Chelsea’s Under-18s recorded back to back wins for the first time this season after beating Fulham 4-2 on Saturday morning.
First half goals from John Swift and Lewis Baker were cancelled out by a double from former academy winger Mesca, but an Alex Kiwomya brace proved enough to secure three points in a fixture which also saw a competitive debut for Lucas Piazon.
The 17 year-old Brazilian has been in England since early September and has been training at Chelsea in a bid to ease his acclimatisation. His international registration was processed this week and he was able to play for the first time.
He played on the right of an attacking three spearheaded by Islam Feruz, whilst Jamal Blackman captained the team from the goal.
Fulham have been in fine form so far this season and Kit Symons’ boys started well, with central midfielder Lyle Della Verde keen to make his mark. The former Southend trainee chanced his arm with a handful of first half efforts but failed to make Blackman work to save any of them.
At the other end, intricate play by Piazon and Amin Affane threatened to release Feruz, but despite the young Scot being able to work shooting opportunities, he found his path to goal blocked by white shirts.
Swift went close with an effort from distance which whistled past the post, whilst Blackman made the first real save of the morning in beating away a near post strike by Cottagers captain Ronny Minkwitz.
Chelsea began to pick up the pace and saw a goal disallowed when Loftus-Cheek was deemed to be in an offside position before providing a pass for Feruz to finish.
Baker then pounced on a loose ball by full-back Tom Richards and earned a corner, and from Affane’s delivery Swift rose highest to nod into the back of the net to make it 1-0.
The lead would last barely five minutes though, as Portuguese teenager Mesca restored order shortly after.
Taking advantage of a high Chelsea line, the winger pounced on a through ball and held off the advances of Nditi before slotting past Blackman with great composure.
Injuries afflicted his brief Chelsea career to the point he was rarely able to make an impact, but he was to have a big say on his return to Cobham.
A frenetic ten minute spell before the half time whistle saw Chelsea go into the break with a lead as Baker converted from the penalty spot after Affane was tripped.
The Swedish midfielder was growing in influence and looked set to score before being impeded. Baker coolly sent the goalkeeper the wrong way for a deserved advantage at the interval.
Piazon made way for Kiwomya for the second half after tidy if quiet performance. His performance displayed evident composure, vision, and technique, and he is an interesting prospect going forward.
Chelsea were able to maintain their lead relatively comfortably until the hour mark but as the midfield trio of Swift, Baker and Loftus-Cheek began to tire, Fulham began to find time and space with which to pick their way through.
Blackman was needed to make a terrific double save to first deny Charles Banya and then beat away Mesca’s follow-up attempt, but he was left powerless to avoid the visitors hauling themselves back into the game for a second time.
A Chelsea corner was cleared and with a number of blue shirts upfield, Mesca made them pay. He advanced from the halfway line as Nditi desperately tried to make up ground before unleashing a shot which took a heavy deflection en route to beating the home goalkeeper.
It was Fulham’s best spell of the game by some margin and they almost had a lead when Banya once again found himself denied by the in-form Blackman.
Della Verde would also come to be frustrated by the England Under-19 stopper, whilst in response a quite spectacular 35-yard strike from Affane appeared destined for the top corner until it was wonderfully saved by the Fulham goalkeeper.
Ultimately though, he was unable to repeat his heroics to deny Kiwomya with fifteen minutes remaining. A swift break of their own left the schoolboy forward one on one, and he was able to convert to give Viveash’s team their third lead of the day.
This time, they held onto it and would make sure with a late fourth. Affane’s raking pass found Kiwomya, who controlled the ball on his chest before lobbing the ball over Josh Passley, trapping it and finishing in quite exquisite fashion.
At times Fulham certainly showed why they were academy league national finalists last season and why they look set to be again, but Chelsea showed spirit and resolve, and played some very good football with no lack of end product.
Alex Davey’s performance on his return from injury was superb as he led with sterling defensive effort and displayed accurate forward passing, whilst Lewis Baker commanded the ball in the midfield. A word too for Affane, who had a hand in three of the goals.
Back to back wins over high-flying teams will do this group of players the world of good, and they deserve it for the way they’ve approached the season so far. They have a chance to keep the good form going away to Charlton next week, as the FA Youth Cup tie at home to Doncaster looms a month or so from now.
Team: Blackman (c), Gordon, Davey (Houghton 76), Aké, Nditi, Loftus-Cheek (Nkumu 80), Baker, Swift, Piazon (Kiwomya 45), Affane, Feruz
Subs not Used: Beeney, Seremba
Goals: Swift 30, Baker 40 pen, Kiwomya 74, 85