Oxford United 2 (Agyei 17, Osei 45+2), Chelsea Under 21s 1 (Russell 53)
OXFORD United survived a scare to squeeze past Chelsea Under 21s in their EFL Trophy opener.
Dan Agyei showed predatory instincts to bundle home in the 17th minute after visiting keeper Lucas Bergstrom fumbled.
The lead was doubled in first-half stoppage time when Mark Sykes slipped in Derick Osei and the Frenchman finished confidently for his first U’s goal.
Half-time substitute Jon Russell halved the deficit within eight minutes of coming on and while the visitors looked dangerous, they could not find an equaliser.
Karl Robinson made nine changes to the side that began Saturday’s Carabao Cup tie against AFC Wimbledon, with Sykes and Sam Long keeping their places.
Sean Clare made his competitive debut at right back, while Jack Stevens deputised for Simon Eastwood in goal and there was a first start for Osei.
Meanwhile, Nico Jones partnered John Mousinho at centre back, with Long moving across to the left.
Both teams looked to get the ball down and play from kick-off, but Agyei’s opener was the first chance of note for either side.
United built from the back and Liam Kelly spread a pass out wide to Clare, who continued his run after moving it forward to Mark Sykes.
The right back received the ball back and slid in a cross that Bergstrom could only fumble, with Agyei on hand to finish.
It came during a good spell for the hosts, but Chelsea responded well and continued to move the ball patiently.
Luke McCormick fired over from outside the area and Thierno Ballo’s shot on the turn missed the target, but Stevens was not called into action until the 39th minute.
Juan Castillo – who scored during a 3-0 win for Chelsea over the U’s in this competition in January 2018 – was put through down the inside left channel, but the goalkeeper came out smartly to parry.
It shook United into action and Osei had a header cleared off the line by Oxford-born George McEachran two minutes before the break.
The Frenchman did not let it affect him and made no mistake in stoppage time, beating Bergstrom to his right hand side after being put through by Sykes.
Russell, on for Lewis Bate, almost scored within seconds of the restart, but Stevens again got down well to push his shot around the post.
The Englishman did not have long to wait for another opportunity, but United will have been disappointed with the manner of the goal.
A sloppy throw from Clare gave possession to Valentino Livramento on the halfway line and the forward advanced before slipping in Russell, who sent a tidy finish inside the far post.
Robinson brought on Cameron Brannagan and Marcus McGuane for Liam Kelly and Mark Sykes just before the hour, with United’s No 8 going into the holding role.
The game became more open as the visitors hunted for an equaliser and United looked to restore their two-goal cushion, but both teams struggled to create clear chances.
Malachi Napa replaced Rob Hall with 15 minutes left, but Chelsea’s youngsters looked just as likely to score.
It meant the U’s had to play the final few minutes with ten men when Clare picked up a minor injury and substitute Myles Peart-Harris almost grabbed a late equaliser.
But the youngster headed wide from six yards out and United held on.
Oxford United (4-3-3): Stevens, Clare, Mousinho, Jones, Long, Kelly (McGuane 57), Sykes (Brannagan 57), Forde, Hall (Napa 74), Agyei, Osei.
Unused subs: Eastwood, Moore, Asonganyi.
Chelsea Under 21s ( ): Bergstrom, Lawrence, Maatsen, Simeu, Colwill, McEachran, Bate (Russell 46), Castillo, McCormick (Peart-Harris 78), Ballo (Nunn 73), Livramento.
Unused subs: Wadey, Ekwah, Lewis, Simons.
Referee: Trevor Kettle (Rutland)