Chelsea got their Under-18 season off to a winning start on Saturday morning with a 3-0 win over Sunderland at Cobham.
Despite controlling the game for the most part, the Blues were made to wait for their opening goal, but it was worth staying patient for. Charly Musonda’s delightful free kick opened the scoring early in the second half, and a late brace from Dominic Solanke sealed the first three points of the campaign.
Adi Viveash has had a large if very young group of players at his disposal over the summer and was able to name a strong team for the big kickoff. Brad Collins made his debut in goal whilst Jonathan Muleba captained a back four which otherwise featured a trio who spent much of the pre-season with the Under -21s in Ola Aina, Dion Conroy and Fankaty Dabo.
Musonda was joined in the middle of the park by first year Kasey Palmer and schoolboy Isaac Christie-Davies whilst Solanke centered a forward line also including George Cole and Chike Kandi. It was Cole who proved the brightest spark in the early stages, drawing three saves from the visiting goalkeeper in the opening ten minutes through his enterprising play coming in from the left.
Collins was soon busy himself at the other end, getting down well to claim an awkward loose ball moments after a deflected cross had thumped against the outside of his near post. His coup de grace, however, was yet to come; a stunning one handed denial of a free kick which was destined for the top corner.
Having seen off what would transpire to be the best Sunderland had to offer, Chelsea set about dominating the play. Musonda’s slippery interplay saw them move into threatening positions with regularity but the final pass and finish were lacking. Palmer twice miscued from long range, as did Musonda himself and Kandi as the first half threatened to frustrate. Solanke might have had a penalty awarded to him by a different referee on another day but on this occasion the man in black turned a blind eye to a firm tug on his shirt from the Sunderland defender.
Kandi drew a late save with an improvised flick to meet Musonda’s cross but the first 45 minutes were to remain goalless. The deadlock didn’t last long after the restart though, with Musonda showing just why he has such a burgeoning reputation. His free kick from just inside of thirty yards dipped perfectly and crashed into the back of the net via the post to make it 1-0 to the hosts.
A trio of Under-16s came off the bench either side of the hour mark as Mukhtar Ali, Tammy Abraham and Jay Da Silva were all given the chance to shine and help secure victory. The Blues controlled the game whilst Collins dutifully swept up anything Sunderland lumped forward into his territory, and with twenty minutes remaining a second goal put the game to bed as a contest.
Slick approach play down the right involving Dabo and Abraham eventually saw the ball arrive at the feet of Solanke just to the left of the penalty spot. He did the rest, lashing home to cap a hard working display with a deserved reward.
He added a second in the closing stages, making it 3-0 after dribbling past tired red and white striped shirts before dispatching his effort confidently with his left foot, whilst Ali and especially Abraham might have added further gloss to the scoreboard with chances of their own, but the latter dinked a shot just wide after Solanke had released him, whilst Ali’s low side footed strike was easily saved.
It was a confident and professional way in which to start the new term and despite the average age of the squad getting ever younger, hopes are high. The team will hope to continue their good start next Saturday at home to West Ham United.
Chelsea: Collins, Aina, Muleba (c), Conroy, Dabo, Palmer (Abraham), Christie-Davies (Ali) , Musonda, Cole, Kandi (Da Silva) , Solanke
Sub not Used: Killip
Goals: Musonda, Solanke 2