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Essien plays full 90 for reserves

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Brilliant game, although I was sad to see them lose, Villa outclassed us last night and won deservedly. Impressed with Essien - showed exactly what we've missed when he scored. TOCFCWS's match report:


Posted on: Mon 02 Mar 2009

For the second week running the reserves lost by the odd goal in a high-scoring encounter but there was the great sight of Michael Essien completing the whole game on his comeback.

Such was the strength of the Ghanaian's return from six months out following a cruciate injury that he scored the final goal of the match late on at Villa Park.

Another success was the 60 minutes played by Ricardo Carvalho as he works back towards first team action following a five-week hamstring problem. Having suffered such injury earlier in the season, due diligence for the defender in his comeback is essential and he came through untroubled.

Essien played a holding midfield role against a Villa side who had their own first team squad member making a return. Dutch international defender Wilfred Bouma was playing for the first time since July. Marlon Harewood up front brought experience to a home side containing several players who had lost out in last year's FA Youth Cup semi-final to Chelsea.

Villa are the leaders in the Barclays Premier Reserve League South but Chelsea started very well and before either Essien or Carvalho had barely touched the ball, took the lead.

It was two of our younger prospects down the left side of the team who manufactured the third minute opener - and what a good goal it was!

Miroslav Stoch advanced and slipped the ball to overlapping full-back Patrick van Aanholt who, with the Villa right-back already committed and out the game, had space and composure for shot across the keeper and just inside the far post.

Chelsea centre-forward Frank Nouble then broke wide on the right but couldn't find Lee Sawyer who has forward from midfield inside the box but the passing overall was bright.

Fifteen minutes in, Chelsea almost doubled the lead with what would have been an even better goal than the first. In fact it would have been one of the free-kicks of the season had Stoch's 35-yard blast been an inch or two lower.

The ball rebounded off the crossbar but Mellis, who had been fouled initially for the strike, headed wastefully wide of an unguarded net.

Villa won a corner soon after - and it was headed away by Essien. But a minute later Villa equalised with their won counter down the wing. Carvalho had headed clear but Chelsea were disorganised when it came back. Harewood from the right had the pace to cross beyond Carl Magnay and Nathan Delfouneso, who had scored in the Youth Cup tie, finished first time. It was 1-1 with 19 minutes gone.

There was a shot by Weimann for Villa that passed uncomfortably close to the post before a classic moment of Essien power on 32 minutes as he collected a Noble pass on the edge of the box and bounced Hogg off his shoulder before his shot was blocked.

There was no denying our reserves however as the second goal was netted two minutes later. Jacob Mellis began and finished the move, playing out to Stoch who had switched to the right and then flicking the return in with his head from a position at the near post. Asked to play an unfamiliar wide position on the night, it was the 18-year-old third reserve goal of the season.

This time it took Villa less than two minutes to level, Hogg running from midfield untracked and into acres between the Chelsea defenders as a long ball came over from wide. The England Under 19 international controlled the ball out of Aldi Haxhia's reach and then slide home.

The 17-year-old Chelsea keeper was playing his first reserve game having only feature four times for the youth side. Rhys Taylor and Nic Heimann are both injured.

Haxhia, who was born in Kosovo but has been with Academy since the age of 14 suffered his own injury in trying to block the goal but after treatment continued.

Hogg blasted wide on the run as Villa threatened leading up to the break and then Haxhia charged out of his area as Delfouneso raced forward and upended the forward to earn a booking.

The free-kick from Bannan from the left was crisp but centrally aimed yet the Chelsea keeper at full-strength could only tip it onto the bar, centre-back Clark turning in the rebound for a 3-2 half-time lead for the home side.

Villa continued as the team on top at the start of the second half. Haxhia gathered a header on the run from Delfouneso on 57 minutes and Lee Sawyer picked up a booking for petulance having kicked the ball away a couple of minutes later after an Essien foul.

That was one of a succession of free-kicks conceded that were making it hard to escape the Chelsea half.

Carvalho was the first withdrawn having played an hour, Sawyer exiting a few moments later.

Carl Magnay, now back from loan at MK Dons, twisted his back and looked in jeopardy which with Carvalho off could have stretched resources but the Geordie soldered on.

There was a better moment for Chelsea approaching 70 minutes when a long ball from right-back Nana Ofori-Twumasi was collected by sub Adam Phillip. The timing of the run gave the new striker space but from distance he shot over.

Villa responded instantly and after manoeuvring outside a still-inhibited Magnay, Harewood smacked a cross-shot against the far post.

Essien gave further evidence for what a unique specimen he is when 77 minutes into his comeback, he made a 60-yard run, pass and supporting run but a wayward Mellis ball led to the attack breaking down.

The Villa fourth came on 81 minutes, the impressive Delfouneso smashing home after Bannan had capitalised on a stray Magnay pass.

In the 86thminute Essien was still going strong, surging past a midfield cover with a nutmeg and pulling the deficit back to one goal again with a low shot that deflected past Stuart Taylor off defender Clark.

Stoch almost caught the keeper out with two minutes remaining when his intended cross drifted towards the goalline. Chelsea were ending as we had begun. Mellis then stabbed a difficult chance wide from a deflected Van Aanholt cross while at the other end, Albrighton had a good effort deflected just inches over off Magnay

At the very death, Taylor in the Villa goal mishandled a Bridcutt shot as if the ball had been greased during a final spell of Chelsea pressure, but a goal to prevent victory would have been hard on this Villa performance.

Essien wasn't the only one to complete 90 minutes. Guus Hiddink and Ray Wilkins had made the journey to Villa Park and watched from the stands right up to the final whistle.

Chelsea Aldi Haxhia; Nana Ofori-Twumasi, Ricardo Carvalho (Tom Taiwo 60), Carl Magnay, Patrick van Aanholt; Lee Sawyer (Adam Phillip 62), Michael Essien, Liam Bridcutt ©; Jacob Mellis, Frank Nouble, Miroslav Stoch.

Villa Taylor; Lichaj, Bouma, Clark, Lowry; Hogg, Albrighton, Weimann (Williams 74), Bannan; Delfouneso (Collins 84), Harewood.

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I think there is still a little way to go for Essien. He played the full 90 mins which was fantastic, but he is not up to full match fitness yet. As far as the game goes, it wasn't great from our point of view. We was dominated throughout most of the game and we had some good spells. Struggled to get our forwards invoved in the game, but it was still an exciting game to watch.

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