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Late penalty appeal denied as Chelsea edge Under-18s cup goalfest

Spurs 3-4 Chelsea (Under-18 Premier League Cup)

Sat 21 October 2023, 13:50|Tottenham Hotspur

Our Under-18s were left to reflect on what might have been after throwing away a two-goal lead and allowing 10-man Chelsea to escape with a 4-3 victory in an all-action Under-18 Premier League Cup clash at Hotspur Way on Saturday morning.

Deservedly leading 2-0 and 3-1 either side of the break and having earlier seen a handful of opportunities slip away, we twice surrendered a goal while trying to play out from the back before second-half strikes from substitutes Shumaira Mhueka and Reiss-Alexander Russell-Denny, who were two thirds of a triple change just after our third goal, turned the game fully in the visitors’ favour.

Chelsea skipper Travis Akomeah was sent off for a second bookable offence while the score was 3-3, but in truth we struggled to meaningfully get at the Blues after falling behind until the 10th minute of stoppage time when Mikey Moore went down in the box under Harrison Murray-Campell’s challenge just as he was going through on goal, only for the referee to wave away our penalty appeals and book the midfielder for simulation.

It was a dramatic end to an enthralling match, but one which we’ll look back on with regret having wasted several first-half opportunities to kill the game off. The result sees Chelsea move three points clear at the top of Group E, with one more round of games still to play.

We’d sat top of the pile in this competition and the league standings prior to kick-off, above second-placed Chelsea in both instances on goal difference and goals scored respectively, but there was much more to separate the sides in the first period, by the end of which we should have been out of sight. We needed only three minutes to take the lead, Leo Black’s forward pass brilliantly flicked on by Callum Olusesi for the in-form Moore to finish from the left angle inside the box.

Moore and Damola Ayaji were causing Chelsea all sorts of problems with their high pressing game, but we couldn’t quite take advantage whenever we forced the Blues into mistakes while at the other end, Jimmy-Jay Morgan was denied by a fine stop from Carey Bloedorn away to his right, then by an excellent tackle from behind by the hard-working James Rowswell at centre-back.

Yusuf Akhamrich went close a couple of times from the left angle before a big chance on 28 minutes as Oli Irow advanced down the right and cut back for Akhamrich, who saw two shots blocked in the box before Moore’s attempt on the follow-up hit the base of the post. Just 60 seconds later, though, we did manage to grab a second goal as Moore’s cross was fumbled in the air by Max Merrick and Irow nodded beyond the goalkeeper and into the net.

We gifted Chelsea a lifeline three minutes later, however, as Bloedorn’s attempted pass out from the back went straight to Harrison McMahon, Leo Black made a superb last-ditch tackle to try to recover the situation but it only served to set up Morgan to smash home from the right angle.

Both goalkeepers made smart stops in the lead-up to half-time, with Merrick at it again four minutes after the restart to parry out Moore’s low shot, Akhamrich unable to capitalise on the rebound. However, after Chinonso Chibueze’s effort was tipped over by Bloedorn, we soon made it 3-1, Irow’s low cross converted by Akhamrich at the back post in the 52nd minute.

Once again, though, we surrendered a goal almost straight away, Bloedorn’s pass towards Tyrese Hall this time intercepted by Russell-Denny for him to drill home for 3-2 with 54 minutes played. Russell-Denny had only been on the pitch for 60 seconds, having been part of a triple Chelsea change just after Akhamrich’s goal, and that switch ended up reaping the rewards for the visitors as they pushed on to win.

Ajayi and Tyrique George traded shots at both ends before Frankie Runham set up fellow substitute Mhueka to drill home the equaliser in the 64th minute. No sooner had the game been levelled, the visitors were reduced to 10 men when Akomeah, booked just a few moments earlier, picked up a second yellow card for fouling Moore on the break. It seemed to matter not for the Blues, however, as Mhueka forced Bloedorn into a fine low save before Russell-Denny volleyed in Runham’s corner at the back post to give them the lead.

There were 18 minutes left to play at that point and you felt we could still take something from the game – Moore’s shot was blocked in the six-yard box by a defender, with big appeals for handball in the box waved away after Akhamrich’s attempt on the follow-up was charged down by Murray-Campbell, while Olusesi’s shot from a tight angle on the left was tipped onto the near post by Merrick. However, we were wasteful in possession at times and it was only in the 100th minute of the game that we found a clear opening when Moore was about to pull the trigger in the box before Murray-Campbell’s challenge sparked major appeals for a spot-kick and a brief scuffle between the teams. However, it wasn’t to be and the lack of any points from the game means we’re likely to have to win by a healthy margin in our third and final group game at Barnsley next month to stand a chance of progressing to the knockout stages in our bid to successfully defend the trophy.

The other League Cup we won last season, the Under-17 version, continues with a trip to Southampton on Wednesday, before the Under-18s face Chelsea again next Saturday at Cobham in a top-of-the-table battle in the league.

Spurs 3-4 Chelsea (Under-18 Premier League Cup)

Spurs: Bloedorn, Black, King (James 84), Chaplin (c), Rowswell (Morgan 90+4), Hall, Irow, Olusesi (Lehane 90+4), Ajayi, Moore, Akhamrich. Substitutes (not used): Krasniqi, Orr.