All square in Under-23s' season opener - but it could have been more
Spurs 2-2 Chelsea (Premier League 2)
Mon 16 August 2021, 21:07|Tottenham Hotspur
Goals from Dilan Markanday and J'Neil Bennett saw our Under-23s claw back a 2-0 half-time deficit, but Harvey White was denied a late winner from the penalty spot as honours ended even in Monday night's Premier League 2 opener against Chelsea.
Trailing to a brace from Harvey Vale against the run of play - the first one also from the spot - we deservedly got back into the game when Markanday carried over his excellent pre-season goalscoring form with a well-taken strike shortly after half-time, before Bennett curled home a stunning equaliser mid-way through the second period to make it 2-2.
We controlled large parts of the game and had Chelsea penned in during the closing stages as we sought a winner, but White was denied from 12 yards by goalkeeper Lucas Bergstrom - who had tripped the lively Markanday in the box - before Xavier Mbuyamba cleared White's follow-up effort off the line.
With the game held at Stevenage, there was a welcome return for our fans to Academy football for the first time since March, 2020, and the 766-strong crowd witnessed a fine performance that included a 45-minute stint for Ryan Sessegnon, who was picking up some match minutes to aid his return to full fitness after missing the bulk of the pre-season period because of a hamstring problem.
Alfie Devine's early header from Bennett's left-wing cross was turned over the bar by Bergstrom, with Devine arrowing a shot off target on the second phase from the resulting corner, but for all our bright play in the opening stages, it was Chelsea who snatched the upper hand after 19 minutes when a clearance in our box ricocheted off Dion Rankine and goalkeeper Josh Oluwayemi was adjudged to have brought down Vale as he went for the loose ball. Vale dusted himself down to convert the penalty but we continued on the front foot, Devine's shot after a storming run blocked behind for a corner and Bennett testing Bergstrom from the edge of the box.
Malachi Fagan-Walcott went up from the back and went close twice after getting on the end of two deliveries into the box from White, but Chelsea struck again out of nothing when Vale slotted home from the left angle inside the box following a lapse in concentration at the back two minutes before half-time.
We thought we'd pulled a goal back in first-half added time when White's low free-kick was repelled by Bergstrom and Brooklyn Lyons-Foster tucked away the rebound, but an off-side flag denied the skipper and we went in two down at the break.
It was 2-1 within three minutes of the restart, though, as Marcel Lavinier - who had switched to left-back after Sessegnon's planned withdrawal at the break - slid Markanday in behind the Chelsea defence and he clipped home from a tight angle on the left, adding to his five-goal pre-season haul with a tidy strike to kick-start our comeback. Operating as a false nine, Markanday was denied a second by Bergstrom's legs on 64 minutes but three minutes later we were level thanks to Bennett, whose lively runs down the left flank had caused the visitors problems for spells during the second half. This time he received Devine's pass, turned onto his right foot and curled superbly inside the far post to level the scores.
Substitute Yago Santiago later produced another stop from Bergstrom, although we had a brief scare at the other end when George McEachran's free-kick sailed past everyone in the box but flashed wide of the far post. Santiago switched to centre-forward for the last 10 minutes while Markanday continued to impress when he moved to the right side, and it was he who was brought down by Bergstrom as he went for Devine's pass into the box, gifting us a chance for what would have been a deserved winner. White saw his spot-kick saved but looked set to convert the rebound, only for Mbuyamba to intervene in the goalmouth, and with only seven minutes remaining, it ultimately led to a share of the spoils.
‘We gave two goals away that were probably avoidable’
Under-23s Coach Wayne Burnett praised the players for their performance throughout the game and felt we were unlucky to only come away with a point.
“I didn’t think the first-half performance warranted us being 2-0 behind – we created some good chances but we gave two goals away that were probably avoidable,” he said.
“We showed real character to come back though and we could probably have won it with a penalty near the end. Overall I’m really pleased with how the players responded and how they applied themselves. We didn’t play badly in the first half, I think we were a bit unfortunate to concede the two goals, but sometimes the score doesn’t always reflect the performance.”
Spurs 2-2 Chelsea (Premier League 2)
Spurs: Oluwayemi, Lavinier, Sessegnon (Muir 46), Matthew Craig, Lyons-Foster (c), Fagan-Walcott, Mundle (Santiago 68), White, Markanday (Pedder 90+1), Devine, Bennett. Substitutes (not used): Hayton, Michael Craig.
Chelsea: Bergstrom, Rankine (Brooking 68), Mbuyamba, McClelland (c), Humphreys, McEachran (Badley-Morgan 74), Vale, Elliott, Fiabema (Wareham 80), Webster, Nunn. Substitutes (not used): Sharman-Lowe, Frith.
Goals: Spurs - Markanday 48, Bennett 67; Chelsea - Vale 19 (pen), 43.
Yellow cards: Spurs - Matthew Craig 41, Devine 81; Chelsea - Mbuyamba 31, Elliott 35, McEachran 45.
Referee: Adrian Quelch.
Venue: Lamex Stadium, Stevenage.
Weather: Sunny, 16 degrees.