Chelsea’s quest for a fifth successive FA Youth Cup is off and running after they beat Scunthorpe United 4-0 in the Third Round at Aldershot’s EBB Stadium on Friday night.
The Blues were dominant from start to finish, but all too often found their finishing letting them down, only giving the scoreline the emphasis it deserved late in the day. Callum Hudson-Odoi led the way with another virtuoso display, whilst George McEachran and Faustino Anjorin finally helped to blow down the door in the final ten minutes of play.
Competition for places in Jody Morris’ first Youth Cup team of the season was rife; so much so that Dujon Sterling was afforded a rest altogether at the beginning of a campaign where he could join a select group of players to have won it three times. Hudson-Odoi, Jamie Cumming, Ethan Ampadu, Martell Taylor-Crossdale, and Reece James – captain of this year’s class – all dropped down from Development Squad roles, whilst Marc Guehi, Juan Castillo, Conor Gallagher, Tariq Uwakwe, Billy Gilmour and McEachran were given the nod from Morris’ usual Saturday morning league crop.
Perhaps wary of going the same way as Manchester City, the three-time losing finalists against Chelsea who were eliminated at the hands of Plymouth Argyle twenty-four hours earlier, the hosts were quick to assert their superiority, and it was Hudson-Odoi in particular who looked up for the fight. He twice went close to making something happen before opening the scoring in the ninth minute, his volley taking a wicked deflection off the back of George Hornshaw, before looping up and into the corner of the net with goalkeeper Adam Kelsey left rooted to his spot.
Yet, having started in a manner that threatened a cricket score, they then fell rather flat. Scunthorpe worked them hard, forcing mistakes in possession, and generally making themselves hard to beat, but Chelsea’s passing was sloppy, their decision-making wasn’t as sharp as it could have been, and they were some way short of their best. The visitors had little by way of attacking opportunity – Ampadu’s robust tackle closed the door on Lewis Collins in their lone opening – but they kept themselves in with a shout at the very least.
James planted a free header straight at Kelsey when he should have done better, whilst Taylor-Crossdale saw a pair of powerfully-struck shots come to nothing, either side of a Hudson-Odoi fizzer that swerved wide of the far post. McEachran, quiet for long spells, emerged into the contest late in the first half, but was twice wiped out by Scunthorpe full-backs, earning one of them a yellow card for their troubles.
The chances quickly began to pile up when the second half got underway, but the goals still weren’t coming. Guehi couldn’t turn home from two yards out after good play by Gallagher, Hudson-Odoi twice chanced his arm from wide on the left to no avail, and a wicked cross from James almost saw Pugh turn into his own net before Bartholomew hacked clear from under his own crossbar.
Gilmour then contrived to miss from six yards out, with the goal at his mercy, and Morris had seen enough chances come and go. Anjorin and Charlie Brown were introduced from the bench and, were it not for the linesman’s offside flag, it would have paid immediate dividends. Instead, the former Ipswich forward was deemed to have moved too early in following up another Hudson-Odoi strike, and 1-0 it remained.
It was all Scunthorpe could do to hang on in there at this stage, and with each passing chance, they were still in with a glimmer of hope. James took a break from providing to have two shots of his own, but Kelsey threw himself at the better of them, but he was then back at his creative best with a cross that Hudson-Odoi side-footed wide from close range.
He made no such mistake two minutes later, gleefully sweeping high into the top corner after Gilmour and McEachran had combined well in the build-up, and that put any doubts about the outcome firmly into the background. With hope now extinguished, Scunthorpe were unable to muster the will to defend as manfully as they had for long stretches, and the game soon began to run away from them.
McEachran made it 3-0 with nine minutes left on the clock, curling a sweet one low into the bottom corner after a smart exchange with Hudson-Odoi, and Anjorin gave the scoreline a look it more accurately deserved with a simple finish after pouncing on a poor back pass from substitute Joe Busby. Brown and Gilmour could have made further inroads in stoppage time, but, despite deserving a more handsome win, Chelsea settled for four, and will now look forward to hosting West Bromwich Albion in Round Four.
Chelsea: Cumming, James ©, Guehi, Ampadu, Castillo, Gallagher, Uwakwe (Brown 65), Gilmour, Taylor-Crossdale (Anjorin 65), McEachran (Redan 85), Hudson-Odoi
Subs not Used: Panzo, Bulka
Goals: Hudson-Odoi ’9, ’78, McEachran ’81, Anjorin ‘87
Scunthorpe United: Kelsey, Pugh, Bartholomew, Hornshaw, Lilley, Morfoot, Allasan (Okafor 77), Porter ©(Busby 50), Collins, Kalu (Ablett 65), Train
Subs not Used: Harrison, Riches