With just a few senior players in the starting lineup, Chelsea’s Academy took on a mostly first-team Aston Villa and while the gap in quality wasn’t great by any means, Villa did have just that extra bit when it counted, such as on their opening goal just a few minutes into the contest.
Chelsea had threatened early as well, with Omari Hutchinson especially dangerous, drawing a save in the first few minutes and then rattling the post just before the quarter-hour mark.
Things took a turn for the most unwelcome then, as Armando Broja appeared to pick up a very serious knee injury on a fairly innocuous challenge on the high press. His howls of pain were haunting in the quiet stadium (just a few thousand in attendance).
Once Broja was stretchered off, the game resumed at a much more tentative and slower pace. Lewis Hall pulled a few strings but Chelsea were not quite able to create too many chances. Villa didn’t really either, though Bettinelli did make one good save and they also hit the post with the final bit of action in the first-half.
Chelsea began the second-half on the front foot, with Hall testing the Villa goalkeeper. But Villa responded and Bettinelli had to save smartly from Leon Bailey to keep the deficit at just one.
The cavalcade of substitutions began just past the hour-mark, which took most of the flow out of the game and Chelsea’s shape devolved into a mish-mash of players in random positions. Hutchinson was still trying his best to create, but Villa weren’t ever really uncomfortable. At the other end, Bettinelli had made a couple more decent saves.
- 4-3-3: Bettinelli | Cucurella, Humphreys, Gilchrist, Brooking | Webster, Jorginho, Hall | Aubameyang, Broja, Hutchinson
- Auba moving central when Rankine on to play left wing
- Casadei, Mothersille on for the final 30, replacing Gilchrist and Aubameyang. Webster dropping to right back as Brooking moving central. Elliott then on to play in midfield for the final 20, with Hall dropping to defense and Brooking going off. Mason Burstow also on for the final few minutes, for Rankine.
- Trevoh Chalobah had been announced as a starter, but was withdrawn before kick-off. No update yet as to why.
- No word on Broja injury yet either but that definitely did not look or sound good.
- Hutchinson, Hall outstanding, especially in the first half.
- Next up: AFC Bournemouth as the Premier League resumes in a couple weeks