Chelsea extended their lead at the top of the Under-18 Premier League to nine points with a 2-0 win over Leicester City at Cobham on a rainy Tuesday lunchtime.
With second-placed Arsenal not in action until the weekend after next, the Blues knew that wins against the Foxes and Brighton on Friday would heap the pressure on the chasing Gunners, and second-half goals from Martell Taylor-Crossdale and Charlie Brown ensured they were well on their way.
Not that they had it all their own way. Leicester are a notoriously hard team to break down, and they proved to be a frustrating opponent from the very beginning, with chances to win the game themselves too.
Kairo Edwards-John was guilty of missing the first and clearest of them all, suddenly finding himself clear on goal with fewer than five minutes played, but he bent his finish wide of Nicolas Tié’s far post to let the Blues off the hook.
You can rarely afford to give Chelsea that sort of let-off, and even though captain Conor Gallagher was forced onto an early exit through injury, they began to chip away at the Leicester defence. Tariq Uwakwe worked goalkeeper Jakub Stolarczyk into a pair of decent saves before Ed Elewa-Ikpakwu prevented Brown from stealing a march onto a long ball over the top, clearing for a corner headed wide by Jack Wakely.
Wakely planted another header wide at the start of the second half and, as the rain began to fall more steadily, a mistake was just as likely to help break the deadlock as a piece of invention. Leicester almost broke through when Sim Thandi bruised his way into the penalty area, but Tié threw out a strong left hand to keep him out, and it would prove to be an important intervention in the course of play.
Chelsea went straight down the other end and, for the fourth time this season, Tariq Lamptey won a penalty. His instincts and raw pace often lure defenders into making inadvisable tackles and, whilst Elewa-Ikpakwu will argue that his ugly lunge was outside the box rather than inside it, he gave referee Elliott Kaye reason enough to point to the spot, and Taylor-Crossdale did the rest.
The goal required Leicester to be a bit more expansive in their approach, although that in turn left more space for the hosts to exploit, something they did with increasing confidence. Taylor-Crossdale almost doubled his tally with a spectacular volley from Clinton Mola’s cross, but he instead turned provider for the decisive second, collecting a short corner and feeding Brown, who flicked home to make it 2-0 with the visitors well and truly caught napping.
Uwakwe twice went close to adding to the scoresheet late on, whilst Stolarczyk was kept busy by Tushaun Walters and Lamptey, the latter after some silky approach play by Billy Gilmour. Walters and fellow substitute Armando Broja, a debutant Under-16, each had half-chances at the death, but Chelsea were good value for the three points with a patient and persistent performance, and will now begin their preparations for Friday’s trip to Brighton.
Chelsea: Tié, Lavinier, Wakely, Guehi, Mola, Gallagher (c) (McEachran 17), Lamptey, Gilmour, Taylor-Crossdale (Walters 78), Uwakwe, Brown (Broja 78)
Subs not Used: Askew, Masampu
Goals: Taylor-Crossdale 62 (pen), Brown 71
Leicester City: Stolarczyk, Thandi, Gill, Leshabela (Fielding 68), Elewa-Ikpakwu, Husek, Brown (Meite 81), McLeod, Shade, Tee, Edwards-John
Subs not Used: Williams, Davies