Chelsea secured safe passage into the last eight of the inaugural Under-18 Premier League Cup with a 2-1 win over Newcastle United at Cobham on Saturday morning.
A pair of goals from Charlie Brown, struck either side of half time, ensured the Blues finished top of their group after drawing at Blackburn in September and winning at Brighton a month ago. They controlled the match from start to finish, and should have scored far more than they did, but Thomas Cole’s late strike for the visitors ultimately proved to be meaningless.
Having beaten an extremely young West Ham team 7-0 a week ago, there were few changes to the starting eleven from manager Jody Morris. Conor Gallagher and Billy Gilmour came into the midfield in place of Jon Russell and Faustino Anjorin, whilst Brown replaced Daishawn Redan in attack after netting a hat-trick from the bench against the Hammers.
Newcastle have endured a tough season to date, and are yet to record a league win, but a victory at Blackburn last time out in the cup provided them with a platform to build on, and with something to play for in this fixture. Rarely beaten heavily, they started tenaciously and made Chelsea work harder than they would have liked for any rewards.
Chances were initially at a premium, though the longer the first half wore on, the more Chelsea found their feet. It might have been a different story had Tariq Uwakwe taken a good early opening, rather than dragging it wide of the far post, but instead Newcastle put ten men behind the ball and challenged the hosts to break them down.
It was a challenge they struggled with at times, only occasionally going close to breaking the deadlock, most notably when Tariq Lamptey’s cross almost caught out goalkeeper Daniel Langley. Opting to eventually go more direct, Jonathan Panzo’s passing began to unlock doors, with Brown close from an acrobatic volley to meet Lamptey’s delivery.
Brown did finally make it 1-0 shortly before half time, as he showed a poacher’s instinct to control Gilmour’s intended shot and turn it into a pass, chesting it down and firing past Langley on the turn for his eleventh goal of the season in all competitions.
Newcastle, for their lack of attacking output, could still have gone in on level terms, but the lively Kurtis Russell saw his shot well saved by Karlo Žiger after some less than stellar defending.
It was as good as it got for Dave Watson’s boys though as the second half carried on in the same vein. Langley got fingertips on a piledriver from Uwakwe to divert it onto the post, and then made a brave double save to frustrate Brown and Gallagher further still.
Redan and George McEachran came off the bench to try to put clear daylight between the two teams, and the latter quickly had a chance to do just that, but he put his shot too close to that man Langley again. Redan, however, did make the decisive difference, as his clever pass inside Adam Wilson found Tariq Lamptey, who squared for Brown to double his tally and finish the game as a contest.
Or so they thought. Switching off for a moment, Chelsea allowed Newcastle to grab a late foothold as Cole struck a sweet volley past Žiger to set up a tense finish, and they went for it too. The Blues had to defend manfully as they struggled to wrestle back control, whilst Brown twice headed over on the break, but they did just about enough to see out the win to take their place in the knockout rounds with the five other group winners and two best second-placed teams in the new year.
Chelsea: Žiger, Lamptey, Lavinier, Guehi, Panzo (Wakely), Mola (Redan), Uwakwe, Gallagher (c), Brown, Gilmour (McEachran), Castillo
Subs not Used: Tié, Masampu
Goals: Brown (2)
Newcastle United: Langley, Allen (Young), Walters (c) (Wilson), Joyce, McEntee, Gamblin, Robson (Cass), Goodridge, Sorensen, Cole, Russell
Subs not used: Brown, Barrett