Chelsea returned to FA Youth Cup action on Wednesday evening with a resounding 4-0 win over Huddersfield Town that, while it might not necessarily have undoubtedly affirmed their title credentials, at the very least served notice that the Blues are back.
A year after seeing their five-year reign as Youth Cup holders ended by Manchester United in a premature Third Round exit, a new crop of youngsters took centre stage on a rainy evening at Wimbledon’s Kingsmeadow Stadium. The handsome margin of victory didn’t offer any surprises, and there will be sterner challenges ahead, but Ed Brand and his players will have discovered as much about themselves as anything else.
It took less than one minute for the tie to be settled as leading scorer Armando Broja rounded goalkeeper Giosue Bellagambi to finish the first of what would end up as a hat-trick, with Myles Peart-Harris also chipping in midway through the first half. On a drier evening, and with perhaps a bit more focus, this could have been a truly dramatic scoreline however, such was the gulf in class between the two teams.
Huddersfield had their moments, notably through Sam Sharrock Peplow and recent first-team debutant Kian Harratt, but they were few and far between on an evening absolutely controlled by Chelsea. Ian Maatsen, Faustino Anjorin and Peart-Harris again might each have added to the 2-0 half time scoreline, and Broja was sniffing around plenty before he scored his second from Maatsen’s cross early in the second half.
Valentino Livramento, who grew into the game more and more the longer it went on, was one of several players who kept Bellagambi busy later on, but Broja completed a deserved hat-trick with a muscular solo run and finish that highlighted all of his best traits in a season that has seen him hit 20 goals for club and country before Christmas. Joe Haigh, Marcel Lewis and George Nunn came off the bench to demonstrate the extent of quality in depth available to Brand, and they all made an impact too. Haigh won a stoppage-time penalty that Lewis Bate crashed against the crossbar, while Lewis also struck the woodwork, and Nunn was denied his fifth goal of the campaign by one of a string of good saves by the Huddersfield goalkeeper.
Bradford City await in Round Four after upsetting Stoke City on penalties last week, with that match set for the middle of January back at Aldershot’s EBB Stadium. The academy now breaks for Christmas with the Under-18s unbeaten in all competitions and top of the league, and the Development Squad unbeaten in PL2 action and set to return to their own summit should they win their game in hand over Derby. A promising campaign is only just getting started.
Chelsea: Askew, Lawrence, McClelland, Simeu, Maatsen, Bate, Livramento, Simons, Broka (Nunn 85), Anjorin © (Lewis 72), Peart-Harris (Haigh 72)
Subs not Used: Colwill, Adegoke, Ballo, Rankine
Goals: Broja 1, 55, 80, Peart-Harris 22
Huddersfield Town: Bellagambi, Headley, Daley, Ayina, Olagunju, Midgley (Zunda 72), Bright, Austerfield ©, Harratt, Diarra, Sharrock Peplow (Kherbouche 90)
Subs not Used: Okpolokpo, Roxburgh, Billam, Shipley, Baxter-Alleyne