Under-18s: West Ham United 2-5 Chelsea

Chelsea finished their fixture list for the 2014 calendar year in much the same fashion as they’d undertaken the majority of it; handsomely beating West Ham United 5-2 to retain top spot in the league for Christmas.

Schoolboy Iké Ugbo opened the scoring early as Chelsea were awarded two penalty kicks in short succession. Isaac Christie-Davies saw his effort saved by Clarke Bogard but Ugbo scored almost immediately. Kyle Scott took over the responsibility for the second and fared better to put the Blues on the road to three points.

Djair Parfitt-Williams reduced the arrears on the stroke of half time for the hosts but Faiq Bolkiah, Kasey and Ugbo again ensured an emphatic win for Joe Edwards’ side and rendered Decarrey Sheriff’s late goal for the Hammers nothing more than a consolation.

Edwards retained the core of the team that beat Leicester City a week ago, making four changes in total. Brad Collins continued in goal but there were opportunities for Josh Grant and George Brady in defence, the latter returning after a recent injury absence. He partnered captained Jake Clarke-Salter in the middle with Grant on the right and the in-form Fikayo Tomori on the left.

Ruben Sammut was joined by Scott and Christie-Davies in the middle of the park whilst Palmer and Charlie Wakefield started wide of Ugbo in attack. They didn’t take long to make an impact either as Palmer was upended in the box inside the opening five minutes for a Chelsea penalty.

Christie-Davies’ try wasn’t terrible but Bogard was able to get down low to his left and turn it away for a corner. His and West Ham’s celebrations would be short-lived however as Ugbo prodded home from the ensuing corner to make it 1-0 to the visiting team.

The hosts responded well and created a number of good chances. Grady Diangana unleashed a left-footed strike from the edge of the box which deflected away for a corner and, from it, Tunji Akinola headed wide. Jordan Brown then showed strength and skill out wide to come inside for a shooting opportunity only to be denied by a very good save by Collins.

Chelsea escaped from that spell of pressure relatively unscathed and were awarded a second penalty midway through the first half. Tomori was the victim this time as he was tripped by Alex Pike, and Scott did what Christie-Davies couldn’t by coolly beating Bogard and finding the bottom corner from twelve yards.

Clarke-Salter then made a good interception to prevent Brown from creating something after more enterprising play by the big forward whilst Wakefield hared down the right before drawing a save from Bogard. West Ham did eventually find a way through late in the first half though as Collins spilled Joe Powell’s free kick and Parfitt-Williams responded quickest to fire the loose ball into the unguarded net.

Chelsea’s attacking instincts continued relentlessly from the restart and Tomori, an effective influence down the left all day, spun a free kick just wide off the target two minutes into the second half. Wakefield was then able to capitalise on a mistake by Vash Neufville and swing over a cross for Palmer, who met it sweetly on the volley only for Bogard to touch it onto the crossbar.

A third was almost inevitable and duly arrived after an hour or so of play. Chelsea swept the play from right to left with speed and purpose before Tomori was released on a powerful overlapping run. He sent the ball across the face of goal and found Bolkiah, who connected and scored with his first touch having only entered the fray seconds earlier.

A fine team goal was followed by a stupendous individual effort as Palmer added his name to the scoresheet in spectacular fashion. Collecting the ball on the left, he nonchalantly flicked it between the legs of a claret-clad foe before unleashing an unstoppable effort into the top corner from 30 yards out to make it 4-1.

Edwards handed Miro Muheim and Ali Suljic some much-needed playing time from the bench and theirs was a comfortable twenty minutes or so as the Blues played with the confidence afforded to them by a big lead. It got even bigger with a quarter of an hour left on the clock as Bogard could only get a hand to Palmer’s low shot, pushing it into the path of Ugbo, and he collected his second goal of the day and Chelsea’s fifth.

Bolkiah too might have had a brace as he raced clear into Palmer’s through ball only to be denied by Bogard this time and really, Chelsea could easily have racked up another unfathomable tally but had to settle for just five in the end. West Ham did claw back a modicum of respectability late on when Sheriff came off the bench to finish a late counter attack but this was all about the Blues, who remain by far and away the leading Under-18 goalscorers in the country and will be a force to be reckoned with as the league ticks over into 2015.

West Ham: Bogard, Pike, Neufville, Sylvestre (Elsom), Akinola, Onariase, Powell (Amoo), Bailey (Sheriff), Brown, Diangana, Parfitt-Williams

Goals: Parfitt-Williams, Sheriff

Chelsea: Collins, Grant, Brady, Clarke-Salter (c) (Bolkiah), Tomori, Sammut, Scott (Muheim), Christie-Davies, Palmer, Wakefield (Suljic), Ugbo
Subs not Used: Thompson, Ali

Goals: Ugbo 2, Scott (pen), Bolkiah, Palmer
Booked: Grant