The two finalists from last year’s Under-21 competition met at Stamford Bridge after recently suffering their first defeats of the season. A win for either side would have taken them to the top of the league but the match finished all square, United having opened the scoring with what was perhaps a fortunate penalty decision in the second half before Chelsea equalised from a corner.
With James Wilson and Paddy McNair on first team duty this weekend and Harrop and Pearson missing from the midfield, there were starts for Weir and Grimshaw while Tyler Blackett resumed his role alongside Tom Thorpe in central defence. The two combined to stilfle the Chelsea attack in the early stages, limiting their scoring opportunities to a freak, looping shot from Baker that Amos held onto just underneath the bar, while Solanki failed to get a touch on an attempted overhead kick following a penetrating run from Kiwomya down the right. United’s first clear cut opportunity came just after half an hour when Pereira’s shot was saved comfortably and moments later Keane skewed his short just wide of the target.
The second half was barely a minute old when United took the lead. A handball judged, somewhat debatably, to be in the box gave the Reds a penalty that Will Keane struck hard to the keeper’s right: although Mitchell went the right way there was enough power in the shot to take it firmly into the corner. The Reds almost doubled their lead soon after when Tyler Blackett carried the ball out and initiated an attack that finished with Love returning the ball to the advancing defender, whose shot sadly lacked conviction and bounced wide.
Chelsea levelled just before the hour mark, Christensen taking fully advantage of a free header from a Baker corner. Amos was forced to save smartly soon after as the game opened up and the Blues pressed for a second. United soaked up the danger effectively, however, and went close through a Pereira shot in the 75th minute, though the Belgian perhaps benefited from refereeing leniency at this level when he escaped a second yellow card after a blatant kick-out just outside the Chelsea box.
It was Chelsea who pressed for a winner in the closing stages, though, and Amos was forced into a fine save from a Baker free kick late on and Vermijl hacked clear a dangerous cross into the box in the closing moments of stoppage time. United will probably be the happier of the two sides with a point from one of the season’s more tricky away games that takes them level on points with city at the top of the table.