Despite twice fighting back from going behind, our under-23s slipped to their first defeat in eight Premier League 2 fixtures on Saturday,as Chelsea ran out 5-4 winners at Meadow Park.
We held our shape and soaked up pressure in the opening exchanges, allowing Bukayo Saka to break free on the counter and gift us the lead with a composed finish into the bottom left corner.
But the visitors weren’t fazed by our positive start to the game, and just 10 minutes later they found themselves two goals to the good.
Tino Anjorin latched onto a loose ball inside the box and fired into an empty net, before Daishawn Redan converted Charlie Wakefield’s inch-perfect delivery from close range. We tried to regroup, but the pressure continued to pile on, and in the 18th minute Josh Grant leapt high from a corner to make it 3-1.
Joe Wilock’s flick across goal then fell to the feet of Eddie Nketiah, but his goalbound effort was cleared off the line. Freddie Ljungberg encouraged his team to push on, and following a well-worked corner routine on the half hour mark, Daniel Ballard clawed one back with a thumping header into the back of the net.
Chelsea’s defence had been rocked, and with three minutes remaining of the first half, Nketiah drew us level. Saka fizzed a left-footed shot at goal and forced Jamie Cumming into a great save - and the 19-year-old was there to apply a simple finish on the rebound.
Following the break, Nketiah was just short of connecting with Robbie Burton’s dangerous delivery into the box, before Callum Hudson-Odoi rattled the post with a curling effort from 20 yards for the visitors.
The chaos soon continued though with two goals in two minutes. Conor Gallagher put Chelsea ahead with a curling free-kick from 25 yards, but just moments later Nketiah levelled the scores when he pounced on a loose ball and fired past Cumming for his second of the afternoon.
It was end-to-end football in the closing stages with Saka and Hudson-Odoi coming close, but it was the visitors who scored the final goal.
Billy Gilmour received the ball on the edge of the box and fired into the bottom corner, ensuring that Joe Edwards’ side left with Meadow Park all three points.
WHAT IT MEANS
We’ve dropped down to fifth in the PL2 table - but remain just five points behind league leaders Everton
Our under-23s face Derby County on Monday, November 26.
The game will take place at the Loughborough University Stadium with kick-off at 7pm (UK time).
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