Under-23s hold Chelsea with 10 men
Spurs 1-1 Chelsea (Premier League 2)
Fri 01 March 2019, 21:08|Tottenham Hotspur
Our Under-23s pulled together to secure a point against Chelsea in the Premier League 2, despite playing more than half the game with 10 men at Stevenage on Friday night.
We took a deserved lead after a bright start as left-back Dennis Cirkin's cross was turned into his own net by Blues skipper Richard Nartey and could have extended our advantage as the lively J'Neil Bennett went close on a couple of occasions coming in from wide.
With half-time approaching, centre-back Japhet Tanganga was sent off for a second bookable offence as he tried to stop Daishawn Redan from scampering through on goal and Billy Gilmour converted the resulting penalty.
That might have marked a turning point in the game but our determined young charges were having none of it and produced an organised, committed second-half performance to keep the score at 1-1. Inevitably, Chelsea did manage a couple of chances - Tariq Uwakwe hitting the bar and Martell Taylor-Crossdale blazing over on the rebound - but our makeshift centre-half partnership of Brooklyn Lyons-Foster and George Marsh did superbly well to keep the visitors at arm's length and it was Marsh who was the hero in stoppage time, hurling himself in for a fantastic goal-line block to thwart Luke McCormick after the substitute's initial effort was pawed out one-on-one by Brandon Austin.
Coming off of back-to-back defeats in the Premier League 2, plus the narrow midweek reverse to Dinamo Zagreb in the Premier League International Cup, you sensed a real hunger and urgency from the players to rediscover some positive momentum. Playing freely forward, we often looked a threat while at the other end, goalkeeper Austin was tested with some awkward shots over the course of the evening but was reliable in his handling throughout.
Bennett fired wide early on before we broke the deadlock on 17 minutes as Nartey could only guide Cirkin’s dangerous delivery from the left into his own net. Bennett produced a fine stop from goalkeeper Jamie Cumming but when Chelsea’s first real opening came about as Redan found a gap down the centre of the pitch, the visitors found a lifeline. Tanganga, booked earlier for blocking off Juan Castillo, was adjudged to have fouled the striker in the box, a penalty was given and the defender received his marching orders after a second yellow card. As the game entered its 42nd minute, Gilmour fired in from the spot to level.
Holding midfielder Marsh dropped into the back four as we refused to be affected and frustrated Chelsea at regular intervals. Paris Maghoma’s deflected shot sailed wide and Shilow Tracey’s header was blocked but although Chelsea started to find the odd opening as the second half wore on, we held firm. Substitute McCormick was the Blues’ main threat, his deflected effort finding the net but quickly being ruled out for off-side and his subsequent shot zipping just wide, while Maghoma advanced into space but lashed just over from the edge of the box for us.
The visitors did have a couple of opportunities in the latter stages but our hard work had earned us the bit of luck that saw us escape. Uwakwe’s curler from distance dipped onto the crossbar and Taylor-Crossdale blazed over when the rebound was knocked down to him on 85 minutes, before some stoppage-time heroics from Austin and Marsh preserved a well-earned point. Austin got a hand to McCormick’s shot as he ran through one-on-one but as the same player drilled past the keeper on the rebound, the retreating Marsh somehow blocked on the line.
It wasn’t the red card for Tanganga and subsequent equaliser from the spot from Gilmour just before half-time that defined the game – it was the response from our team in the immediate aftermath. Marsh dropped into the back four with Harvey White providing an additional shield in holding midfield, while the forward players still managed to roam into good areas when circumstances allowed as we made a valiant go of playing on regardless. The point was the least the team’s efforts deserved.
Under-23s Coach Wayne Burnett said: “We’re pleased with the outcome after playing for so long with 10 men against a good Chelsea team. In the first half we played some very good stuff at times but overall we showed a real togetherness, desire and willingness as a group. We’re pleased with that, but we’ve also got to keep in mind that going down to 10 men shouldn’t instigate those characteristics and qualities in the first place. Overall we’re pleased with the result in the circumstances and we saw some very good performances.”
Spurs 1-1 Chelsea (Premier League 2)
Spurs: Austin (c), Hinds, Cirkin, White, Tanganga (c), Lyons-Foster, Oakley-Boothe, Marsh, Tracey (Dinzeyi 83), Maghoma (A Shashoua 90+4), Bennett (Duncan 81). Substitute (not used): Glover.
Chelsea: Cumming, Ampadu, Nartey (c), Guehi, Maatsen (McCormick 60), Gilmour, Gallagher, Uwakwe (Colley 90), Redan (McEachran 75), Taylor-Crossdale, Castillo. Substitute (not used): Ziger.
Goals: Spurs - Nartey (OG) 17; Chelsea - Gilmour 42 (pen).
Yellow cards: Spurs - Lyons-Foster 20, Tanganga 25, 41, Tracey 64, Maghoma 83, Cirkin 88; Chelsea - Ampadu 89.
Red card: Spurs - Tanganga 41.
Referee: Sam Allison.
Venue: Lamex Stadium, Stevenage.
Weather: Gentle breeze, eight degrees.