Chelsea’s Under 18s continued their 100% home record and largely impressive first two months of the season with a resounding 5-0 win over Middlesbrough at Cobham on Saturday morning.
A pair of well-taken goals by Ambrose Gnahore in the opening twenty minutes put the Blues in a strong position and whilst they might have been even further ahead by half time, second half efforts from Jordan Houghton, Dominic Solanke and Chike Kandi put the seal on a very good performance.
Adi Viveash’s selection was a strong one, especially in defence, where Ola Aina, Dion Conroy and Jonathan Muleba were joined by George Brady in a formidable unit ahead of goalkeeper Brad Collins. Houghton was joined in the centre of midfield by schoolboy Mukhtar Ali, whilst Gnahore and Kasey Palmer looked to continue their excellent recent form in attack. Solanke led the line whilst Fankaty Dabo – returning from suspension – took over duties on the right wing.
Both teams were happy to take things slowly and patiently in the opening moments, and whilst Boro had the first sight of goal, it was a rare one and they found themselves camped often deep inside their own half as their opponents quickly upped the ante and took control of things. The lead was secured inside ten minutes and one they had it, Chelsea never looked back.
It was a fine goal too, as Solanke delivered an inch-perfect through ball to the galloping Gnahore, who surged away from his man into nothing but green open space, and tucked the ball into the far corner.
Ten minutes later he repeated the finish, showing composure and touch to steer home for 2-0 after being the quickest to react to a loose ball on the edge of the Middlesbrough box.
Boro had sought to play with a high defensive line and compress the space in which Chelsea could play, but the Blues adapted quickly and Brady in particular showed a fine passing range with a series of lovely balls from the back into the space left behind. With so much pace in their ranks, the hosts were able to play on their terms and on another day both Dabo and Solanke might have been greater beneficiaries from the approach than luck allowed them to be.
Dabo in particular had relatively little fortune in front of goal, as his otherwise sparkling performance deserved. He forced goalkeeper Fryer into an excellent save with his shot destined for the top corner, and then in the next attack watched as his goal bound effort was cleared from the line by Priestly Griffiths.
The visitors were fortunate to only be two goals behind at the interval and came out for the second period as if they knew it. Substitute Junior Mondal helped inject some life into their attack and, as is so often the case at academy level, there was a renewed sense of purpose about them after words of wisdom in the changing room.
Things didn’t quite go to their plan though as two further Chelsea goals arrived before the hour mark to put the game well and truly to bed. The first was arguably the pick of the bunch on the day; Houghton making a timely run from deep to meet Solanke’s ball over the top before crashing in a sensational left-footed half volley for his first goal of the season.
It was a nice moment for a player who missed six months through injury last season, and having returned to action a few weeks ago is now up to speed and was one of the game’s outstanding performers on this particular day.
Within two minutes 3-0 became 4-0 as Solanke turned scorer after providing two himself. Even then, it was his pass that released substitute Chike Kandi, and when the Welsh Under-19 international hit the post, Solanke followed in for a tap-in.
Fellow Under-16s Kyle Scott and Tammy Abraham – the latter a scorer for the younger age group earlier on in the day, were afforded some playing time with the result secured, but it was Kandi who finished things off in style by netting the fifth in sublime solo fashion. Taking on and beating four or five Middlesbrough defenders, he ignored suggestions that be might pass to a teammate and instead thundered a shot past the despairing Fryer.
That came with twenty or so minutes left on the clock and had they been so inclined, Chelsea might well have added to their tally, but a mixture of overplaying their hand and Boro being intent on limiting the damage ensured a 5-0 final score. The visitors had one or two late opportunities to grab a consolation but neither Kitching nor Wyke could make the most of them and they head home well beaten by a Chelsea team who are proving to be very hard to beat so far in 2013-14.
Chelsea: Collins, Aina, Brady, Conroy, Muleba (c), Ali (Kandi), Houghton, Palmer (Scott), Gnahore, Dabo, Solanke (Abraham)
Sub not Used: Killip
Goals: Gnahore 2, Houghton, Solanke, Kandi