Wolves U21s 2 (Tipton pen 38, Harkin 59) Chelsea U21s 1 (Wareham 79)
Wolves under-21s began their MLS NEXT Pro campaign in impressive fashion, seeing off fellow PL2 opponents Chelsea 2-1 thanks to Ollie Tipton and Lee Harkin strikes. Out in Salt Lake City in the USA, the old gold led at the break after the latest successful penalty kick from Tipton.
After the interval, Harkin turned home from close range to effectively seal the victory. The Blues did pull one back with time running out, but Wolves’ youthful side impressively saw out the victory to begin their campaign on a positive note.
Kicking off their campaign as the sun set over the Salt Lake City mountains, Wolves were locking horns with a Chelsea side more acclimatised to their surroundings, having spent a greater time in the United States, and it showed with their strong start, which was almost rewarded when Omari Hutchinson outmuscled Justin Hubner, but could only strike against the foot of the post.
Charlie Webster was next to try his luck for the West Londoners, but Palmi Arinbjornsson remained relaxed as it flew the right side of his post. A scramble in the Wolves box then had hearts in mouths, but as Ben Elliot tried to turn home from close range, the old gold stopper did enough to prevent that from happening.
However, within the blink of an eye, Wolves clicked into gear to grab the initiative. Dylan Scicluna was an early introduction off the bench for the injured Owen Hesketh, and he showed his pace to race on to Tipton’s ball over the top, before being sent tumbling in the box. As seen so often before, Tipton was ice cool from the spot, sending Eddie Beach the wrong way to put Wolves ahead.
Half-time | Wolves U21s 1-0 Chelsea U21s
The start of the second period was a lively one, and after Nathan Fraser had had an effort deflected wide for Wolves, Mason Burstow drilled one wide for Chelsea. However, when the second goal arrived, it belonged to James Collins’ side.
Harry Birtwistle was the creator with a right-wing cross which found Harkin, and once neither the Chelsea defenders nor Beach between the sticks reacted the forward’s first touch, he nipped in to tuck the ball home to double his side’s lead.
Almost as important as that goal was the clearance by Hubner soon after. Edwin Andersson fed Leo Castledine for the Blues, and once he skipped past Tipton, it look for all the world that he’d pull a goal back, but just in time, Wolves’ Dutch defender flew in to produce the perfectly-timed block.
However, Chelsea weren’t willing to make it easy for Wolves, and with 11 minutes remaining Jayden Wareham turned home at the back post to reduce the deficit. Then, a fine Joe Young save kept the old gold ahead with five to go.
With time running out, Tyler Roberts fashioned an opening down the right, and allowed Luke Matheson to set up Dongda He, but his effort cannoned back off the top of the crossbar, but it mattered not as Wolves professionally saw out the victory.
Full-time | Wolves U21s 2-1 Chelsea U21s
Wolves | Arinbjornsson (Young), Matheson, Scott (Ojinnaka), Hubner, Keto-Diyawa, Tipton, Hodnett (Esen), Hesketh (Scicluna), Birtwistle (He), Harkin (Farmer), Fraser (Roberts).