Chelsea got the defence of their Under-18 Premier League title off to a winning start on Saturday morning as they defeated Aston Villa 2-0 at Bodymoor Heath.
Villa were the only team that the Blues failed to beat last season, holding them to a pair of draws, but early second half goals from Charlie Brown and George McEachran secured three opening day points for Jody Morris’ boys.
With a quartet of summer arrivals unable to feature whilst awaiting international clearance, Chelsea didn’t have the biggest squad available to them, but they were able to start with seven players that played big roles in last season’s memorable treble. Marcin Bułka lined up in goal behind a back four where Marc Guehi was joined by first-year scholars Marcel Lavinier, Jack Wakely and Jonathan Panzo, whilst captain Conor Gallagher protected them at the vase of a midfield diamond.
Tariq Uwakwe and schoolboy Faustino Anjorin slotted in on the sides of the diamond, with McEachran at the top behind Brown and Martell Taylor-Crossdale in attack. The duo look set for another prolific campaign after a productive summer and both should have found the net in the early stages, missing from good positions close to Kieran Boucher’s goal.
It would become a growing theme throughout the first half as, despite enjoying plenty of possession, the Blues rarely went anywhere with it. Anjorin was well off target with a snap shot from the edge of the area and, although Uwakwe worked Boucher from a dead ball, it wasn’t a particularly taxing save for the Villa goalkeeper.
The hosts were up for the fight and were certainly combative in the opening 45 minutes, yet only threatened through Scottish forward Aaron Pressley, who powered a firm header just wide of Bułka’s far post.
Sitting his young charges down on the pitch at the break, Morris’ apparent instructions to be more decisive in goal after the restart quickly paid dividends. Chelsea increased their shooting frequency and soon made the breakthrough when Anjorin’s cross was nodded home expertly at the near post by Brown.
That’s advantage was then doubled when McEachran fired an arrow of a strike into the bottom corner from 25 yards out, with the ball scarcely leaving the floor by more than a foot, and it gave the visitors a strong platform to build upon and to secure victory.
Gallagher, Uwakwe and Panzo each went close to adding to the scoreline, whilst substitute Tariq Lamptey caught the eye with his industry and flair down the right. Bułka remained a spectator at the other end, with Taylor-Crossdale and Brown rounding things off as they began, trying unsuccessfully to find the back of the net when well-placed.
The Under-18s welcome Reading to Cobham for their home opener next Saturday before travelling to Norwich on the Bank Holiday weekend to round off the first month of the new season.
Chelsea: Bułka, Lavinier (Lamptey), Guehi, Wakely, Panzo, Gallagher (c), Uwakwe (Russell), Anjorin (Masampu), C.Brown, McEachran, Taylor-Crossdale.
Subs not Used: Askew, Trialist
Goals: Brown, McEachran