Chelsea warmed up for Friday’s FA Youth Cup Semi Final clash against Manchester United with a 3-0 win over Reading on Saturday morning.
Goals from Amin Affane, Lewis Baker and Alex Kiwomya secured the win in a match which was barely a contest after a first half red card for visiting goalkeeper Dean Santangelo.
He received his marching orders for pulling Islam Feruz back after the striker had closed down his clearance and was preparing to tap into an unguarded net.
Baker scored from the spot for his fifth goal of the season and added to Affane’s early opener.
The Blues lined up as they will be expected to on Friday, but in a departure from recent cup teams, Alex Davey partnered Nathan Ake at the back with Nathaniel Chalobah in midfield.
Reading entered the match atop academy Group B but scarcely threatened, even when the sides were evenly numbered.
Jamal Blackman made one good first half save but was otherwise a spectator as prolific forward Dominic Samuel and his teammates were easily dealt with.
Chelsea, meanwhile, sought to play with the initiative from the off and were creative throughout. Baker had an early shout for a penalty turned down and Feruz shot over before Affane found the back of the net.
Davey’s raking cross-field pass found Lucas Piazon, who cut inside and found Affane, and he finished well from close range.
Santangelo then saw red and Chelsea’s approach changed. Two goals to the good and a man up, manager Adi Viveash encouraged a lot of possession retention and began to experiment with alternative shapes.
Nathan Ake was taken off after half an hour for a reason yet to be determined, and was replaced by Tom Howard. Chalobah moved to centre back and the midfield changed from a 1-2 shape to a 2-1, with Affane now at the top of it.
Chances came and went for more goals before the break, but none went closer than Piazon, who was denied a sensational solo effort by a fine save by Reading’s replacement stopper.
To their credit, the depleted visitors started the second half well and were close to getting back into the game when Adam Nditi almost put through his own net, but Blackman was on hand to save the day.
The Royals worked hard and had a goal disallowed and a decent penalty shout fall on deaf ears but with Chelsea so confortable in possession it was always a hard ask.
On a day where they may have needed to score, the hosts would surely have taken more shots at goal but with a two goal cushion, they often looked for the perfect final pass or the picture book goal, and instead allowed Reading to clear.
Feruz fired wide and substitute Kiwomya spurned a glorious chance seconds after coming on but there was to be a third goal, and it involved some of the best players on show.
Capping another strong spell with the call, Baker spotted Howard’s excellent run in behind off the line and the winger found fellow sub Kiwomya, who bundled in from close range.
Baker had thrived under the circumstances, afforded time and space in which to play, and he commanded the ball at every opportunity.
Swift, Affane and Feruz had chances to add gloss to the scoreline as Chelsea changed shape again, with a more recognisable three behind lone forward Kiwomya, but they eventfully settled for three.
The clean sheet was maintained too, despite Blackman being booked for handling outside of his area when coming for a long ball. The big stopper made amends with a fine save from the set piece.
Friday’s opponents from Manchester looked on course for an equally as comfortable result before being pegged back Sunderland in preparation for the big first leg, which promises to be a fantastic occasion.
Chelsea: Blackman, Kane (Nortey 60), Davey, Ake (Howard 30), Nditi, Chalobah (c), Swift, Baker, Affane, Piazon (Kiwomya 70), Feruz
Subs not Used: Beeney, Seremba
Goals: Affane, Baker (pen), Kiwomya (CFC)
Booked: Blackman (CFC), number 5 (RFC)
Sent Off: Santangelo (RFC)