Having matched up to the athletic and powerful hosts for the bulk of the game, even in spite of their one-man advantage, we suffered a blow when Joshua Grant sent a header spinning into the net from a corner mid-way through the second half.
But there was no lying down from Wayne Burnett's brave Under-23 charges, who knew a long-overdue victory over Chelsea's youngsters would make sure we can't be caught by Sunderland or Manchester United in the division's last relegation spot.
Within two minutes of going behind we were level when Bennetts clipped a free-kick over the wall and into the exposed side of Marcin Bulka's net.
And six minutes later, the wide man went wheeling away in delight after bending another set-piece low around the wall and into the bottom corner to make it 2-1.
Our own defensive wall had stood firm on several occasions earlier in the game after centre-back Christian Maghoma had his own personal Friday the 13th, picking up two yellow cards inside 13 first-half minutes for separate fouls on Chelsea striker Daishawn Redan to get his marching orders and unwillingly leave us with an uphill battle.
But 17-year-old midfielder Oliver Skipp dropped into the back four alongside Japhet Tanganga and was heroic, especially when he kept up with the speedy Redan to make a vital covering tackle on the break after Tanganga's header at the other end was cleared off the line.
We managed the game well in the latter stages to keep possession away from Chelsea and extend our unbeaten run in the division to seven games. Saturday's home win over Derby had put us in a strong position to finally stave off any threat of the drop – and this result got us mathematically over the line with one match, at home to Manchester City in May, still to play.
Chance: Sterling fires just over - 29mins
After a purposeful start from us, the first half turned into an even contest with the teams locking horns in the middle. Chelsea couldn't meaningfully trouble goalkeeper Brandon Austin early on and our hard work finally led to a sight of goal on 29 minutes – albeit a brief one. It started with Tashan Oakley-Boothe's determination to win a 50-50 ball in Chelsea's half, Shilow Tracey latched onto it and found Kazaiah Sterling, who turned and lifted a shot just over the top of the far corner from 16 yards as the slightest of gaps opened up for him.
Red Card: Maghoma gets a second yellow - 39mins
Harvey St Clair's free-kick for Chelsea was blocked by the wall but two minutes later, with half-time on the horizon, we suffered a big blow when centre-back Maghoma was shown a second yellow card for his challenge on Redan as the Blues' number nine motored through on the inside. Maghoma had fouled the same player on 26 minutes for his first caution. This time it was Redan who struck the resulting 20-yard free-kick, but again the wall did its job, with defensive midfielder Skipp then dropping in at centre-half as we played on with 10 men.
Above: Joe Pritchard competes for the ball.
Chances: both sides close in second half - 50-63mins
Bennetts almost fired us ahead in the opening exchanges of the second period but Bulka dived low to his left to save at his near post. The game was played primarily in our half in the moments that followed but we always looked resolute and in control. Tanganga made a crucial block to deny Redan in the box before his diving header from a flicked-on corner at the other end was cleared off the line. Chelsea broke away from there but with Redan bursting forward, Skipp somehow got back to make an excellent tackle in our area.
Goal: Chelsea 1-0 Spurs - Joshua Grant - 66mins
Our wall blocked yet another Chelsea free-kick but the resistance was finally broken from the resulting corner. Charlie Colkett delivered and Grant met it with a near-post header that went spinning across Austin and into the top corner.
Goal: Chelsea 1-1 Spurs - Keanan Bennetts - 68mins
Our response was immense. Bennetts advanced towards the box and was clipped by Luke McCormick, but picked himself up to clip the resulting free-kick over the wall and into the unguarded net to the left of Bulka.
Goal: Chelsea 1-2 Spurs - Keanan Bennetts - 74mins
Six minutes later we'd turned it around completely. Bennetts was again impeded by McCormick on the edge of the area, this time the Chelsea midfielder escaped without a caution but team-mate Grant was instead shown the yellow card for dissent. The free-kick was to the right of the first one, but Bennetts struck it low around the wall with his left foot and it nestled into the far bottom corner, much to the delight of our players and vocal fans in the stands. Redan's shot was later saved while St Clair and Callum Hudson-Odoi fired off-target, but we did a good job of keeping the ball in the last 10 minutes to see out a memorable and important victory.
Coach Wayne Burnett said
“It was an excellent all-round team performance. It was very difficult after we’d had a man sent off but the pleasing thing for me was that the players stuck to the plan that we spoke about at half-time, showed real determination, resilience and every single one of them was very, very good.
“For large parts of the first half it was quite an even contest. They’ve got some very good, high-calibre players but so have we and we knew that if we could contain them from an offensive point of view, we’d have an opportunity to score. Our plan was to try to get after them but when we had a man sent off we had to play a little bit deeper at times so that was pleasing for me, that we were able to do that.
“Oliver Skipp has come back in tonight and had a very efficient and effective performance. He started off in midfield and then he had to change positions, but he looked just as comfortable as a central defender as he did as a central midfield player. Both of Keanan’s free-kicks were well-executed. He scored a free-kick against Arsenal as well, so technically he’s very good. He has this ability to make the ball get up and over the wall quickly so I’m pleased for him that he scored two goals but more importantly I’m pleased for the team that we’ve gone to Stamford Bridge against a very good Chelsea team and not only won, but limited them to few chances.”
Chelsea: Bulka, Sterling, Chalobah, Grant, Castillo, Sammut (c, James 54), Maddox (Hudson-Odoi 54), McCormick, Redan, Colkett, St Clair. Substitutes (not used): Cumming, Colley, Nartey.
Spurs: Austin, Eyoma, Georgiou (Brown 61), Skipp, C Maghoma (c), Tanganga, Tracey, oakley-Boothe, Sterling (S Shashoua 90+2), Pritchard (Duncan 82), Bennetts. Substitutes (not used): Whiteman, Roles.
Goals: Chelsea - Grant 66; Spurs - Bennetts 68, 74.
Yellow cards: Chelsea - Sterling 37, McCormick 67, Grant 73; Spurs - Eyoma 16, C Maghoma 26, 39.
Red card: Spurs - C Maghoma 39.
Referee: Adrian Quelch.
We conclude our Premier League 2 campaign at home to Manchester City on Wednesday 2 May, kick-off 7pm at Stevenage.