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Under-18s stay top after dramatic victory at Chelsea

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

Sat 28 October 2023, 14:10|Tottenham Hotspur

Damola Ajayi netted a sensational 94th-minute winner to give our Under-18s victory in Saturday's top-of-the-table clash at Chelsea.

In first place and ahead of the Blues only on goals scored at the start of the day, we produced a superb performance with some excellent goals to come back from 2-0 and 3-2 down and triumph 4-3 at Cobham, strengthening our position at the summit by moving three points clear of our London rivals.

Ajayi's goal was one of several major moments in another rip-roaring contest, with the in-form Mikey Moore again coming up with an exquisite finish, lobbing Chelsea goalkeeper Luke Campbell to get us back into the game at 2-1 before Oli Irow and Leo Black finished off slick moves to get us back on level terms. Goalkeeper Carey Bloedorn at the other end was exceptional with defender Maeson King and midfielder Tyrese Hall also standing out as we showed character and resilience to flip the script from last week's 4-3 League Cup group stage defeat at home to the same opponents.

We named an unchanged line-up from that match while the Blues made five changes, but while we deserved more from last week's meeting, this time we found a way to reward our good play with maximum points.

Campbell denied Ajayi twice and Yusuf Akhamrich in the first quarter of the game before two goals in four minutes saw the hosts take command, Somto Boniface finishing low into the far corner from the left angle inside the box on 25 minutes and Donnell McNeilly getting in behind the defence to slot past Bloedorn just prior to the half-hour mark. Bloedorn had produced a superb, brave block to deny Michael Golding just before the Blues' second goal and did likewise at 2-0, fearlessly thwarting McNeilly at the edge of his box to prevent us from falling further behind.

A moment of brilliance from Moore got us back into the game three minutes before the break, the midfielder receiving Hall's pass from deep and clipping a wonderful shot over Campbell from distance, but it could easily have been 3-1 after the restart as Chelsea enjoyed a handful of chances, Frankie Runham curling just wide with a first-time shot and McNeilly hitting the underside of the bar with a near-post strike, King blocking Golding's effort on the follow-up. Bloedorn then kept out another Runham attempt with a fine low save before King cleared Kaiden Wilson's effort off the line following a corner.

Our defensive determination was rewarded at the other end on 56 minutes with an equaliser as a free-flowing team move was finished off when Moore clipped an outside-of-the-foot pass across the box for the arriving Irow to sweep home. But after Ajayi's low shot from distance hit the base of the far post, the home side regained the lead in the 69th minute when our substitute Ellis Lehane, who scored a hat-trick in an incredible 5-5 draw at Southampton in the Under-17 Premier League Cup in midweek, gave the ball away cheaply and Tyrique George picked out the top corner from the edge of the area.

Bloedorn was needed again to make saves from McNeilly and Reiss-Alexander Russell-Denny in quick succession, but within a minute of that we were level once more as Ajayi roamed in behind the defence on the right side and his low delivery was converted with aplomb at the front post by Black with 84 minutes on the clock. Not content with a point, which would have kept us at the top of the table, we continued to play forward and after one more great save from Bloedorn to deny George, we got our reward as Ajayi exchanged passes with Black to get into the box from the right side before firing inside the far post on his left foot, sparking delirium among the players. There was still time for Runham to fashion one last attempt for the Blues deep into stoppage time, but after his effort took a slight deflection off King, Bloedorn gratefully grabbed the ball and that was that.

'An unbelievable feeling'

Under-18s Coach Stuart Lewis was delighted with the team's performance after what was our sixth league win in a row and made a point of acknowledging two members of his squad who were sidelined this week and are set for an extended spell in the treatment room.

"We'd like to dedicate this win to Timi Adekunle and Elliot Krasniqi - they've picked up some long-term problems which sometimes happen in football, but they've got the full support of the players and the staff. We spoke about that before the game with the squad - they're our team-mates, they're part of us, they're two brilliant characters and we'll of course be supporting them throughout the next stage of their recoveries," he said.

"In terms of the game, it's an unbelievable feeling and a great moment for the players and staff. We showed outstanding resilience and character to come back from 2-0 and 3-2 down to win 4-3, but I thought our all-round performance was of a really high level and we had some top individual performances as well. Mikey came up with an outstanding individual goal and there was a superb team goal when we made it 2-2. Our finishing in the second half was good when it needed to be - over the last two games against Chelsea, we haven't been clinical enough at times and I thought we dominated the first 25 or 30 minutes today where we could have gone ahead, but all in all there were some great individual performances and a good collective performance too. Last week we were probably unfortunate to lose after our dominance for 60 to 65 minutes, but I think the boys have used that as an added motivation this week. We've got to enjoy the moment and the result, but we quickly go again as we've got another tough game against Crystal Palace next Saturday."

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

Spurs: Bloedorn, Black, King, Chaplin (c), Rowswell (Lehane 59), Hall, Irow (Egan-Riley 90+6), Olusesi, Ajayi, Moore, Akhamrich. Substitutes (not used): Archer, Morgan, James.