Chelsea remain very much at the business end of the Under-18 Premier League South Division after an emphatic 3-0 victory over Arsenal at Cobham on Friday.
A goal in each half from Dominic Solanke and an 18th of the season by Tammy Abraham in between secured a supremely impressive three points for the Blues and went a long way to avenging a painful 5-1 reverse at London Colney back in August.
With a thin Under-21 schedule and with an FA Youth Cup date at Leeds United on the horizon, Joe Edwards selected what was by far his strongest team of the season. Brad Collins made his return from a broken hand in goal and had a very strong back four ahead of him in Fikayo Tomori, Ola Aina, Jake Clarke-Salter and Jay Dasilva.
Charlie Colkett, captain for the day, partnered Charly Musonda in midfield with Kyle Scott slightly further forward, whilst Izzy Brown joined Solanke and Abraham in a frighteningly talented forward line.
Arsenal weren’t quite so strong but nonetheless did include Under-21 regulars Dan Crowley, Gedion Zelalem, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Stefan O’Connor, but they rarely were afforded the chance to prove their capabilities as Chelsea took hold of the day early and quickly made their presence felt.
They were a goal to the good early on as Brown took advantage of some questionable defending to release Solanke, who finished with his typical good confidence, rifling past goalkeeper Ryan Huddart. Efficient and ambitious use of the ball combined with a stellar work ethic set the Blues apart from their visitors and they were comfortably the better team even at this early stage.
The lead was doubled in devastatingly ruthless fashion on the counter attack. Arsenal pushed high up the pitch in a bid to box Chelsea in as they took a throw-in at left-back, but they committed too many to the cause and found themselves in trouble. Scott retrieved possession and released Colkett, who in turn galloped into space.
He waited until the right moment before releasing Abraham, who had time and space in which to take a touch before smashing past Huddart to make it 2-0. The seventeen year-old is closing on twenty goals before Christmas and continues to maintain a strike rate of better than a goal per game this season.
It might have even more before the break as Musonda shot over from a free kick and one or two good moments didn’t quite fall their way but Arsenal really should have found the scoresheet themselves late in the half. Stephy Mavididi did well to hold off the attentions of Clarke-Salter before cutting the ball back to a wide open Aaron Eyoma, but he contrived to plant his shot well wide with the goal gaping. It came at the end of their best spell and would have been hugely deflating as they sought to find a way back into the contest.
Chelsea continued to go about their business with style and an accomplished flair at the start of the second half as Arsenal began to lose their composure and temperament. Crowley (who was the only one to work Collins all day) and O’Connor were often found complaining towards the officials whilst the Gunners often appeared a fractured team focused on individual moments of skills as opposed to operating with a cohesive game plan. O’Connor was booked for dissent and was lucky not to be dismissed seconds later for a rather crude lunge on a marauding Brown.
Huddart spectacularly tipped away Brown’s well hit volley before Solanke header wide from the corner, whilst Dasilva scuffed wide at the end of a spell of possession. Brown then saw a goal bound effort deflected to safety off Musonda as the hosts worked towards putting the game to bed.
Kasey Palmer and Ruben Sammut came off the bench and didn’t skip a beat as fresh legs continued Chelsea’s dominance. The former played a part in the game’s third, final and best goal; a move executed with the minimum of fuss and maximum of effectiveness. Aina slid a perfect ball down the right wing from his position at centre-back, weighted perfectly for Palmer to roll into the path of Solanke, who was on hand to turn past Huddart from close range.
The move covered some seventy yards in just three touches and in a matter of seconds. It was entirely along the ground and cut the Arsenal team shape to ribbons, securing a win for Chelsea and allowing them to enjoy the closing stages. The boys are in action for a third consecutive Friday next week as they travel to Southampton before heading to Leeds a week on Tuesday.
Chelsea: Collins, Tomori (Wakefield), Aina, Clarke-Salter, Dasilva, Colkett (c), Musonda (Sammut), Scott, Abraham (Palmer), Brown, Solanke
Subs not Used: Thompson, Suljic
Goals: Solanke 2, Abraham
Arsenal: Huddart, Moore, Bola, Maitland-Niles (c) (Sheaf), O’Connor, Pleguezuelo (Dobson), Eyoma (Robinson), Zelalem, Mavididi, Crowley, Willock
Subs not Used: Keto, Chatzitheodoridis