Chelsea youngster Thierno Ballo impressed as the club’s under-23s beat Portsmouth 2-0 at Cobham on Tuesday evening.
Although both goals were scored by frontman Malik Mothersille – who also had a fine display – the Austria Under-21 International, wearing the number 10, starred as the young Blues proved too much for the League One side.
After joining in a pre-contractual deal from German side Viktoria Koln in 2018, Ballo had a solid first season in England after making 23 league appearances and featuring in the FA Youth Cup and UEFA Youth League, scoring ten goals.
And he showed that promise in Tuesday evening’s warm-up win over Pompey, too, after putting in a player of the match performance at the club’s training centre.
In what was a cagey first-half, Ballo’s off the ball movement created ample amount of space for the Blues to work into. That much was made clear when the Austrian broke in on goal after a through ball from the midfield.
Although he didn’t find a finish on that occasion thanks to a smart stop from Portsmouth’s new goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, it indicated that he’d be one to make a difference later.
Ballo was confident on the ball, too, as he ran Pompey’s defence ragged with his direct running and assured link-up play.
He was nearly rewarded for that effort when he struck a powerful low-driven shot towards Portsmouth’s goal late on in the second-half, but Portsmouth’s replacement goalkeeper – who came on for Bazunu around the 70-minute mark – tipped his effort away for a corner.
However, as fantastic as he was offensively, his defensive work made the overall performance that little bit sweeter. At one point in the first half, he was seen behind Chelsea’s left-back as he tracked back to pressure an attempted cross from one of Pompey’s trialists – something first-team boss Thomas Tuchel would love seeing from his senior pros, let alone those youngsters.
Ballo got his just reward for his efforts three minutes from time when he robbed Haji Mnoga of possession on the edge of Portsmouth’s area, and after going one-on-one with the ‘keeper, the Austrian coolly tapped the ball across goal to a thankful Mothersille, who tapped home his second of the game.
It’s easy to get carried away by a one-off performance, but if Tuesday’s encounter is anything to go by, but Ballo may have sent something of a message to Tuchel that Chelsea have another shrewd talent on their hands who could go onto have a successful career.
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