Chelsea’s Under 18s made it two wins from two at the start of their league campaign after beating West Ham United 2-1 at a rain-sodden Cobham.
The Hammers had taken an early lead in spectacular fashion but the Blues responded well and after Tammy Abraham had restored parity, George Cole scored the goal which would secure the points. Both teams had chances aplenty in the second half, especially the visitors, but Chelsea held onto their win.
Adi Viveash made a handful of changes from the team that beat Sunderland last time out, with some enforced by the scheduling of an Under-21 fixture later in the afternoon. Fikayo Tomori and Jay Da Silva, schoolboys both, replaced Ola Aina and Fankaty Dabo at the full back positions, whilst another Under-16 in Mukhtar Ali joined them in the back four alongside captain Jonathan Muleba. Ben Killip kept goal instead of Brad Collins.
Charly Musonda and Kasey Palmer retained their places in midfield, whilst goalscorer Abraham started instead of Isaac Christie-Davies. Cole, Dom Solanke and Chike Kandi completed the eleven, with Kandi the one leading the line this time around.
With the rain pouring down, West Ham started well and were ahead inside five minutes. A corner was only half cleared by Abraham and it allowed for Kieran Bywater to hook an exquisite overhead kick towards goal. It thumped in off the crossbar to open the scoring.
As they usually do, Chelsea reacted well to the early adversity and quickly went on the front foot. An equaliser arrived before the quarter hour mark had been reached and it came in wonderful fashion; Abraham finishing confidently to round off a move of the highest technical quality.
They might have been ahead in double quick time had Manny Onariase not shown excellent awareness and athleticism to scamper back and hook Solanke’s effort away on the line but it was Chelsea’s first half overall and both Palmer and Cole had good moments as Viveash’s boys pressed forward.
The third and decisive goal came with half an hour on the clock, and went to the energetic and dangerous Cole. He picked up a loose ball some thirty yards from goal and displayed a quick pair of heels to opposing defender Kyle Knoyle. Having surged past his man, he steadied himself for a shot from a wide angle and crashed the ball home on his weaker left foot.
West Ham, however, offered a stark reminder of both their capabilites and the effect of the weather just before half time as a free kick took a deflection and skidded wide of the post, Killip having been left stranded.
The Hammers bossed large spells of the second half and looked the better team but struggled to truly ask Killip into making a decent save. Feeding long balls into the hulking forward Jordan Brown, they quickly established their territory and looked to play in dangerous areas. Brown himself might have had a goal had Muleba not made a timely intervention, whilst Kandi kept things honest at the other end with a slaloming run and shot which forced a good save.
A pair of midfielders made their competitive returns from long term injury layoffs as Jordan Houghton and Kyle Scott both came off the bench, and their introduction saw Chelsea slow things down and restore some control to the game. Houghton won the ball back not long after arriving and created a chance for Solanke, which was saved. Palmer couldn’t beat the defender’s block from the rebound.
A series of free kick opportunities summed up the latter stages of play, as West Ham saw theirs fly just wide whilst Cole (twice) and Musonda each saw their fine strikes met by equally magnificent saves. The visitors also chucked a few dead balls into the box but Killip was authoritative and commanding, and a rebound slapped wide by Amos Nasha was as good as they could muster.
Substitute Scott – who was making his debut at this level – had an effort deflected onto the post moments from time, whilst Abraham slipped over when ready to shoot as a second goal eluded him. Chelsea held on for a deserved win, one made all the more impressive by their use of six underage players on the day. Theirs is a young squad and they will doubtless have their ups and downs this season, but the 100% start remains intact thus far.
Chelsea: Killip, Tomori, Ali, Muleba (c), Da Silva, Palmer (Scott 80), Musonda, Cole, Kandi (Houghton 62), Abraham, Solanke
Sub not used: Collins
Goals: Abraham, Cole