It wasn’t nearly as impressive as their 7-0 midweek drubbing of West Brom in the FA Youth Cup, but Chelsea’s Under-18s got back to winning ways in the league with a 2-0 win over Norwich City on a soggy Saturday afternoon at Cobham.
After being held to a 2-2 draw by Aston Villa on their own patch last weekend, and surrendering their 100% gone record for the campaign with it, there was an appetite for revenge in a much-changed Blues team that saw just Tariq Lamptey, Marc Guehi, Jonathan Panzo and Tino Anjorin retain their places in the starting eleven from Wednesday night. The performance, however, was a let down, as Norwich made them work extremely hard for their rewards, and although a goal in each half from Anjorin and then Marcel Lavinier secured all three points, it was hardly a classic day at the office.
Norwich came into the match on a run of five games unbeaten in all competitions, including their own Youth Cup triumph over a good Derby County side, and made sure Chelsea weren’t to have it all their own way. Taking advantage of a general uncertainty in possession owing to the wet conditions, they harassed and harangued the hosts early and often, and Jonathan Russell was lucky not to he penalised for fouling Finlay Barnes when he was slightly late in responding to a pass that would have otherwise let the Canaries’ midfielder in on goal.
Martell Taylor-Crossdale headed wide from a good cross by Lamptey, who had moved from his usual full-back berth into a more advanced role, but Chelsea were struggling to assert themselves. It took a large helping of luck for them to break the deadlock after half an hour, when referee Jamie Wells waved away Norwich protests for a foul in midfield, and allowed Anjorin to stride forwards before picking his spot in the bottom corner for his third goal in as many matches.
Russell was guilty of a poor miss right before half time, when he headed straight at Ryan Dickerson from a few yards out, and there were still issues for Jody Morris to deal with. Lamptey left with a knock, to be replaced by Juan Castillo, and even a better start to the second half failed to settle the contest down. Clinton Mola twice shot top close to Dickerson, and Taylor-Crossdale was close to a pair of crosses from the right without connecting, but back came Norwich. Karlo Žiger was called upon to deny Anthony Spyrou and Adam Idah with back to back stops, and the Croatian goalkeeper showed near-flawless handling throughout in what were uncomfortable conditions.
The Canaries, in truth, bossed the second period, and looked the more likely to score. Lavinier and Jack Wakely worked in tandem to close the door on Barnes and, although the arrival of George McEachran gave Chelsea a bit more control along with the excellent Billy Gilmour, they continued to ride their luck right to the very end. Having thrown caution to the wind in search of an equaliser, Norwich were caught out five minutes from time when Gilmour found the overlapping Lavinier on acres of space on the right, and he duly tucked home his second goal of the month to keep the Blues well clear at the top of the table, whilst extending their unbeaten home run to 51 matches.
Chelsea: Žiger, Lavinier, Guehi (c), Wakely, Panzo, Mola, Lamptey (Castillo 45), Russell (McEachran 65), Taylor-Crossdale, Gilmour, Anjorin (Lewis 81)
Subs not Used: Tié, Brown
Goals: Anjorin 29, Lavinier 85
Norwich City: Dickerson, Thomas (Parsons 45), Kamal, Ekumah, Odusina, Payne (c), Aarons, Barnes, Spyrou, Idah, Thompson-Brissett (Mehmeti 74)
Subs not Used: Blair, Keller, Tanimowo