Chelsea hosted Middlesbrough in the fifth match of the U21 season on Friday evening, and the Blues were beaten at home by a 3-1 scoreline. As usual, Chelsea would field a very young team for the U21 level. The Blues didn't start a single player that has reached their 20th birthday and had an average age of under 18 years old in their starting eleven on Friday.
The Blues looked strong in possession early, dominating the ball without doing much in the way of creating chances. They'd build up very slowly from the back, something that was made easier by the fact the Middlesbrough were defending very deeply. It was an odd thing to see today, as teams generally play a much higher pressure game at the U21 level. Middlesbrough looked very organized, and there was very little in the way of opportunity to be found.
Fifteen year old Jeremie Boga would be the best player on the pitch for much of the first half, and George Saville had a strong game in the center of the midfield as well. Both created chances for Chelsea in the first half, but neither had a very good attempt at a finish. Islam Feruz and Patrick Bamford were struggling to find space for most of the first half, and neither did much to threaten the Boro keeper.
Lewis Sirrell would make a fantastic run for Boro on the counter attack in first half stoppage time, and he'd manage to slot the ball beyond Jamal Blackman to put the visitors ahead. Boro would take a 1-0 lead into the halftime break.
Islam Feruz would make way for Lamisha Musonda to start the second half, and Chelsea would again control the ball. They'd see Patrick Bamford go close twice early in the half before he managed to nestle a goal into the bottom corner to level the score at one apiece.
Chelsea continued to press, and looked likely to add a second to their tally. The next goal would come from Boro though, as some poor decisions from Nathan Ake and Alex Davey would leave Charlie Wyke alone with Blackman. He'd slot the ball home, and Chelsea trailed 2-1. Immediately after the goal, Danny Pappoe was inserted for Alex Davey. Pappoe had been dealing with a serious knee issue for much of the last year, so it was good to see him return.
Boro would add a third late on, As Matthew Waters finished a lovely counter-attack to seal the victory for Boro. There was very little that Chelsea could do about it, as they were rightfully pressing up the pitch for an equalizer at that point. The loss sees Chelsea's U21 side sitting on five points after five fixtures, with seven games to play before the clubs are shuffled in January. The Blues' U21 side will have some work to do to move back up the table.
The U21's will next be in action on Friday the 5th, but it could be a very different side than the one we saw today. The U19 side will have a midweek trip to Russia where they'll face off against CSKA Moscow in NextGen Series action, and players like Boga, Feruz, and Ake will certainly all be involved in that fixture. The U21's next opponent will be Fulham, and that game will be played at Craven Cottage.
The U18 side is in action next tomorrow morning, they'll host Middlesbrough at 11 a.m. BST. The U18 side has taken 12 points from their opening four fixtures, and will look to make it a perfect five wins in five games when they play tomorrow morning. Stick with this storystream for a report on tomorrow's action.