Writes: Edward Perry
The IKO EAFL season began with three enthralling battles between Chelsea, Portsmouth and Everton on a cold January afternoon at Reaseheath College.
Chelsea 0-3 Portsmouth
Chelsea and Portsmouth had the chance to make the first impression of the 2024 season.
Chelsea were defensively disciplined against a goal-hungry Pompey side, showcasing the hard work they’ve clearly been putting in pre-season.
It was an impressive first 25 minutes from Kieran Lambourne, with the England goalkeeper making a string of saves to keep his Chelsea side level going into the half-time break.
The match really came to life in the second half, though. Portsmouth’s Jamie Tregaskiss turned on the style, embarking on one of his trademark mazy runs, setting up TJ Yates to slot home for the opening goal of The IKO EAFL season.
It was a goal that Chelsea would not recover from.
A minute later, Tregaskiss created an exact replica of Pompey’s first goal. His driving run allowed him to set up Yates again, who calmly finished his second of the game.
Portsmouth looked to profit from their growing momentum and Tony Mills’ delightful through ball sliced through the defence to assist Matt Dean, putting the game beyond Chelsea’s grasp.
Everton 2-2 Portsmouth
The IKO EAFL heavyweights Everton and Portsmouth then continued their hotly contested rivalry.
Even though it was the opening weekend of the season, both sides know they will have to get the better of their opponents several times over the course of 2024 to win silverware.
Sean Jackson’s debut was a long time coming, but he celebrated his involvement by opening the deadlock. He fired in from close range and the joy on his team-mates faces were clear for all to see.
Portsmouth started to find their rhythm as the first half grew on, before being halted by the half-time whistle.
A tense second half gave way for an exciting final ten minutes. A searching ball across the Everton box was met by Che Gray, whose looping header drifted over Phil Grace in the Everton goal to bring Portsmouth level.
Pompey were again quick to capitalise, with a second coming soon after. Only two minutes passed before Matt Dean’s wonder-strike turned the game around.
It stayed this way until the closing moments of the clash, with late penalty drama setting up an epic conclusion.
Rhyce Ramsden stepped up for Everton and fired past Atkinson to equalise late on in a clash that saw very little to split the two sides.
Chelsea 2-5 Everton
As the temperature dropped and the flood lights were lit, Everton and Chelsea played out the final game of the gameweek one fixtures.
Back-to-back games didn’t hault Everton’s momentum as they took the lead inside the opening minute, with Ramsden slipping through Chelsea’s defence to put his side ahead.
But this was to be no easy afternoon for Everton as Chelsea grew into the game. They disrupted the Toffees patterns of play and imposed themselves on the fixture. By the time the ball fell to Mike Ishiguzo in the Everton box, Chelsea were in the groove and he hit the back of the net.
Yet again a team in blue scored twice in quick succession. This time, against the run of play, the Londoners took the lead, with a Smith finish flipping the game on its head against last year’s champions.
The Amputoffees entered the second half fired up, taking them only two minutes to equalise with a beautiful volley nestling into the bottom left corner of Lambourne’s goal. A finish that David Tweed has scored many times before.
Having put up a fight, Chelsea were then unfortunate to find themselves behind. A long-range Burbridge strike fortuitously deflected off Harry Ash and Everton were back in control of the tie.
Ramsden then showed his ability with an exquisite scoop over the Chelsea defense, allowing Tweed to volley home and put further daylight between the two sides.
Everton knew they had to score once more to equal Portsmouth’s goal difference, but they left it late. Ramsden ended the game as he started it, with a cool finish, concluding the Merseyside clubs second-half turnaround.
The scores on the doors meant that Portsmouth and Everton sat join top of the IKO League table on four points, while Chelsea sat bottom with no points to show - perhaps a false representation after two strong performances from the London outfit.
Follow all The IKO EAFL action across the EAFA Facebook and YouTube channels on the 24th February for gameweek two.