Derby County’s Under-18s bowed out of the Premier League Cup at the group phase despite a thrilling 3-3 draw with Chelsea at Moor Farm Training Ground on Saturday morning.
It was a battle against the elements for both teams throughout the game with strong winds swirling around for the majority of the fixture.
It was an electric start for the young Rams, who won a penalty with their first attack of the game, which Malcolm Ebiowei converted coolly to give his side an early lead.
Despite facing the earliest of setbacks, the visitors responded. With the wind at their backs for the whole half, they had the clear advantage when playing aerial balls down the line to their forward players.
They also pressed high and quickly, making it difficult for Derby to settle on the ball and take control of the game. Chelsea eventually equalised when Luke Badeley-Morgan headed in from a corner.
Just five minutes had passed from the equalising goal when the visitors were awarded a penalty of their own, and in just 15 minutes, they had turned the game around as Charlie Webster converted from 12 yards.
The game's momentum constantly swung throughout the match, and Derby were suddenly on the back foot looking for a comeback of their own.
Sam Sebagabo had two chances to score before half-time. The first opportunity was a perfectly placed header that forced a brilliant save of the Chelsea goalkeeper Prince Adegoke, while the second was a right-footed effort from outside the box which narrowly evaded the crossbar.
Despite the home side's pressure, Chelsea held onto their lead going into the break, although much more action came in the second period.
Just as they did to open the game, Adam Robinson's side started the second half at a frightening pace, and their pressure paid off as Ebiowei grabbed his and Derby’s second of the game with a close-range header from a corner.
In keeping with the game's theme, Chelsea then responded quickly with some excellent build-up play to retake the lead once again. Former Rams loanee Malik Mothersille showed good striker's instinct to follow up a saved effort from Leo Castledine and fire the ball into an empty net.
In adverse weather conditions and the rain pouring down, Derby had to show real courage to bounce back once again and they did just that, with Ebiowei again the scorer to complete his hat-trick with a brilliant goal.
Omari Kellyman stole the ball high up the field and rolled it to Ebiowei, who took a touch to get the ball out of his feet and then fired a curling strike which nestled into the bottom left corner.
Both teams had half chances to turn the game back in their favour but could not convert as the game descended into a midfield tussle.
The game ended in a thrilling draw which was enough to see Chelsea through to the quarter finals and confirmed Derby's exit from the competition at the group phase with two draws and one defeat from their three Group D matches.
Derby County Under 18s: Roberts (GK) (C), Sebagabo, Rutt, Fapetu (Trialist 86'), Trialist, Robinson, Ebiowei, Ibrahim, Brown (Hawkins 72'), Kellyman, Kelly.
Substitutes Not Used: Evans, Christie.
Next up for the Under-18s is an FA Youth Cup Third Round tie against Peterborough United at Pride Park Stadium on Thursday 2nd December (7pm kick-off), while they return to Under-18 Premier League - North action with a trip to Leeds United on Saturday 11th December (12pm kick-off).
Words: Sam Allen (University of Derby Football Journalism Student)