Chelsea U21, one of 16 academy teams competing in this season’s pro-level EFL Trophy (i.e. Papa John’s Trophy, with the winning team probably getting a free year of pizza), needed a win last night to advance to the knockout rounds. And we almost managed to pull it off, mounting a comeback from 3-1 down, then hitting the post, only to lose by just the odd goal in seven in the 90th minute.
Personally, I blame these wretched third kits.
Good evening from a chilly Memorial Ground where a place in the knockout stage of the EFL Trophy awaits either our development squad or Bristol Rovers.— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) November 18, 2020
Here is how we line-up ahead of kick-off in 15 minutes pic.twitter.com/aPUymZErj9
Third division Bristol Rovers would thus take all three points and finish second in the group behind Oxford United, who had beaten Chelsea 2-1 earlier this season. We did manage a draw against the third team in the group, Walsall, then collected an additional point in the subsequent penalty shootout. A similar result would’ve enough against Bristol as well.
As disappointing as it is to not advance to the knockout rounds for the first time since 2016-17, the very first season Academy teams were allowed to enter this competition that was previously only for third and fourth division teams (League One and League Two), we can draw solace from another masterful performance from Tino Anjorin, now fully over the thigh injury he picked up at the start of Project Restart, and the return to match action for Billy Gilmour, who suffered his knee injury just a few weeks after that.
Gilmour played 60 minutes, which was his first bit of real action since his planned involvement for Scotland U21 last week was over after just a few minutes thanks to an overzealous referee and his red card. And while he took a backseat to Anjorin’s brace and general excellence, the 19-year-old midfielder has come through seemingly unscathed, taking an important step towards full fitness.
Anyway, on a night where eyes were on Gilmour returning to fitness and form, it was Tino Anjorin who again reminded everyone of how transcendent a talent he is when fully fit. He should be considered every bit as capable as anyone else of breaking in and helping the first team.— Chelsea Youth (@chelseayouth) November 18, 2020
Hopefully we see both Gilmour and Anjorin involved with the first-team sooner than later this season as well.
Forgotten man Danny Drinkwater was also involved, and played the full 90. Good to see Tenacious Double D keeping up the fitness levels, while presumably exploring his options for the January transfer window.