It continues to rain goals for Chelsea’s Under-18s as they racked up another three of them in a comfortable 3-1 win over Southampton at Cobham on Saturday morning.
The damage was done in the first half as Kasey Palmer, Ambrose Gnahore and Dominic Solanke each found the back of the net and whilst there was no addition to their tally beyond that, the win was a deserved one and took them top of the league, albeit briefly.
Jeremie Boga was the standout name on the team sheet pre-match as the Frenchman made his return from injury, dropping down to his own age group for a rare outing. He played off Solanke, with Gnahore and Fankaty Dabo reprising the roles they played so well a week earlier at home to Middlesbrough, whilst Palmer joined Jordan Houghton in anchoring the midfield..
Ben Killip was handed a first home appearance since August behind an unchanged back four of Ola Aina, George Brady, Dion Conroy and Jonathan Muleba. They would ultimately have little to do.
The handsome nature of the scoreline belied the fact that Chelsea didn’t play all that well in the first half, and they spent much of the early action struggling to play with the speed of thought and execution they so crave. Nonetheless, Southampton offered surprisingly little by way of resistance, and the hosts soon began to fashion chances.
Boga sent a long range free kick spinning just wide of Harry Isted’s goal, before one Saints centre back spared the blushes of his partner in preventing an own goal with a spectacular overhead kick clearance from just under his own crossbar.
They couldn’t withstand the pressure for much longer though, and Palmer eventually opened the scoring with a well-taken finish; controlling the ball with his chest following a high cross into the box and volleying home from twelve yards out.
A second arrived moments later as Gnahore sprinted onto a defence-splitting ball and whilst Tom Leggett blocked his first effort, he persevered and slammed in his sixth goal in four appearances. He should have added to his tally shortly afterwards in a similar situation but this time found Isted in his way, the Southampton goalkeeper making a smart low save away to his left.
Chelsea didn’t have to wait long though, going three ahead before the interval as Solanke grabbed his seventh of a very productive season so far, sprinting onto Houghton’s pass, rounding Isted and finishing with the composure of a much older player than his tender sixteen years. Boga might have made it four at the end of a sumptuous and terrifyingly quick counter attack, but it was 3-0 at half time.
The second half was unfortunately a forgettable affair with both outfits struggling to play as they would have liked, and the midfield quality absent for large portions of time. Southampton did retrieve one goal back through Marcus Barnes, who spent a short period on trial at Cobham over the summer, but it came at a cost as Barnes suffered a potentially serious injury in the act of scoring and was stretchered off with his left leg immobilised.
Boga had been replaced after 45 minutes with Chike Kandi replacing him, and he was later joined by George Cole and Reece Mitchell – his first appearance of the season after an injury of his own – as Viveash sought to affect a performance he was growing increasingly frustrated by.
Chances were scarce but emerged later in the day as Southampton pushed numbers forward with greater urgency. Gnahore slammed one effort wide and then saw Isted make the first of a fine double save, the second coming from Palmer’s audacious bicycle kick.
Houghton and Palmer both had wayward efforts from long distance and there might have been a second for Solanke but his header was just too tall for this occasion. It was telling that Isted was the busier of the two young stoppers though, for whilst the Saints trailed, Killip was only asked to make one save, keeping out Sam Gallagher from close range.
There were one or two half chances late on which came to nothing as Chelsea held on to make it four consecutive wins heading into their week off as international football returns.
Chelsea: Killip, Aina, Brady, Conroy, Muleba (c), Palmer, Houghton (Mitchell), Boga (Kandi), Dabo (Cole), Gnahore, Solanke
Sub not Used: Collins
Goals: Palmer, Gnahore, Solanke