If you aren’t overly familiar with the latest crop of young hopefuls coming through at Chelsea, you’re about to become plenty more acquainted with them in the weeks and months ahead.
A resounding 7-0 thumping of Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Fifth Round of this year’s FA Youth Cup set up a hotly anticipated last eight tie with Millwall and served notice that the Blues want their trophy back. On this form, they have every chance.
Having seen off Huddersfield and Bradford City with nine goals for and none against in the early rounds of this year’s competition, Wolves marked a considerable step up in quality of opposition for Ed Brand’s Under-18s, and looked like being a considerable threat to the Blues’ aspirations of winning the country’s most prestigious youth-age competition for a record-equalling tenth time. And, for 25 minutes, they played their part.
Then Chelsea ran riot. Jake Askew saved Theo Corbeanu’s attempt at a Panenka penalty. Ian Maatsen opened the scoring, Marcel Lewis added a quick-fire brace either side of Tino Anjorin’s sumptuous solo goal, and it was Wolves who had been torn apart. Lewis completed his hat-trick from the spot in the second half before Myles Peart-Harris and Xavier Simons added gloss to a scoreline that did not remotely flatter the rampant hosts.
It was a genuinely cagey and cautious start that saw Chelsea probing in an attempt to break down Wolves’ tried and tested 3-5-2 shape and, although it took a while, they began to look like making inroads midway through the first half. So, when Wolves were awarded a contentious penalty moments after Armando Broja had glanced a good chance wide, the game looked like being turned on its head. Corbeanu stepped up but Askew read his intentions perfectly, standing his ground and claiming the attempted chip down the middle.
What a decisive moment it would prove. Less than two minutes later Anjorin bulldozed his way through midfield and found Maatsen bursting through the middle, with the finish to match his run, and Chelsea were off and running. They had the fight to match the finesse and showcased their all-purpose game again ten minutes later when Tino Livramento rode two tackles in his own half before getting up and releasing Broja down the right. Happy to play the role of provider rather than scorer on this particular night, he waited for Lewis, before squaring for a sweeping finish.
Anjorin decided enough was enough four minutes before the break and took centre stage with a balletic run and finish that belied his stature and physique; his close control and deft finish was a sight to behold and raised the bar even further. Wolves, with their spirit surely broken, then handed Lewis his second and Chelsea’s fourth when goalkeeper Joe Young passed straight to the 18 year-old forward, who needed no second invitation to add to the scoreline.
Such is the way these matches go, Wolves came out determined not to be embarrassed yet further, but Chelsea were happy to enter into game management mode until the latter stages. They were awarded a penalty of their own when Storm Ciara claimed something of an assist, blowing Young’s clearance back towards his own penalty area, where Broja was bundled over. Lewis showed Corbeanu how to convert from twelve yards, completing his hat-trick, and immediately making way for Myles Peart-Harris.
As if to demonstrate the riches of talent available to Ed Brand and James Simmonds, Peart-Harris needed just two minutes to make it 6-0, when he collected a cross from the right and finished at the second time of asking, and there was still time for a seventh when he picked up the baton on a rapid counter-attack led by Broja and handed over to Simons, who had all the time in the world to roll a simple finish beyond the beleaguered Young.
A first significant Chelsea vs Millwall match in 25 years lies ahead at Stamford Bridge in the next two to three weeks and, while there will be plenty of talk about what might happen off the pitch, it promises to be a fascinating battle on it. The South Londoners currently top their Professional Development League table and have been in prolific form all season, led by a fearsome forward line of Sean O’Brien, new England Under-17 international (and cousin of Tino Anjorin) Abdul Abdulmalik and ex-Arsenal schoolboy Tyrese Briscoe, and will be a handful.
The winner of that tie will host Manchester United or Wigan Athletic in a one-off Semi Final, while the other half of the draw sees Blackburn, Preston or Arsenal host Manchester City or Burnley. The road to the Final is just starting to warm up nicely.
Chelsea: Askew, Lawrence, Simeu, Colwill, Maatsen, Bate, Livramento (Wiggett 82). Simons, Broja, Anjorin © (Ballo 74), Lewis (Peart-Harris 79)
Subs not Used: Wady, Humphreys, Rankine, Nunn
Goals: Maatsen ’26, Lewis ’38, ’43, ’78 (pen), Anjorin ’41, Peart-Harris ’81, Simons ‘85
Wolves: Young, Scott, Estrada, Marques ©, Richards, Lopes (Lonwijk 52), Corbeanu (Hodnett 62), Parker, Carty, Cundle, Hesketh (Abbey 87)
Subs not Used: Smith, Tipton, Kandola, Birtwistle