Chelsea’s youth team came back to earth with a bump on Saturday morning, suffering their heaviest defeat of the season.
Barely 36 hours since defeating Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in the FA Youth Cup, many of that team were back in action at Motspur Park for league fixture with Fulham.
However, a Marcello Trotta hat-trick put Dermot Drummy’s team to the sword as the Cottagers ran out 5-1 winners.
Drummy retained a number of players for their second game in three days, but made changes elsewhere. Experienced heads Pappoe, Chalobah, Clifford, McEachran and Lalkovic were left out with reserve action coming up this week, offering opportunities to others.
Adam Nditi, who created the winner on Thursday, started at left back, with captain Aziz Deen-Conteh partnering Archange Nkumu in the middle of the back four.
Danny Stenning and Amin Affane both returned from long layoffs in midfield, whilst Lewis Baker and Todd Kane flanked Bobby Devyne up front.
Conditions were far from ideal, with a sticky, boggy pitch under foot and cold, wet, blustery weather prevailing.
Nonetheless, Chelsea should have been ahead very early, as Stenning released Devyne with a defence-splitting pass.
The striker had a step on giant defender Stephen Arthurworrey but decided to check back onto his stronger foot, and shot over attempting to bend the ball into the top corner.
It didn’t get much better than that for Chelsea for the rest of the match. Fulham quickly got into their rhythm, controlling the game in midfield through captain Josh Pritchard and Jimmy Bullard lookalike Ronny Minkwitz.
Jamal Blackman hadn’t truly been tested in the opening quarter of an hour but was kept on his toes by Trotta and by Corey Gameiro on the wing, but it was Italian forward Trotta who really should have opened the scoring.
A quick break saw a good ball delivered into the box, and from no more than six yards out with the goal at his mercy, Fulham’s big number nine contrived to head the ball wide of the target.
He made up for it minutes later by making it 1-0 when capitalising on a catastrophic Chelsea error. A seemingly routine long ball headed towards Deen-Conteh, who looked to turn back towards his own goal and play it safe.
Trotta telegraphed the idea though, beating his man to the ball, resulting in a clear one on one with Blackman, and he tucked it away neatly with his left foot.
Chelsea’s general approach play was neat and tidy, which was to be expected with three very capable passers in the midfield, but there was a lack of cutting edge beyond them. Neither full back was able to get forward often to support the play, whilst the trio in attack struggled to find space.
Devyne had further chances to find the back of the net but spurned them, whilst Baker and Rodgers will have wanted to do better with their blocked efforts.
Such profligacy was bound to be punished and Fulham duly delivered, not once but twice before half time.
First, Gameiro broke clear of the last man, with vociferous appeals for offside. The linesman’s flag stayed down and the winger kept his composure to score against the Blues for the second time this season.
Little more than a minute later and the game was over. A corner was delivered into Trotta at the near post. He twisted and turned with impressive skill, and with the defending rather non-commital, he simply turned and lashed it past Blackman.
Shellshocked as they headed to the bench for half time, confidence was clearly low and with no changes to begin the second half, it was unsurprising to see the game continue in a similar vein.
Fulham knew that they could afford to step off the gas slightly with a comfortable lead, and were content to pass the ball around at will, but were relentless in their closing down when out of possession.
Chelsea struggled to play their game, as the ball carrier was often found holding onto the ball too long, looking for second and third options which never arrived.
Ismail Seremba replaced Affane to add an extra attacking body but it made little difference. Instead, Fulham’s own pacy replacement began to take over the game.
Charles Banya’s introduction on the left wing added more verve and skill to their attack and he was involved in making the scoreline 4-0 midway through the second half. His surging run past Sampayo and ensuing shot drew a save from Blackman, but the ball fell kindly to Trotta, who gleefully slammed in to secure himself the match ball.
His work done for the day, Trotta immediately made way for Richie Barroilhet, with many on the pitch now focusing on the final whistle, which was still some way off.
To their credit, Chelsea continued to plug away, and grabbed themselves a consolation with a little over ten minutes remaining. A move down the left saw Seremba deliver a cross towards Kane, and the team’s top goalscorer side-footed emphatically into the near post to continue a great personal season.
Walter Figueira, in relief of Devyne, almost reduced arrears further with a looping header which landed just wide, but it was fitting that Fulham would have the final word and grabbed a fifth in the closing moments.
Another set piece was allowed to settle in the Chelsea area, and Banya was able to take the ball down, turn and prod an effort into the roof of the net all too easily.
The referee swiftly ended a morning the visitors will quickly want to forget. Outclassed in every department, they were never able to exert an influence over the game, and work this week will surely be on playing their own game regardless of the circumstances they may find themselves in.
Team: Blackman, Sampayo, Nkumu, Deen-Conteh (c), Nditi, Rodgers, Stenning, Affane (Seremba 58), Kane, Baker, Devyne (Figueira 75)
Goal: Kane 80