Chelsea’s Under-19s made it two wins from two in their UEFA Youth League campaign with a very, very comfortable 4-0 victory over Steaua Bucharest in wet Romania on Tuesday afternoon.
John Swift and Alex Kiwomya each scored twice to hand Dermot Drummy’s side a second successive victory by the same margin, having previously despatched of Basel on matchday one. The Swiss were hardly a threatening outfit at Cobham but in comparison to Steaua they were veritable world-beaters, for Chelsea’s hosts here were woefully sub-standard in every outfield department.
Drummy retained an unchanged selection from a fortnight ago, with the squad as a whole without Charly Musonda, who was replaced on the bench by Jordan Houghton. It meant Mitchell Beeney kept goal behind a back four of Isak Ssewankambo, Andreas Christensen, captain Nathan Aké and Kevin Wright, whilst Lewis Baker and Ruben Loftus-Cheek anchored midfield.
Swift started as the central attacking playmaker in behind forward Islam Feruz, with Kiwomya on the right and Isaiah Brown on the left. Steaua set up with seven defensive players and three forwards who they would look to on the break, but they saw little of the ball and did even less with it when they did manage to find possession.
The Blues – on this occasion in their white away kit – were afforded time and space in midfield with no discernible pressing game from the home team, and it led to a succession of passes through the middle in the opening twenty minutes as they sought to open the scoring. Feruz had the best chance inside ten minutes but failed to take the ball around goalkeeper Valentin Cojocaru; a man who would have a busy ninety minutes.
Loftus-Cheek, Brown and Kiwomya all just failed to latch onto similar deliveries as they made their runs from deep; the ball perhaps picking up just a bit of pace from a very slick pitch helped by the torrential downpours in Bucharest during the previous three days. With no let-up during the match itself, it made the going hard at first, and despite their massive territorial advantage and domination of possession, it took until the 27th minute before Chelsea took the lead.
They did so through Swift’s fourth of the season as he arrived unmarked at the far post to sweep home following Kiwomya’s cross. Both players had found the scoresheet against Basel and did so again here; the latter’s pace stretching the pitch wide on the right, and his delivery bore the hallmarks of his considerable improvement in that area of his game.
Feruz went close with a headed attempt just before the break, but the lead was to be extended early in the second period when Kiwomya scored the first of his brace. Swift turned provider, dissecting the Steaua defence with a ball through the heart of their back four and allowing Kiwomya to stroke the ball home confidently.
He might have scored another with a chipped effort having once again found himself running clear in behind, but Cojocaru – the only Steaua player to emerge with any credit from – did well to save, as he did when Baker tried his luck from long range. In contrast, the hardest Beeney had to work saw him twice come off his line to pounce on over-hit passes; the second of which saw substitute forward Stancu booked for attempting to win a penalty by diving.
Kiwomya put a golden opportunity on Feruz’s plate only to see it wasted with a lacklustre finish before Swift showed him how it was done to make it 3-0. Baker picked him out with a clever ball from the left byline, and from the edge of the box he faked and shimmied his way past two defenders before leaving the goalkeeper prone on the ground and flicking the ball into the net.
Drummy gave Houghton and Kasey Palmer a taste of the action late on and Kiwomya added a fourth late in the day as he slammed home at the far post after more good work by Swift out on the right. It was the least Chelsea deserved for a dominant performance, although questions have to be raised about the quality of opposition after two rounds of action. Whether it comes as a result of the luck of the draw – Schalke are likely to prove a tougher ask – or not remains to be seen, and there is value in every outing, especially continental ones, but the true value of this competition may only be found should the Blues advance to the knockout rounds and meet a stronger team.
Chelsea: Beeney, Ssewankambo, Christensen, Aké, Wright, Baker, Loftus-Cheek (Houghton 89), Swift, Brown (83), Kiwomya, Feruz
Subs not Used: Killip, Conroy, Dabo, Aina
Goals: Swift 27, 79, Kiwomya 51, 88