U21's take big step towards play offs

Monday night Chelsea's U21's team took a big step towards finishing in the all important...

Monday night Chelsea's U21's team took a big step towards finishing in the all important top 4 play off places and have it in their hands to finish top of the league. Standing in their way was Aston Villa at Villa Park. Villa by their very high standards at youth level have had a very disappointing season and are fighting to qualify in the top half of the table for when the league splits into 2 next season.

Given last Thursday's and this Thursday's FA Youth cup games there was always going to be changes that were to be made to the squad. None of the youth cup team would start this game which meant that the main changes were for Andreas Christensen and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were not to start as well as Isaiah Brown. The team that would start the game was Jamal Blackman in goal with the back four of Isaak Ssewankambo, Alex Davey, Nathan Ake and Adam Nditi. The midfield would consist of Marco Van Ginkel, Lewis Baker and John Swift and Reece Mitchell, Charly Musonda and Islam Feruz as the forward line.

The game started strong for Villa who had 2 early chances on Blackman's goal but it would not take long for the Chelsea midfield to find their feet and start controlling the game and then the gaps started to open which Chelsea looked to exploit for the entire game and should have had more goals to speak of from those breaks. Chelsea would very quickly take the lead when Nathan Ake moved up the pitch and collected the ball 25 yards out and looked to play a ball through which deflected off Islam Feruz and found it's way to the feet of John Swift who brought the ball under control and made no mistake with the shot hitting it low under the keeper.

The ball behind the Villa defence would become a feature of the game for Chelsea and Islam Feruz would be the next to profit from Villa's incredibly high line, Alex Davey from the back managed to find a pass that dissected the entire Villa team and found Islam Feruz in ocean's of space one on one with the keeper but  for some reason decided to take the shot on early rather than continue into the box and it was a fairly comfortable save for the keeper. Villa then managed to get themselves back into the game from a throw in which they worked to the edge of the Chelsea 18 yard box and found their number 10 who hit a good hard low drive which Blackman was unable to stop. Chelsea will have felt hard done by given their possession and chances but they would get plenty more.

The next chance again fell to John Swift who is having an excellent goal scoring season having had sessions with the midfield scoring master himself Frank Lampard. This time he made a brilliant run in between the defenders which was spotted by Van Ginkel who played the most perfect ball over the top to meet the midfielders run and once again one on one with the keeper John Swift made no mistake. It would not be the end of Chelsea's first half goals however and this time it was Swift turning provider for Lewis Baker who also exploited the space behind the defence and having missed a one on one not long before this time made no mistake by calmly lifting the ball over the oncoming keeper and watching the ball roll into the net. It was a deserved 3 - 1 lead that Chelsea went into the break with and it could certainly have been more.

Aston Villa came out of the half time break a better side and they looked to put Chelsea under more pressure, particularly at the back where Jamal Blackman's distribution had been poor and Adam Nditi had been prone to give away the ball in dangerous situations and Villa would get a big chance when the Chelsea players could not get out and Jamal Blackman found himself one on one with a Villa attacker but managed to get something on the shot and it was enough to make an easy clearance for the covering Davey. Villa would then get another goal back and this time it was from a free kick. A good delivery was put in and the ball was missed by all the Chelsea players and it found the Villa striker unmarked and unchallenged to put the ball past Jamal Blackman and set up a nervous finish to the game.

Both teams would look to be pushing on to get the next goal as it would be the one likely to decide the outcome of the game. Marco Van Ginkel came very close to extending Chelsea's lead making a good run through midfield and keeping the ball well and hitting a great shot from around 25 yards out which came back off the crossbar. Despite some nervous moments at the back and a few more missed opportunities Chelsea would eventually get their 4th right near the end. John Swift with some fancy footwork beat the defender and was tripped inside the box and despite Swift's appeals for the opportunity to get his third it was Mr Reliable from the penalty spot Lewis Baker who stepped to take and as always score the penalty.

It was a good performance from Chelsea on the whole although they will feel that they made life harder than necessary for themselves by not taking the many chances they had during the game and letting Villa in. Islam Feruz will feel disappointed, even though he worked very hard he often strayed into offside positions and missed the few real chances that did present themselves to him. It was obviously good to see Marco Van Ginkel play the full 90 minutes and he did have a good game with some very good moments but it was Lewis Baker and particulary John Swift who were the top performers of the night with excellent performances in the middle of the park.

That result meant that Chelsea are now second in the league 4 points behind Liverpool with 2 games in hand and level on points with Fulham again with 2 games in hand on them also. Liverpool, Fulham and Southampton in third have completed their fixtures and the only other teams with a chance of catching Chelsea are Manchester United, Manchester City and Sunderland all 3 points behind and the Manchester Clubs also have 2 games to play and Sunderland one.

Highlights of this game will be available to watch on my YouTube channel Friday night.


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