Chelsea’s Under-18s began a busy day of club action in emphatic style after recording a remarkable 13-0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion at Cobham.
Four goals from substitute Charlie Brown and hat-tricks from Martell Taylor-Crossdale, Luke McCormick led the way, with Conor Gallagher, Harvey St Clair and Cole Dasilva also getting in on one of the more unbelievable scorelines of this, or any, season.
Following the FA Youth Cup victory at Leicester in midweek – a result that secured a Semi Final berth for a record-equalling eighth year in succession – Chelsea boss Jody Morris made wholesale changes to his starting eleven for the penultimate league fixture before the competition splits into the merit stage of competition. Having already secured top spot in the Southern section, Marcin Bułka was handed just a third start of the campaign in goal, behind a back three of Marc Guehi, Richard Nartey and captain Josh Grant.
Juan Castillo and Dasilva manned the wing-back positions, Gallagher and McCormick held court in the centre of midfield, leaving St Clair and Tariq Uwakwe to join Taylor-Crossdale in attack. Despite the difference in personnel, it was a rampant first half from a hard-working and formidable Chelsea side who were in no mood to be charitable to their visitors from the south coast.
After both teams had traded threatening early crosses – Archie Davies’ skimming the crossbar for Brighton – the hosts began to show their quality. Uwakwe might have done better with a shot straight at McGill off his weaker right foot, but he needn’t have worried as Gallagher opened the scoring moments later, linking tidily with St Clair and Taylor-Crossdale before finishing off a very smart passing move for 1-0.
McGill then produced a pair of outstanding one-handed stops to keep Uwakwe and Castillo from adding to the lead, but he could do little to deny Taylor-Crossdale from making it 2-0 after he was left all alone in the six yard box to turn home St Clair’s pull back from the right. It was a league-leading 17th goal of the season for the Chelsea number nine, and he would soon make it 18 as he raced onto St Clair’s through ball before tucking home confidently to make it 3-0 inside half an hour.
Had he really insisted, he could have then completed a first half hat-trick when Chelsea were awarded a penalty ten minutes from half time. McCormick saw his shot blocked only to be felled when trying to collect the follow-up, and he himself took responsibility from twelve yards, sending McGill the wrong way to score for the second week running.
McGill intervened just long enough to keep Taylor-Crossdale at bay again but it was five before the break and St Clair, having set up three already, got in on the act himself, picking up loose possession outside the Brighton penalty area and drilling low and hard into the bottom corner. Were it not for the post, he would’ve had a second as well, but luck favoured the Seagulls for a change at the end of an incredibly one-sided 45 minutes.
Little changed when they resumed fifteen minutes later, Dasilva making it six soon after the restart as his deflected smash brought an end to a bout of pinball in the Brighton area, McGill once again helpless to do anything about it. Uwakwe blazed over and Castillo tried his luck without success, but number seven arrived on 54 minutes when St Clair crossed from the right and Taylor-Crossdale swept home gleefully to complete his hat-trick at last.
And there was still more than half an hour to play. St Clair was twice denied by blocks inside the six yard box, McCormick sliced just wide after winning the ball back up high, cross after cross somehow came to nothing, and substitute Owen Moore made a good block on St Clair.
Brown and Callum Hudson-Odoi were given valuable minutes from the bench but it was another substitute in Jonathan Panzo who had a big hand in goal number eight, driving through from centre-back before being bundled over from behind inside the penalty area. McCormick did the rest from the spot once again, and before anyone could catch their breath Brown had made it 9-0, using his chest to redirect Dasilva’s devilish cross just inside the far post.
Brown, only recently back from a month-long injury absence, showed why he has one of the best goals-to-minutes ratios in the entire league by doubling his tally to make it 10-0 with a quarter of an hour left. Brighton turned over possession in defence once again, allowing the former Ipswich schoolboy to double his own personal tally for the morning.
He would’ve fancied himself for a hat-trick as well but McCormick, not usually renowned as a goalscorer, beat him to it when he poked home a loose ball, but Brown only had to wait two more minutes before doing the same for before grabbing a fourth for 13-0, which is where Chelsea declared for the day, their biggest win at this level since 1959.
Chelsea: Bułka, C.Dasilva, Guehi, Nartey, Grant (c) (Panzo 45), McCormick, St Clair, Gallagher, Taylor-Crossdale (Brown 60), Uwakwe (Hudson-Odoi 64), Castillo
Subs not Used: James, McEachran
Goals: Gallagher ’14, Taylor-Crossdale ’17, ’27, ‘54, McCormick ’36 (pen), ’69 (pen), ‘80, St Clair ’39, C.Dasilva ’47, Brown ’71, ’76, ’83, 88
Brighton: McGill, Morrison (Moore 57), O’Sullivan, Fornah, Barker, Rolph, Davies (Cochrane 57), Ferguson (Shihab 57), Ljubicic, Hutchinson, Garcia
Subs not Used: Bentley, Ibeh