Chelsea’s Under-21 team continued a fine recent run of form with an emphatic 5-1 victory over Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon.
(view Dan Davies’ excellent match gallery HERE)
In a display of clinical ruthlessness the young Blues took full advantage of their best moments and ran away with a game which was a lot closer than the final scoreline reflected. Isaiah Brown and Islam Feruz both netted twice, whilst John Swift capped a determined individual showing with the fifth goal, and Tom Hooper grabbed a consolation for the Foxes.
Dermot Drummy was deprived of the services of Alex Kiwomya, Alex Davey, Jeremie Boga and Lamisha Musonda through injury, with the quartet joining the likes of Adam Nditi, Kevin Wright and Charlie Colkett on the sidelines. A number of changes were therefore required from the side which beat Southampton so handsomely at St. Mary’s last Friday, with Feruz. Swift, Dion Conroy and Anjur Osmanovic all coming into the folk. Isak Ssewankambo and Nathan Aké continued in their full-back roles and Lewis Baker joined Ruben Loftus-Cheek in a familiar midfield partnership.
Leicester included 23 year-old Hungarian forward Marko Futacs in their starting eleven and it was he who had the first shot of the game; his shot landing just wide of Jamal Blackman’s post inside the first thirty seconds. It wouldn’t be their last chance of the half, but they would soon be facing an uphill struggle as Chelsea took the lead on seven minutes.
The move was simple in conception but smart in execution as Swift picked up the ball and played it through the middle of the Leicester defence for Brown to run onto. He received a stroke of luck as the ball settled well for him despite the attentions of a visiting defender, but coolly despatched his shot past Adam Smith, who got a hand to it but never looked like preventing it from becoming 1-0 to Chelsea.
Windows of opportunity opened consistently for Leicester, but they were unable to take them time and again, and it would ultimately prove costly. Jack McCourt pounced on some slack play at the back by the Blues and chanced his arm from just outside the penalty area, but sent his shot into the empty front rows of the Matthew Harding stand.
Where they toiled, Chelsea succeeded. Andreas Christensen’s mazy run saw Feruz go close to capitalising on a mistake by Smith, and although they didn’t succeed in adding the second then, they wouldn’t have to wait long. Osmanovic danced into the box from a central position and after his shot was blocked, Feruz was at his predatory best to drive the loose ball into the bottom corner.
Tom Hopper went close to scoring for Leicester either side of Feruz’s strike, the latter a header just wide of the mark after a sumptuous cross from Ryan Watson. Centre-back George Taft headed straight at Blackman and, as if to compound their first half frustrations, Michael Cain’s long-range free kick crashed off the crossbar in first half stoppage time.
A two-goal lead, so goes the cliché, is ever dangerous in football, and had Cain’s strike come down the other side of the crossbar or Futacs’ early second half header have crept inside the post rather than hitting it, Leicester would have been firmly in with a chance. Instead, they watched Billy Clifford – on at the break with his Yeovil Town loan having been terminated ahead of a change of clubs this coming week – run riot in a display of creative excellence.
He laid the third on a plate for Feruz, slipping the ball to the small forward just inside the box before an arrow of a shot found the bottom corner as he is so fond of doing. With one Izzy on a brace, the other followed suit two minutes later as Clifford’s slide-rule pass released Brown, who was able to stroll inside and curl a beauty into the top corner for 4-0 and the goal of the game.
The abounding rain did little to dampen the spirits of a confident Chelsea team and Swift might have made it five earlier than he did, failing to connect properly with Aké’s dangerous cross. He got there in the end after Clifford had once again toyed with the Leicester defence, showing intricate footwork down low before pulling back and laying on his third goal in less than half an hour as Swift tapped home from close range.
Feruz went in search of a hat-trick and had a goal pulled back for offside and another chance go begging when substitute Fankaty Dabo delayed his cross a second too long, allowing Taft to get back and interrupt the Scotland Under-21 international’s attention just in time. Baker, Loftus-Cheek and Clifford all strode forward with intent late on but watched their moves break down, before Hopper got a deserved consolation (having too had a goal ruled out by the linesman’s flag) as he latched onto Harry Panayiotou’s through ball and beat Blackman from twelve yards out.
Blackman made one more late save to keep out an inadvertent header by substitute Ola Aina, and Smith too was called upon for the last time in the 92nd minute to beat away Swift’s near-post strike. After losing 4-2 to Tottenham in a disappointing manner on the opening day, Chelsea have bounced back impressively, picking up six points with nine goals along the way. In front of the watching Jose Mourinho, it was a very pleasing performance indeed.
Chelsea: Blackman, Ssewankambo (Dabo 83), Christensen, Conroy (Aina 85), Ake (c), Loftus-Cheek, Feruz, Baker, Swift, Brown, Osmanovic (Clifford 45)
Sub not Used: Beeney
Leicester City: Smith, Ryan Watson, Sesay (c), Urquart (Elder 67), Taft, McCourt (Dodoo 45), Cain, Nkumu, Panayiotou, Futacs, Hopper
Subs not Used: Paratore, Sharpe, Anton
Goals: Brown 7, 62, Feruz 32, 60, Swift 76, Hopper 88