On a blustery Walton Hall Park pitch on Sunday afternoon, Leighton Baines’ young Everton team unfortunately could not make their man advantage count and disappointingly crashed out of the competition at the second stage. The line-up was as below:
Chelsea lost centre back Kaiden Wilson after just 8 minutes in a bright opening for the young Toffees which had seen Jacob Beaumont-Clark play a neat ball to centre forward George Morgan. Morgan was with the last defender (Chelsea’s Wilson), there was a tangle of legs and the young Chelsea player had to go. Hopes were high at that stage that the Blues could turn their attractive play into goals.
A well-balanced 4-1-4-1 formation for the Blues saw them dominate possession and play some very exciting football without ever really stretching the Chelsea goalkeeper with shots.
It was indeed a football rarity as we had two twin brothers facing each other, Everton’s Odin and Chelsea’s Ishe Samuels-Smith. Fans will remember the high hopes that the club had for the latter and indeed it was Ishe who set up Chelsea’s 20th minute opener with a neat ball to Donnell McNeilly who curled a beautiful shot into the top corner giving Blue’s ‘keeper George Pickford no chance. 0-1.
In the 25th minute, a fine piece of skill by tall Blues midfielder Harrison Armstrong saw him weave his way into the box past several defenders but his shot was comfortably saved. Similarly, Matthew Apter burst through a packed defence 11 minutes later but his shot was too close to the ‘keeper.
With Chelsea holding the single goal lead at half-time it was again the Blues who looked threatening. Morgan was nudged enough in the 55th minute by a Chelsea defender which caused his header from Apter’s cross to flash wide.
As the defensively-strong Chelsea side began to get back into the game, Pickford had to be at his best to turn a 50 yard free kick over the bar for a corner. The “shot” clearly started out life as a cross but it was so high it caught in the wind and almost swerved in.
Within minutes of that freak shot, disaster struck as the ball held up around the Blues area, Beaumont-Clark was unable to get control and Chelsea’s Tyrique George showed some neat footwork before firing a nice shot past Pickford, 0-2.
That’s how the scoreline stayed despite pressure from all quarters and, in the 80th minute, a strong Coby Ebere shot being deflected for a Blues’ corner.
I should stress that this side probably has some of the most gifted footballers at this age level that I have seen for many years. Nobody had a bad game, it was just one of those days when everything nearly came off but it just fell short. Special mention to a few outstanding performances from centre back Brad Moonan, centre midfielder Harrison Armstrong and centre forward George Morgan. That will be the spine of the team for the next campaign also and with hard work and coaching this group of players could still produce a star or two of the future.
Leighton Baines justifiably took some positives from the game
“Obviously, it’s disappointing – especially playing against 10 men. We knew the game would be a challenge, but with the sending off, it turned into a completely different challenge. We were trying to find a way through a more reserved opposition, who have still got amazing quality on the pitch, and can be clinical and ruthless in transition.
“A sending off will always change a game, but we know Chelsea are one of the best teams in the country with some of the best players in the country. They had to adapt and evolve which they did well, and likewise, we prepared for high pressure and being pressed all over the pitch, and it ended up looking very different.
“I think both teams adapted, and we looked comfortable on the ball, but lacked a cutting edge.
“I think in the end, that’s what prevailed – them being clinical in the final third, and us not having that cutting edge. We didn’t manage to find a way through a body of players in a mid to low block and probably didn’t have the quality in the final action that they showed.”