Chelsea’s Under-21s recorded consecutive wins for the first time this season as they comfortably dispatched of Crystal Palace 4-1 at Griffin Park on Monday night.
A flurry of first half goals saw Todd Kane, Marko Marin and Patrick Bamford find the back of the net, whilst Lewis Baker added sheen to the scoreline in the second half.
Marin’s inclusion was the eye-catching item on a team sheet missing Nathan Aké, Islam Feruz and Conor Clifford due to international commitments. Rohan Ince partnered Andreas Christensen in defence whilst George Saville and Lucas Piazon returned from first team squad duties to take starting berths.
Palace included most of the faces which lined up in the reverse fixture at Selhurst Park earlier this season – a game which finished 2-2 – and threatened to take an early lead when Ince slipped collecting a short pass from Jamal Blackman. Fortunately, Jason Banton’s shot whistled just wide.
Billy Clifford was the first Chelsea player to ask questions of Palace stopper Lewis Price, forcing the Welshman into a low save, and although the ball bounced back into play, Bamford was unable to steer the rebound on target.
Bayan Fenwick side-footed wide for the visitors and Kwesi Appiah had a goal disallowed for offside before the Blues opened the scoring midway through the first half. It came after good work from Marin, who held onto the ball in the box before driving a cross towards the far post, where Kane was on hand to turn into the unguarded goal.
Within minutes though, Palace were level. Springing a particularly quick counter attack, Appiah found himself bearing down on goal, and whilst his shot came back off the post, Jason Banton tucked the follow-up past Kane on the line.
The action swung back and forth and a third goal duly followed in a breathless period of the game. This time it was Bamford doing all the legwork in the build-up, showing patience and awareness to fashion out a chance to cross for Marin, who was unmarked and headed into the top corner.
Bamford had shown some fine touches throughout and was obviously buoyed by a recent upturn in form, so it came as no surprise when he added his name to the scoresheet to make it 3-1 ten minutes before the break.
The England Under-19 international collected the ball well outside the box, worked some space and unleashed a ferocious low strike which whistled past Price and into the bottom corner.
That was the scoring done for the first half, with the two-goal margin just reward for a generally commanding performance from Dermot Drummy’s charges.
They took their foot off the gas a little in the second half and adopted a more professional approach, ensuring that they were sensible and secure in their play and didn’t gift Palace a way back into the game.
Bamford continued to work hard in hope of finding further reward and went close to getting his way, flicking a header onto the roof of the net after a good cross from the right.
The visitors introduced fresh impetus in Boateng and Allassani and worked Blackman twice through Banton and Stuart O’Keefe, but it wasn’t their night and the final word went to the hosts.
It was a fortunate last word though, as Baker’s 25-yarder looked to have been saved by Price, but on a wet night the ball slipped through his grasp and rolled just over the line.
Clifford and Piazon had moments where they may have made it five but circumstances served to be against them, whilst there were also late substitute outings for John Swift and, for the first time at this level, Reece Mitchell. The only real blot on the night’s copybook was a nasty looking injury to Aziz Deen-Conteh, who limped off to be replaced by Alex Davey, with Christensen shuffling over to left-back.
Christensen continues to look the part and has shown some encouraging signs, whilst Ince alongside him came through a sloppy opening to play as well as he has done in some time, being a commanding physical presence against Palace’s lone striker Ibra Sekkaja.
Marin will be the name on everyone’s lips though, and he certainly looked match fit and able to contribute for Roberto Di Matteo’s team right now, should the Italian deem it necessary.
Chelsea: Blackman, Kane (c), Christensen, Ince, Deen-Conteh (Davey 65), Saville (Swift 89), B.Clifford, Marin, Lucas Piazon, Baker, Bamford (Mitchell 87)
Subs not Used: Beeney, L. Musonda
Crystal Palace: Price, Wynter, Gabbidon, Taylor, Parsons (Boateng 45), Daniel, O’Keefe (c), Banton, Fenwick (Allassani 70), Appiah, Sekajja
Subs not Used: Fitzsimons, Holland
Goals: Kane ’24, Marin ’30, Bamford ’35, Baker ’81 (CFC); Banton ’26 (CPFC)
You can view Dan Davies’ excellent gallery of the night’s action by clicking HERE.