Ruth: Believing in the philosophy is how we beat Chelsea

Under-21s came from behind to stun Chelsea in Premier League 2 on Friday night.

By Nick Szczepanik • 21 August 2023

By Simon Roe
Shannon Ruth's team came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 against Chelsea in Premier League 2.

Albion under-21s head coach Shannon Ruth praised the resilience of his players following the 3-2 victory away to Chelsea on Friday evening: not only for coming back to win after being two goals down, but also for bouncing back from the 4-2 home defeat by Leeds United in the season opener seven days earlier.

“My first demand on the players was to try use this match to react to the disappointment of last week, which is what they did,” he said. “And we felt we were unlucky to be behind against Chelsea. One of their goals should have been a free kick to us and the second had a fair chunk of misfortune about it.  

“We believed that, because we were creating chances and we had control of the game with possession, as long as we didn’t allow what happened to affect us, and made sure that we continued to be as patient as possible, we would continue to get chances.

“If we could get a goal, we could shift the momentum back in our favour and we could build from there. We did that and it is a credit to our players.”

By Simon Roe
Luca Barrington netted either side of half-time.

It was a performance that showed the importance of mental strength as much as tactical awareness and physical power and skill. 

“Definitely,” Ruth said. “We are aware that opponents can have chances, just through the level of risk in the way that we play out from the back, and the courage that the players show. What they are learning and getting better at is to reset, go again, believe in the philosophy, and believe in what we are trying to do. We think that is the way to win football matches.”

Like the Leeds match, this was fast and, at times, furious. “I thought it was a really high tempo game,” Ruth said. “Young footballers now are elite athletes and the game is played at pace and in Premier League 2 it is how they match their tactical awareness with their physical ability. 

“The game had a little of everything; a bit of direct play, one-v-ones, players showing the ability to use their bodies - the physical element was there tonight also.”

And how. Andrew Moran was in the wars for the second match in a row, staying down for a spell after blocking a fierce Chelsea shot late on, but getting back up to carry the game to the opposition once more. 

By Simon Roe
Mark O'Mahony scored Albion's third against the Blues to complete the comeback.

“He is a marvellous footballer, how he thinks about the game, the way he takes and deals with the ball, he is a nightmare for the opposition,” the head coach added.

“Last week he needed three stitches in his leg so he is a resilient boy. The type of player he is, the way he takes the ball, the only way opponents can get the ball from him is to foul him. But he is getting used to that.”

Mark O’Mahony netted the winner after Luca Barrington had scored either side of the interval - and volleyed over an empty net when his hat-trick beckoned.

“Luca is an important player for us, in his ability to take dead balls and his assists,” Ruth said. “But it was good for him to get on the scoresheet and he was unlucky to miss out on his hat-trick. He had more time than he thought and it was perhaps an easier chance that the two he scored. But we were really pleased with his contribution this evening.”