Chelsea usually save their best for the FA Youth Cup, having won the competition in each of the last four years. On Wednesday evening at Aldershot in the Fourth Round of this season’s competition, they put West Brom to the sword to the tune of a 7-0 mauling that sets up a trip to Tottenham Hotspur in the last sixteen.
Marc Guehi, Daishawn Redan (twice), Tino Anjorin and Martell Taylor-Crossdale all found the scoresheet but it was Callum Hudson-Odoi who ran the show once again. In his best efforts to take the next step, he scored twice – one of them a typically sensational solo effort – and laid on another three to cap a superb evening’s work.
Antonio Conte had taken both Ethan Ampadu and Dujon Sterling away from the group for FA Cup involvement at first team level, and captain Reece James was out with a recent non-footballing injury, but Jody Morris was still able to call upon a formidable team that included five Under-17 World Cup winners. Two of those combined for the opening goal with just nine minutes on the clock as Hudson-Odoi’s deep corner found Guehi at the far post, and his header had enough on it to beat the best efforts of Nick Clayton-Phillips on the line.
They could have been out of sight inside the first twenty minutes but, just five days removed from a frustrating 2-2 draw against Aston Villa despite having 33 shots at goal, they found their finishing to be a let-down yet again. A silky passage of play saw Anjorin accidentally get in the way of Juan Castillo’s best efforts, before Guehi headed straight at Adam Przybek from a Tariq Uwakwe dead ball.
Then it was Hudson-Odoi’s turn to take centre stage. Having already tried his luck with an audacious 35-yard attempt to catch Przybek out of position, he then roared away from defender Aram Soleman before serving notice with a scorching curler from the edge of the area that demanded an equally good save.
He would soon enjoy better luck, but not before West Brom threatened to crash the party. Rekeem Harper, who spent the first half of the season on loan at Blackburn in League One, went past three Chelsea players before cracking a shot off the angle of post and crossbar, and that was followed by some slick passes to find Clayton-Phillips, who couldn’t beat Jamie Cumming from a right angle.
Hudson-Odoi had seen enough, and duly decided to end the game as a contest. His dazzling 45-yard run down the left just after the half-hour mark left defenders trailing in his wake, and this time he had the finish to match, lashing back across goal and into the bottom corner to make it 2-0 in sensational style. Two minutes later, he turned provider, helping Redan with a perfectly-weighted pass in the middle of a one-two that the Dutchman finished off very tidily indeed to make it three.
It hadn’t really been that sort of game; Callum Morton had a decent chance to reduce the arrears shortly before the break, although Przybek also had to be alert to make a good reaction save from Uwakwe, yet this time Chelsea had found their touch in front of goal. They were in no mood to let up either, and began to really pull away in the ten minutes immediately following the start of the second half.
Hudson-Odoi had gone within inches of adding another blockbuster to his burgeoning collection of golazos, but it was Redan who beat him to a brace on the night when he showed a typical poacher’s instinct to turn home Tariq Lamptey’s cross at the near post to make it 4-0. That soon became five when Hudson-Odoi played a short corner with Uwakwe and was subsequently allowed the freedom to waltz into the penalty area unchallenged. Never one to turn down a chance to shoot, he gleefully accepted the invitation and curled past Przybek from a narrow angle.
For those keeping count, that was two goals and two assists for the man yet to be unleashed by Antonio Conte, and a third helper quickly followed. An inswinging free kick was flicked on its way to Anjorin, and the schoolboy headed home from six yards out to make it 6-0 on the hour. It was his second goal in as many rounds, having also found the back of the net against Scunthorpe in December.
From there, it could have been as many as they wanted. West Brom could only resort to cynical fouls to keep the score down, with Aram Soleman and Dan Meredith each booked for crude hacks on the marauding Hudson-Odoi, whilst Kevin Healy was also cautioned for pulling Redan back after being comprehensively beaten for pace.
Castillo’s touch let him down when through on goal with Redan and Lamptey for support, and another Hudson-Odoi free kick almost found its way in at the far post, but Przybek was still alert enough to help it wide for a corner. Castillo himself worked the goalkeeper again from that set piece with a strike from the edge of the area that didn’t quite have the desired direction on it.
Taylor-Crossdale, who came off the bench late on, grabbed himself a goal to make it 7-0 in the second minute of stoppage time, volleying home from Castillo’s cross to leave nobody in any doubt over how badly this group wants to keep the Youth Cup run going. This was also their 50th consecutive unbeaten match at home, a run stretching back to April 2015, with 45 of those matches won, and 175 goals along the way. A trip to Tottenham in Round Five, however, will be a stern test of this group’s credentials but, on this form, they’ll be up for the challenge.
Chelsea: Cumming, Lamptey, Guehi, Panzo, Castillo, Gallagher (c), Uwakwe (Gilmour), McEachran, Redan (Taylor-Crossdale), Anjorin (Lavinier), Hudson-Odoi
Subs not Used: Žiger, Brown
Goals: Guehi 9, Hudson-Odoi 33, 55, Redan 35, 50, Anjorin 59, Taylor-Crossdale 90
West Bromwich Albion: Przybek, Soleman, Harmon, Wilding, Ferguson (c), Healy, Tulloch (Meredith), Harper, Morton, Azaz (Brown), Clayton-Phillips (Rogers)
Subs not Used: Griffiths, Morrison
Booked: Soleman, Healy, Meredith