Chelsea Under-23s 2 Portsmouth 0 - Gavin Bazunu's moment of brilliance as Manchester City keeper shines on long-awaited Blues bow
It took 27 days for Gavin Bazunu to make his Pompey debut – it took 13 minutes to demonstrate why they signed him.
The Manchester City loanee has endured a frustrating start to his Fratton Park career, new beginnings impacted by a quad injury.
The problem sidelined him from the opening five friendlies of pre-season as Alex Bass was handed a substantial head start in the race for the number-one spot.
Yet Cobham tonight staged Bazunu’s long-awaited match entrance courtesy of the Blues’ trip to Chelsea under-23s.
Given a starting spot, with Peterborough’s Dan Gyollai on the bench, the Republic of Ireland international was unbeaten during his 63 minutes on pitch.
Danny Cowley’s mixture of fringe players and triallists were eventually undone by Malik Mothersille’s double in the final 12 minutes for a 2-0 loss.
However, Bazunu was among the encouraging displays, particularly for his magnificent 13th-minute contribution.
Chelsea’s number 10 burst down the left and charged into the box with just the 19-year-old to beat and a goal surely a certainty.
However, Pompey’s keeper pulled off a brilliant stop, diving to his left to fingertip the shot around the post for a corner.
It was a stunning save – and hopefully a taster of things to come from Bazunu, who now appears ready for a first-team push.
Michael Jacobs was named skipper against Chelsea, marking his first start since sustained medial knee ligament damage at Wigan in April.
There was a nine-minute cameo from the bench at Luton on Saturday. Now he was challenged with taking the next step in his comeback.
Bazunu aside, Pompey’s team consisted of all those who came off the bench in that 1-1 draw at Kenilworth Road.
That again included triallists Renedi Masampu, Sean Goss and Elijah Dixon-Bonner, along with Ellis Harrison, Callum Johnson, Haji Mnoga and Reeco Hackett-Fairchild.
In addition, there were two new triallists named in Cowley’s starting XI – occupying centre midfield and left centre-half.
However, their names have not been made public, with the head coach keeping his cards close to his chest.
Cowley had planned to include around five members of Pompey’s Academy for the Cobham training ground fixture.
However, with a positive coronavirus case among the youngsters forcing them to self-isolate, he was unable to call on any.
Instead, the Blues boss had to name a number of triallists on his bench to provide options during match proceedings.
In an evenly-matched start, Bazunu’s finger-tipped stop denied Chelsea’s number 10 when he really should have scored.
Pompey were also having their moments and, on 31 minutes, the triallist wearing the number 19 shirt sent a right-footed half volley narrowly over the bar.
Moments later, the lively Jacobs lofted a right-footed shot onto the roof of the net, with the keeper briefly concerned.
On 44 minutes, Chelsea’s number nine thought he had got the better of Mnoga with quick footwork.
But the central defender for the evening produced a brilliantly-timed sliding tackle the hook the ball away from the goal threat and clear the danger.
Cowley made one change at the break, with the midfield triallist coming off, replaced by another unknown face.
The visitors threatened during the early stages of the second half, with a Hackett-Fairchild shot well saved and then Harrison attempted a volley, yet couldn’t get a decent connection and the keeper saved.
At the other end, Chelsea’s number 18 cut in from right and delivered a curling left-foot shot which Bazunu gathered low down.
That was to be the Manchester City loanee’s last contribution, with Gyollai introduced from the bench on 63 minutes.
The Peterborough keeper swiftly impressed, flinging himself low down to his right to tip a deflected shot around the post.
However, Gyollai was beaten on 78 minutes after a smart finish from Malik Mothersille after latching onto an underhit backpass.
Chelsea doubled their advantage with five minutes remaining after Mnoga was caught in possession and the number 10 squared a pass for Mothersille to tap home his second of the game.
Pompey had been undone late on, but many, particularly Bazunu, offered encouraging displays.
Pompey: Bazunu (63 mins Gyollai), Johnson, Mnoga, Triallist, Masampu, Goss, Triallist (46 mins Triallist), Dixon-Bonner, Hackett-Fairchild, Jacobs (63 mins Triallist), Harrison (77 mins Triallist).
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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