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Under-18s edged out by Chelsea

Spurs 0-1 Chelsea (Under-18 Premier League)

Sat 08 May 2021, 13:56|Tottenham Hotspur

Our Under-18s fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in the Under-18 Premier League on Saturday afternoon.

In a very tight and tense affair at Hotspur Way, a sole strike from Dion Rankine two minutes into the second half was enough to separate the sides – and that was despite our best efforts as we fought for parity until the very end, with Jamie Donley hitting the post and Roshaun Mathurin denied by Chelsea’s goalkeeper Teddy Curd in the final minutes.

With the rain lashing down, the first 15 minutes of the game saw both sides not only battling against each other but also the torrential conditions, however, once the elements began to settle down, chances began to fall for both teams.

Chelsea enjoyed more of the early opportunities with Bashir Humphreys, Joe Haigh and Thomas Silko all going close as we were forced to weather a storm of our own. Yet, perhaps the best chance of those opening exchanges fell to us and specifically Mathurin on 17 minutes. Released into the box by a well-weighted pass from Marqes Muir but with his sight of goal narrowing, the attacker looked to catch the goalkeeper out with a clipped effort from the angle. However, Chelsea’s shot stopper Curd was alive to the winger’s ambition and pulled out the necessary reflexes to tip the ball over the bar.

From there, it was end-to-end as both teams showed great determination in their attempts to break the deadlock. Like Curd moments earlier, our man between the sticks Adam Hayton had to demonstrate his reflexes to prevent the Blues from taking the lead through Silko’s stinging volley. Yago Santiago then had two opportunities to test Curd at the other end, but the midfielder could not keep either of his efforts on target.

Chelsea came out of the blocks at the start of the second period and were almost in front within a minute of play resuming, only for Hayton to smartly deny Josh Brooking. However, a minute later, the keeper could then do little to prevent Silko from firing the visitors ahead from close range as he converted Lewis Hall’s cut-back.

With the momentum behind them, the Blues then went in search of a second and, had it not been for the brilliance of Hayton, we could have found ourselves further behind. On the hour mark, the goalkeeper pulled out an impressive double save to twice deny Jude Soonsup-Bell before he then denied Silko from the angle on 72 minutes. Then, merely a minute later, he was called into action once more – this time having to produce perhaps his best save of the afternoon to once again deny Silko as, from point-blank range, he somehow swatted away the winger’s goal-bound effort. Not only did that save keep us alive in the game but it also seemed to reenergise us as, for the last 15 minutes, we were relentless in our pursuit for an equaliser.

Mathurin was the man to lead the charge. On 76 minutes, he first fired narrowly wide from distance before his cross from the right a minute later was headed agonisingly over by Kallum Cesay. It was then Donley’s turn to try to find the target yet, despite showing great feet in the box to find himself some shooting space, he could only hit the base of the post with his effort. We continued to push for a leveller though and with just two minutes remaining Mathurin once again came close to delivering that all important goal, however, Blues goalkeeper Curd reacted well to get down and block his low drive.

I thought some of our play was exceptional – the way that we moved the ball, the risks that we took, the amount of patience we showed.

Under-18s Coach Matt Taylor

We then had one last throw of the dice to find a way through in injury time. Winning a corner in the fourth added minute, goalkeeper Hayton was sent up to provide an additional option in the box and it almost paid off. Picked out from the set-piece, the shot stopper chested the ball down to play in Cesay who, on the turn and with the last kick of the game, lashed the ball towards goal but, before it could reach its intended target, Brooking blocked the strike and ensure Chelsea of all three points.

‘Nothing but praise for the players for their attitude, effort and endeavour…’

Despite the result, Under-18s Coach Matt Taylor was pleased with much of what he saw from our youngsters against Chelsea. Describing some of the play from the team as “exceptional”, he also felt the desire, determination and application of the group was deserving of much more from the game.

“I was really pleased with the way that we played today because what I asked of the players, they delivered. However, I think the harsh reality is that we have had more chances than Chelsea and we’ve lost the game,” he reflected. “It was probably our finishing that, in the big moments, in and around their box, we didn’t deliver. In saying that though, I thought some of our play was exceptional – the way that we moved the ball, the risks that we took, the amount of patience we showed when we were trying to penetrate the opposition. I was really pleased with that today.

“We dominated the game with the ball. The decisions that we made to get to the opposition’s box, the way we built, the structure behind the ball was very good. It was just that final moment where you want to unlock the goal… we didn’t do that well enough today. The team were fluid in possession, out of possession we worked really hard so, from my perspective, lots of positives today.

“I thought there were some exceptional performances. I’m disappointed to lose the game but happy with the majority of the performance. And we haven’t had a huge amount of that this season, so I’ve got nothing but praise for the players for their attitude, effort and endeavour.”

Spurs 0-1 Chelsea (Under-18 Premier League)

Spurs: Hayton, Cassanova (Torraj 74), Hackett, Michael Craig, Muir, Paskotsi (c), Mathurin, Cesay, Donley, Mundle, Santiago. Substitutes (not used): Maguire, Kyezu, J Davies, Haysman.