Chelsea’s Under-18s capped what has been a terrific 2013 calendar year with a 6-0 win over Reading at Cobham on Saturday morning.
A hat-trick from leading goalscorer Dominic Solanke stole the headlines, whilst there was also a brace for Ambrose Gnahore and one from Charly Musonda on a day where the Blues might even have had double figures, such was their dominance.
Adi Viveash’s selection was a neat collection of players from three different age groups. Under-21s Mitchell Beeney – who captained the side – and Ruben Loftus-Cheek provided the experience, whilst Solanke and Jay Dasilva represented the Under-16 setup. Elsewhere, Ola Aina, George Brady and Jordan Houghton lined up in defence, and Charlie Colkett joined Loftus-Cheek in midfield. Kasey Palner slotted in as the number ten between a forward line featuring the three goalscorers.
In high winds and heavy rain, mistakes came early and often but it was Chelsea who got to grips best with conditions, including the increasingly difficult pitch below them. They saw a lot of possession and gained an early territorial advantage, allowing Gnahore to have the first of what would become many shots at goalkeeper Lewis Ward.
The second year winger was denied on that occasion but wouldn’t have long to wait to open his account for the day, tucking away well from close range after a one-two with Palmer in which the return pass was a perfectly executed backheel.
Reading rarely looked like they were able to deal with their hosts, but they contributed to their own downfall throughout and handed Chelsea their second on a plate midway through the first half. Centre back Rob Dickie lost the ball to Palmer some 40 yards from goal and left his teammates exposed in the process. Palmer released Solanke, who finished with the confidence of a player enjoying a stellar season thus far for 2-0.
He made it three not long afterwards, again being the chief beneficiary of sloppiness in the Royals’ ranks. This time he did it all himself, running clear into the space afforded and clipping a right footed strike into the bottom corner.
Musonda had one or two chances to add to the already impressive tally of Chelsea strikes but with a three goal advantage at the half time whistle, Viveash used the second half to introduce fresher legs in relief of those recovering from recent absences. Houghton left at the break and was replaced by schoolboy Fikayo Tomori, who turned 16 this past week, and Palmer made way for Reece Mitchell. The latter would have a considerable and swift impact.
Lining up on the left wing, he was busy and energetic from his introduction, and took advantage of yet more devious defending to lay on Solanke’s third. With Reading’s right back looking to shepherd the ball out for a goal kick, Mitchell stole around the back side and flicked it into the middle, where the predatory Solanke was on hand to turn home and secure a second hat-trick in as many games, following a treble against Dartford in the FA Youth Cup.
From there, Chelsea were rampant. Gnahore fancied himself another goal but found his finishing lacking more than once, whilst another sub in Chike Kandi saw a good chance go begging to a heavy touch.
The visitors offered brief respite with chances for Tariff Fosu-Henry and Shpat Ismajli but couldn’t beat Beeney, and were just as quickly on the back foot gain as Aina, Kandi and Solanke all went in search of more glory. Kandi was stopped by a smart near post save by Ward; Solanke by a clearance off the line after more good play by Mitchell.
Musonda would eventually add a fifth with a deserved reward for a performance full of flair and attacking verve, lashing in low to the near post from wide on the edge of the area following a short Chelsea corner.
Kandi, desperate for a goal, dragged a good chance horribly wide from the resulting kickoff and would be held off the scoresheet as Gnahore rounded off the goal fest with his second late in the day. Beeney’s sharp distribution to Loftus-Cheek allowed the midfielder to power forwards and release Gnahore, who cut inside into space created by Aina taking a man away with his run and curled low into the far corner.
December has seen some emphatic wins for the academy, with Dermot Drummy’s boys hitting Bolton and Steaua Bucharest for five apiece and Dartford going for four in the Youth Cup. An impressive end to the year bodes especially well on all fronts as the stakes are upped in 2014, with silverware to be won.
Chelsea: Beeney, Aina, Brady, Houghton (Tomori) , Dasilva, Colkett (Kandi), Loftus-Cheek, Palmer (Mitchell), Musonda, Gnahore, Solanke