Tottenham youngsters kick off U21 season with 4-2 Chelsea hammering

Mike Hewitt

A mini-London derby played out several miles from the city itself saw Tottenham's youth side rampage to victory in their first tie of the season.

Though the news that the match would be slightly postponed may have rankled the crowd packed on a cool night into Aldershot's cramped but homely Recreation Ground (rumoured to have been necessitated by Spurs' youth coach getting stuck in traffic), it was to be the only setback on a night which saw Tottenham's triumphant return to the U21 League that they took by storm last season.

The almost-full strength side put out by Tottenham saw a fluid front three of Iago Falque, Harry Kane and Shaq Coulthirst supported by the usual creative pairing of Thomas Carroll and Nabil Bentaleb, with Giancarlo Galifuoco occupying his usual anchoring role. Ryan Fredericks captained from right-back whilst Alex McQueen, Kevin Stewart and Dominic Ball completed the back four ahead of Jordan Archer. The team were matched by a fairly strong Chelsea side which featured burgeoning Chelsea stars such as Josh McEachran and Nat Chalobah, however, and from the off the match portended to be open and high-tempo with a flurry of early chances at both ends. Unfortunately, it was to be Chelsea who would make the breakthrough first, with McEachran cooly slotting home a penalty after Stewart hauled down Boga in the box.

Spurs regrouped magnificently from this point onwards, however, buoyed by the confidence which the side has developed over the last year in playing a high-line, pressing style and the superb one-touch football played by Carroll and Bentaleb. Kane in particular was magnificent during these stages at dropping back off of Coulthirst and moving in to wide positions, and after racking up a few shots on target himself it was his cross which Falque converted to level the scoreline. After Stewart was booked for a two-footed challenge and MacEachran was taken off injured, Tottenham then went 2-1 up after Coulthirst was sprung one-on-one only to see his shot saved and then converted by the waiting Falque.

No more than a minute later, Harry Kane pounced on a defender's error to score a cheeky goal past the out-of-position Chelsea keeper. Chelsea tested Archer a few more times in the closing minutes, but Tottenham ran back in well on top of the tie at half-time.

The second half started just as brightly as the first, with Kane hitting the post early only for Coulthirst to convert and bag a well-deserved goal to make it 4-1. Spurs clearly at this point felt comfortable enough to make a plethora of changes, with Lameiras replacing Stewart, Darren McQueen replacing Coulthirst, and Ward replacing Alex McQueen. The side continued to attack the Chelsea goal, cutting the defence open time and time again, although continuing to play so openly left Spurs exposed and allowed Brown to nip behind the defence to score a consolation goal for Chelsea. Disappointingly, Bentaleb also let himself down in the closing stages in allowing the intensity of the tie to get to him and getting sent off for a pair of unnecessary hard challenges.

All in all, a perfect start to the U21 season for Spurs, though one which should hardly be considered surprising considering the strength of the side that was put out. Carroll, as previously mentioned, dictated the tempo of the match which his quick-thinking, swivel-headed movement and passing, whilst Kane's fluid movement across the front three and in behind made him both a fantastic pivot point and outlet for every Spurs attack. Archer put in a very solid performance in goal, whilst the two full-backs looked extremely comfortable sprinting forward to join the attack (helped in no small part by Chelsea's disorganisation in wide areas). The real test for the youngsters could now be responding to the potential loss of the side's key players as the senior season draws to within a week of kicking off.

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