We’ve been largely ignoring the Checkatrade Trophy (née EFL Trophy or Football League Trophy prior to that), but after last night’s heroics from Charly Musonda Jr, we can no longer just let it pass by unnoticed.
The clock read 90 as added-on time, which had already seen Portsmouth equalize after a misjudged clearing header by Ethan Ampadu, was ticking away. Charly Jr had gotten Chelsea on the board a half hour earlier, starting and finishing a move (via Kyle Scott) but the hosts from League One clawed it back at the death and the Round of 16 elimination match looked headed to a penalty kick shootout.
But there was still time, more than enough for Callum Hudson-Odoi to create yet more havoc — still room on the hype train, but you gotta act fast! — earning a free kick after getting hacked down on the edge of the area. And so, up stepped Musonda Jr, and then away he wheeled, arms a Drogba-airplane, spirits just as high. The ball was in the back of the net, and there was nothing former Spurs prospect Luke McGee could do about it.
In de categorie 'proper in het hoekje': Charly #Musonda krulde bij de U23 van #Chelsea deze net binnen. pic.twitter.com/CjaruWuRrd— Jarno Bertho (@JarnoBertho) January 9, 2018
The 3000-strong crowd — a decent turnout for this competition, which is in its second year under the (controversial) format that allows Development Squads like Chelsea’s to enter as well — may have been disappointed, but they had just witnessed an excellent performance from Musonda, as well as Hudson-Odoi, while others on the fringes of the first team, like Ethan Ampadu (despite his error), Dujon Sterling, and Kyle Scott also showed well against what was a strong Pompey side currently vying for promotion from the third tier.
Taking everything into account, that was the best #CFCDev performance of the season. They had the mentality to compete with a good League One team, played well tactically, took their chances and defended well. They got the rewards their bravery deserved.— Chelsea Youth (@chelseayouth) January 9, 2018
Here’s Charly’s goal, which starts with the youngster picking up a loose ball in midfield and driving forward. The 21-year-old was deployed in a slightly deeper position in this game than most would consider normal or natural for him, but he did very well.
A lucky young fan even got to keep the match-winner’s shirt afterwards!
Top lad! Gave my nipper his shirt !! pic.twitter.com/vsiKULgBsO— Webby ⚽️ (@webbyCFC) January 9, 2018
Chelsea are thus into the quarterfinals (draw on Thursday) where they will face one of Fleetwood Town, Oxford United, Peterborough, Lincoln City, Yeovil, or the winner of Shrewsbury and Blackpool or Oldham and Leicester City’s development squad. Unlike last season, Chelsea have been fielding slightly stronger squads in the competition (Batshuayi played in the previous round, for example), and should have the quality to advance all the way to the Wembley final.