Norwich City Under-18s suffered a 3-2 loss to Chelsea on Saturday afternoon, despite scoring two goals in the last ten minutes, to ignite the chance of a comeback for a point.
The game started uncomfortable for the Canaries, being pressed heavily from the starting whistle, without much time on the ball to get into the game. Just three minutes in, disaster struck. A cross into the Canaries box found the unmarked head of George Nunn, who directed it into the far corner, out of Joe Rose’s reach. The frustration could be seen on the City side’s faces, who knew they were better than conceding within three minutes.
From this point on the Canaries seemed a lot more switched on, they weren’t allowing the press to force an error again, switching up their play with short passes to manoeuvre round the Chelsea shirts. Just ten minutes in and it felt a lot more competitive than in the opening three, with each side attacking each other back and forth to no avail.
Just when it seemed like the Canaries found their stride, a controversial and dangerous free-kick found itself on the edge of the visitor’s box. Pierre Ekwah Elimby stepped up to take the effort, curling the ball over the wall into the back of the City net, opening the gap between goals even more so by the 13th minute.
Not letting the goals deter from giving it their all, the young Canaries started again in their efforts to break down the Chelsea defence. A fast-paced run from Jon Rowe forced a Chelsea shirt to bring him down on the edge of the box, mirroring Chelsea’s free-kick position just minutes prior. Rowe stepped up to see what he could do with the ball, just seeing his effort pass the crossbar.
For the rest of the half, it was relatively quiet, both teams would struggle to make anything of their efforts, often lacking the final third, due to the locked up defence of the sides. The most meaningful effort of the last 20 minutes came from the home side. A cross into the Canaries box found the boot of Jordan Aina in the six-yard box, his half-volley flying over the crossbar, saving City ending the first-half in any worse position.
As the second-half started, Chelsea looked comfortable, being two up it’s not as if they had to worry about bringing much energy. The home side switched style of play, going from making runs down the wing, then delivering a ball to a player in the box, to taking long-range stabs at goal. Ekwah Elimby was the main culprit of such a move, blasting a ball at Rose in the 53rd minute, with the ‘keeper just about tipping the ball over the ball.
Going up against this style of play seemed to suit City more, being able to spread out the opposition around the pitch with longer, frequent passes. Josh Giurgi fancied his chances and made a sharp run down the wing after feinting a pass, catching the Blues defender on his heels. Giurgi finished off his contribution to play with a cross, sadly lacking any players in the box to receive the set-up.
From Giurgi’s cross, Chelsea got possession of the ball, something they hadn’t managed to properly hold on to for the previous five minutes. The Pensioners passed the ball around on the edge of the City box, ending the sequence with Ekwah Elimby lacing the ball through the sea of players. Although Rose had made the effort to save the shot, no ‘keeper was getting a look in on the effort as it curled top bins.
After their goal, Chelsea were looking extremely relaxed, being three goals up. They’d arguably deserved to be winning the game, until the start of the second half the City side just didn’t seem their usual self, laying off. However, the young Canaries wanted to make sure their presence was still known. In the 85th minute, City caught the home side on a counter, with lightning fast Rowe and Tyrese Omotoye at the helm. A series of passes bundled the Chelsea defence into one space in the box, creating space. Omotoye saw the opportunity, and laid a through ball off to Rowe in such space, allowing the forward to lace it to the top corner.
Finally, City had some momentum. Chelsea were frustrated with themselves ruining the clean sheet, and clearly regretted writing off the side. Whilst trying to find their earlier form, the young Canaries were just as motivated as ever to find another goal from somewhere. Fortunately for City, the next opportunity for goal came just minutes after Rowe’s goal. A neat series of passes found Omotoye inside the box, surrounded by oncoming defenders. The forward, who recently signed a pro contract, looked around briefly before letting Rowe through on goal. Rowe was certain to bag the brace, and put them in a prime position for a comeback.
Although they tried and tried again in the last minutes of added time, Chelsea had locked up their defence like a fortress, trying their best to keep any City shirts from goal. After an excruciating five minutes, which felt like an eternity, the final whistle went. A disappointing result, especially with how important the second-half was for the Canaries against the joint league leaders. But, with how they played when they found their feet, the side should be proud of what they managed to pull off in the last 45 minutes.
Norwich City U18s: Rose, Vaughan (Jackson, 50), Stewart, Tomkinson, Warner, Khumbeni, Springett (Dickson-Peters, 20), Dronfield (c), Omotoye, Giurgi (Pitcher, 75), Rowe
Subs not used: Blair, Kamara
Bookings: Omotoye (66)
Goals: Rowe (85, 90)
Chelsea U18s: Askew, Wiggett (Clark, 70), McClelland (c), Colwill, Aina (Brooking 87), Ekwah Elimby, Rankine, Simons, Nunn, Lewis (Elliott 80), Haigh
Subs not used: Clark, Bergstrom, Broja
Bookings: Nunn (90+2)
Goals: Nunn (3), Ekwah Elimby (13, 65)
Kick off time: 12pm
Venue: Cobham Training Ground