Chelsea Under-21s held on to progress to the last-16 of the Checkatrade Trophy after they defeated Sky Bet League One side AFC Wimbledon 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.
The Bridge was beaming under the floodlights, as was manager Joe Edwards after the game.
He praised the team’s mentality as they withstood AFC Wimbledon’s final charge towards full-time. Edwards said “We stood up and rolled our sleeves and finished the game by moving the ball around the pitch in the way we like to do it.”
It was a strong start from The Blues, as they pressured the AFC Wimbledon defence from the off.
Conor Gallagher had Chelsea’s first chance of the game. He found a pocket of space just outside the box but his curling effort went wide.
The first 10 minutes was sloppy from both sides, as Edwards pleaded with his to control the game with more efficiency.
By the 20th-minute mark, the Development Squad were using the ball to greater effect but had yet to find that killer moment.
A brilliant piece of skill from AFC Wimbledon’s Tyler Burey turned Tariq Lamptey inside out. The resulting cross found James Hanson, whose first time effort smacked against the crossbar from close range.
It was The Dons who were on the front foot midway through the first half, as Anthony Hartigan saw his brilliant effort from the edge of the box saved by Jamie Cumming.
Things looked more positive for the young Blues soon after. A penalty was awarded in the 37th minute after Marc Guehi appeared to be fouled just inside the box, although it was later revealed that he fell before contact. The penalty stood, and top scorer Charlie Brown neatly tucked it down the centre as The Blues took the lead.
AFC Wimbledon were close to levelling the scoreline six minutes later as Burey again showed his prowess down the right flank. His cross was punched onto Liam Trotter by Cumming, however, he couldn’t react in time and his makeshift flick went wide.
The Blues doubled their lead three minutes into the second half. Some good hold up play near the right-hand corner flag by Gallagher allowed Tino Anjorin to come short for the ball. He thundered a cross into the box and Daishawn Redan met the ball with his head, his effort flew past goalkeeper Tom King.
The visitors pulled a goal back in the 68th minute. A corner swung in by substitute Michael Pinnock was met brilliantly by Trotter. His acrobatic scissor kick found the bottom corner reduce the gap between the two sides.
Pinnock made an influence since coming off the bench and he could’ve drawn AFC Wimbledon level with 13 minutes of normal time left. His audacious left foot effort from outside the box curled just wide.
Tempers boiled over with five minutes left. A challenge by Anthony Wordsworth on Lamptey sent the Chelsea players and staff seething. He was brandished a straight red for the incident, which in hindsight probably deserved a yellow.
The youngsters however managed to keep their heads against the pressure in what was a professional and efficient display at The Bridge.
Cumming: 7, Guehi: 6, Colley: 7, Nartey: 6, Lamptey: 6, Gallagher: 8, McEachran: 7, Anjorin: 7, Castilo: 6, Redan: 7, Brown: 7 SUBS: McCormick: 5, Gilmour: 5
King: 5, Sibbick: 5, Nightingale: 4, Thomas: 4, Garratt: 5, Burey: 8, Hartigan: 6, Trotter: 7, Egan: 5, Jervis: 5, Hanson: 5 SUBS: Piggott: 3, Wordsworth: 2, Pinnock: 7