Zouma returns for Chelsea after long lay-off

ZoumaKurt Zouma made his long-awaited Chelsea return on Monday night, playing 45 minutes for the club’s Under 23 side – his first action in almost nine months.

The 21-year-old suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury in February and missed Euro 2016 as well as the start of the new Premier League season.

Zouma was handed a planned 45-minute cameo against Derby County – and got a first taste of what life could be like in an Antonio Conte back three with Chelsea’s youngsters mirroring the first team’s new 3-4-3 formation.

But the outing at Aldershot’s Recreation Ground was not all straightforward, with the France international giving away a penalty after 35 minutes.

Zouma scythed down Premier League 2 top scorer Charles Vernam, conceding the spotkick with a mistimed sliding tackle that took both man and ball.

Vernam stepped up and while his effort from 12 yards was saved by goalkeeper Bradley Collins, Callum Guy followed up to put Derby ahead.

Chelsea went on to turn around the deficit with a penalty of their own from Jay Dasilva and Ike Ugbo’s strike before Farrend Rawson equalised. Dasilva was later sent off.

Zouma featured on the right side of a back three alongside Trevoh Chalobah – brother of Nathaniel Chalobah who came on as a substitute against Manchester United on Sunday – and Fikayo Tomori.

His half-time withdrawal was agreed with Conte’s guidance as a way of easing the powerful young defender back into the first-team picture after a long spell out.

Zouma suffered a horror injury that left him screaming in agony during a 1-1 Premier League draw with United in February and had targeted a comeback before the end of the calendar year.

Following his comeback at Aldershot he tweeted: “Thanks for all the messages and support – good to be back on the pitch tonight.”

- DailyMail


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