Chelsea’s Under-18s re-found their winning vibe at home on Saturday morning with a thoroughly deserved 2-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion at Cobham.
Goals in each half from England youth internationals Charlie Colkett and Fankaty Dabo secured three points for Adi Viveash’s boys in a game they dominated from start to finish; a fine way to bounce back after recent reverses to Leicester and Fulham on their own patch.
As has been the case for most of 2014 and is very typical of this time of the year, roughly half of Viveash’s starting eleven were schoolboys, although the team was this week at least supplemented by a few older faces. Brad Collins was in goal as usual, with Dabo at left-back as part of a unit also featuring Ola Aina, George Brady and Jake Clarke-Salter.
Colkett captained the team with Mukhtar Ali paired alongside him deeper in midfield, allowing Kyle Scott to make his first Under-18 start ahead of him in the team’s playmaker role. Charly Musonda and Jay Dasilva flanked Tammy Abraham in a dangerous-looking front three, two of which had scored away to Reading last Monday.
The young Blues signalled their intent from the off, going close inside two minutes and camping out in the Albion half thereafter. They had to wait most of the first half before they made the breakthrough but on another occasion they would have been out of sight as they found themselves denied by the woodwork no fewer than three times before half an hour had been played.
Musonda proved chief protagonist and had a number of chances to put Chelsea ahead, starting with a header that lacked purchase and direction. He found approaching things with his talented right foot a better approach and thumped the post with a shot from wide on the right after three minutes of play and then went close again after smart approach play by Scott. In between, Ali found time to also work the visiting goalkeeper with a shot bending away from the centre after meeting a short corner from Colkett.
Set pieces would lead to their next two better moments, both of which came back off the frame of the goal. Another Colkett corner found the feet of Clarke-Salter inside the six yard box and whilst the big defender did well to spin onto his preferred left foot to work a shot, he watched it cannon away off the post. Musonda, taking kicks from the other side, then rather miscued one low to the near post and with the goalkeeper also fooled, that same section of woodwork was in business again.
Chances continued to rain in without a break as the Baggies genuinely struggled to get out of their half. Aina tore past his man down the right and put a cross on a plate for Abraham, who headed disappointingly wide, and Scott then curled inches over from the edge of the box. A goal at this point was a near inevitability and with ten minutes remaining in the half, it duly arrived.
Dasilva showed what a fine prospect he is by proving as adept going forward as he is as he is defending in his usual role at left-back, beating two men out wide before laying off a pass of perfect weight for Colkett, who did the rest by stroking home from just inside the box.
He could have added another before the interval after a slick piece of skill to escape the attentions of a defender in the area, but he found the goalkeeper equal to his powerfully hit effort at the near post.
West Brom could hardly have found themselves up against it any more as they came back out for the second half and they were finally able to assert themselves on the match and make things hard for Chelsea, although the closest they came to working Collins was a game free kick by Phil Gannon that more closely resembled a back pass.
Musonda continued to hunt a goal but was still unable to find a way through, finding his path blocked by the goalkeeper’s right foot after being found by Colkett. The first of three changes to introduce yet more schoolboys then followed as Faiq Bolkiah replaced Scott, but the Blues continued to make the better going and would have put the game to bed as a contest had Abraham not steered wide of the target after good play by Dasilva.
Aina sought to seize some of the initiative from right-back and stung the hands of the Baggies’ number one one with an effort from outside the box. That was followed by Colkett almost converting yet another moment created by Man of the Match Dasilva, and then two further changes for the final quarter of an hour as the industrious Ali and the unfortunate Abraham made way for Ruben Sammut and Iké Ugbo; the latter an Under-15 making his bow at this level.
The newcomer almost made it a dream debut when he escaped in behind to latch onto Bolkiah’s clever pass but was smothered by the goalie, and Musonda had some thinking he had finally got his goal when his free kick brushed the side netting on its way wide.
A second decisive goal did finally come with five minutes left and it was no surprise that Dasilva was again at the heart of it. Sitting deeper, he sent Dabo away with a slide-rule pass through the West Brom defence, allowing the full-back to get to the ball ahead of the goalkeeper and round him before tucking away with great composure.
The final minutes saw WBA threaten for the first time all match as a fierce shot from the edge of the box flew just over the bar but Chelsea had the final word in going close to a third via Sammut. They remain in with an outside chance of qualifying for the end of season playoffs and will be looking to make it three wins in a row on Tuesday evening when they make the short trip to Motspur Park to take on local rivals Fulham.
Chelsea: Collins, Aina, Brady, Clarke-Salter, Dabo, Colkett (c), Ali (Sammut 75), Scott (Bolkiah 64), Musonda, Dasilva, Abraham (Ugbo)
Subs not Used: Thompson
Goals: Colkett 34, Dabo 84