Under-18s: Chelsea 0-3 Reading

Chelsea’s Under-18s succumbed to a talented Reading side on Saturday morning, losing 3-0 despite playing well for good spells and missing a host of chances. 

A late first half goal by forward Craig Tanner gave the Royals a narrow lead, one which was doubled early in the second half by full back Shaun Long. Tanner’s second put the icing on the cake as Eamonn Dolan’s boys racked up a tenth straight win. 

Chelsea boss Adi Viveash was able to include Charly Musonda in his team from the start for the first time this season, and the Belgian formed an exciting midfield with Charlie Colkett and captain John Swift. 

Adam Nditi continued his comeback from injury with another outing at left back in a defence also featuring Fankaty Dabo, Dion Conroy and Jonathan Muleba, whilst Ambrose Gnahore and George Cole flanked lone forward Chike Kandi. 

Reading were without 28-goal leading scorer Uche Ikpeazu but set about their business early and forced Ben Killip into a smart save inside five minutes; the Blues’ goalkeeper denying Sheppard Murombedzi from close range. 

Decent openings were hard to come by for much of the first half and whilst Tariqe Fosu-Henry went close for the visitors, Swift missed the target from well outside the box twice in quick succession for Chelsea. 

The hosts’ best moments in a first half played in unpredictable and constantly changing weather came via Gnahore. Keen to run at defender Long, he regularly fashioned moments of danger and after drawing Dan Lincoln into his first save of the game, went mightily close to a spectacular opener as his fiercely struck shot screamed just wide of the top corner. 

Reading’s opening goal came late in the opening stanza and it came from a set piece. Musonda’s attempt to charge down Tanner’s first free kick resulted in a handball and a re-spot right on the edge of the Chelsea area, a position from which the Royals’ number nine man no mistake second time around. 

There was little time for a first half response but it was a much livelier Chelsea side that came out after the restart and they racked up several good chances in quick succession as they sought an equaliser. 

Kandi might have done better with a low shot from wide on the right, before Cole saw a stupendous free kick wonderfully palmed away by the impressive Lincoln. 

The visitors’ goalkeeper was in fine fettle and would deny Kandi again with his best save yet low to his left, whilst Swift missed the target from close range, Conroy had a headed effort cleared off the line from a corner, and Cole was prevented from beating Lincoln after linking well with Kandi.

As has been the case in their more publicised Youth Cup outings, profligacy threatened to harm Chelsea’s chances of victory, and they were duly punished by Long’s well taken second after an hour. The defender popped up in the box to guide a tidy finish into the far corner at the end of a neat passage of Reading play. 

Tanner put the result beyond doubt not long afterwards, confidently despatching a finish beyond the despairing Killip after a lovely reverse through ball, and they might have added an even greater sheen to their margin of victory had Liam Kelly been able to keep his shot down after displaying impossibly quick feet to carve out the space. 

Hesitancy from substitute Dom Solanke saw a good opening for a consolation go begging as he tried to play Gnahore in instead, before the latter’s eventual shot dribbled wide. 

Reading rarely pushed the envelope late on with the points in the bag but such was their eventual comfort you got the impression that had they needed to, they had another goal in them, eventually settling for three. 

The Blues have one league outing left this season, against Crystal Palace on Friday morning. All attentions then turn to the second leg of the FA Youth Cup Final against Norwich City at Stamford Bridge as Viveash’s boys bid to turn around a 1-0 deficit and retain the trophy. 

Chelsea: Killip, Dabo, Muleba, Conroy, Nditi (Nortey), Colkett, Swift (c), Musonda (Solanke), Cole, Gnahore, Kandi (Howard)

Reading: Lincoln, Long, Hyam, Cooper, Griffin, Kuhl (c), Stacey,  Murombedzi, Fosu-Henry, Kelly, Tanner

Goals; Tanner 2, Long (RFC)
Booked: Swift, Muleba (CFC), Kuhl, Tanner (RFC)