Chelsea’s Under-21 team may be going through a sticky patch but their younger counterparts are going from strength to strength and recorded a fifth successive win on Saturday morning in defeating Middlesbrough 4-2 at Cobham.
The win ensured that Adi Viveash’s boys retained their 100% record so far this season and with Fulham having suffered their first reverse of the campaign to Liverpool this morning, the Blues are now the only team with a perfect academy league record.
With a trip to Russia in the NextGen Series on the schedule for the coming week, opportunities were to be had not only for those not going, but for those wanting to stake a claim to feature against CSKA. As such, it was a bright and positive start and they took an early lead when Jordan Houghton headed home from a corner kick.
Middlesbrough are a very capable team though, as is evident simply from their staggeringly impressive production line in recent years, and they began to cause some problems of their own. Jordan Jones went through and found himself with a chance at goal, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
Chelsea dominated for large spells of the first half but England youth international goalkeeper Luke Coddington proved a tough nut to crack, whilst Jimmy Warnett ensured that the Blues would have to retain their focus in defence.
The lead was extended to a two-goal margin early in the second half, coming on the break after a decent spell of Middlesbrough pressure. It came from winger Ambrose Gnahore, who put himself on the scoresheet for the first time as a scholar.
In a bid to shift the momentum back in their favour, Boro introduced some fresher legs from the bench and it immediately paid dividends as they struck twice inside a minute to level the game.
First, Bradley Fewster finished tidily after a mazy dribbling run from Jones, and whilst everyone was catching their breath and preparing for a grandstand finish, they grabbed a quickfire second to make it 2-2.
Chelsea’s perfect start was now firmly under threat but time and again in recent seasons this age group has shown that it’s never quite over until it’s over, and they were able to add another notch to their comeback tally by sneaking all three points in stoppage time.
George Cole scored the decisive goal, beating Coddington as the match ticked into the 90th minute and capping his first appearing of the season in style. It was a strike which broke the resolve of the visitors and Under-16 winger Connor Hunte added a slightly harsh gloss to the scoreline moments later with his first strike at this level to see the game finish 4-2.
With one game remaining in their home fixture slate, the big tests are yet to come for the Under-18s as they will have to prove their capabilities with a number of weekends on the road. Thus far though, they’re the cream of the crop at this level, and will hope to continue in that manner next weekend.
Further information will be added to this report throughout the afternoon.