Chelsea got their FA Youth Cup campaign underway with a 4-0 win over Dartford at Aldershot’s Electrical Services Stadium on Thursday night.
A tie pitting a team which has made the last two finals of the competition against the lowest ranked club remaining was always likely to prove a one-sided affair and so it proved, as Dominic Solanke grabbed a hat-trick and Fankaty Dabo scored another as the Blues strolled to a comfortable victory.
You can see Dan Davies’ excellent match photo gallery by clicking HERE.
With a change in focus evident at the Chelsea academy this season, coach Adi Viveash picked a younger and more inexperienced team than usual, with eligible faces like Alex Kiwomya and Islam Feruz left out to move onto bigger and better things. Nonetheless, Ruben Loftus-Cheek captained the side whilst there was also room for Mitchell Beeney in goal.
He lined up behind a back four of Dabo, Dion Conroy, Jonathan Muleba and Kevin Wright, whilst first year scholars Jeremie Boga and Charly Musonda joined Loftus-Cheek in midfield. Schoolboy Solanke led the line flanked by George Cole and Reece Mitchell, who both made good progress last season and were duly rewarded with notable cup involvement.
With this being perhaps the biggest game of Dartford’s players’ budding careers, they flew out of the traps with exuberance and energy to spare. The hosts might have expected this but found themselves under some early pressure and it was the Darts who had the first shot at goal. Unfortunately for them, Clifford Edaferhoro’s effort flew well over the crossbar and into the street behind the goal.
A series of corners provided food for thought but ultimately came to nothing, and Chelsea quickly settled themselves into long spells of possession. They threatened to break through on more than one occasion but a combination of inconsistent execution in the final third and excellent defending meant that they had to wait until midway through the first half before opening the scoring.
Once they did, they netted three times in the space of ten minutes. The first two arrived in quick succession and were almost identical in their formation, as Mitchell delivered crosses from the left for Solanke to convert. The first was well controlled before being lashed home on his left foot, whilst the second was a sliding finish on his right.
A 3-0 lead put the Blues well out of sight and it owed much to the endeavour of right back Dabo. He thundered forward to latch onto a quick pass by Boga and although his left footed strike was straight at goalkeeper Oli Gibson, the power in the strike proved too much and the ball spun beyond him and across the line.
Mitchell might have added his own name to the scoresheet before the break but shot wide at the near post, whilst the lively Cole on the other side had one or two moments of note in the first period but was unable to weigh in with a tally either.
Loftus-Cheek had the first shot in anger seven minutes after the restart, stinging the hands of Gibson from long range, but the game became slightly fractious for a period and Dabo was curiously booked for a strong challenge in which he won the ball.
He and Mitchell then took a breather on the hour mark as Ola Aina and Tammy Abraham came off the bench, whilst Dartford introduced fresh legs of their own in the form of Daramy and Anidugbe. However, it merely added to the disjointed nature of a second period low on quality as Chelsea struggled to find their game with it already won and Dartford happy to keep things as they were and seek to limit the damage being inflicted.
Boga put a free kick over the bar from right on the edge of the box moments before Charlie Colkett made his return from injury, replacing the impressive Cole for the final twenty minutes. He made his presence felt quickly, playing a perfectly weighted ball through for Solanke to complete his treble, which he did with confidence and aplomb.
Boga and Abraham both had half-chances to add to the scoreline late on whilst substitute Daramy had Dartford’s best chance of sneaking a consolation, but he took too long to get his shot away and allowed Conroy to recover and make a superb tackle. Chelsea take their place in Friday’s Fourth Round draw where they will almost certainly face tougher opposition, although the Kent side certainly gave everything and made it tough for their illustrious opponents here.
Chelsea: Beeney, Dabo (Aina 60), Muleba, Conroy, Wright, Musonda, Loftus-Cheek (c), Boga, Mitchell (Abraham 60), Cole (Colkett 71), Solanke
Subs not Used: Collins, Sammut
Dartford: Gibson, Rogers, Bray, Azaiya, Vint (c), Adams, Dembele (Anidugbe 63), Edaferhoro, Akinwande, Scantlebury (Ekpiteta 74), Everett (Daramy 63)
Subs not Used: Woodard, Bex