Chelsea are off and running in the defence of their FA Youth Cup crown as they swept aside a dogged Huddersfield Town 6-1 at Aldershot’s EBB Stadium on Wednesday night.
The Blues are seeking to become the first team in sixty years to win three successive Youth Cup titles and kicked off this year’s campaign with a win that was hard-fought at times but wholly deserved. Tammy Abraham continued his prolific goalscoring antics with yet another hat-trick whilst a Jacob Hanson own goal provided them with breathing room after Dylan Cogill had threatened to make a game of it with a response for the visitors. Substitutes Iké Ugbo and Dujon Sterling rounded things off nicely in the closing stages as Chelsea exerted their superiority late in the day, with Abraham adding gloss to affairs right at the very end.
Eight highly-experienced, exceptionally talented youngsters who contributed heavily to the back-to-back successes of the past two seasons have graduated and moved onto bigger things, leaving a new generation to come in and carry on from where they left off. Alongside Youth Cup stalwarts like Abraham, Jay Dasilva and captain Jake Clarke-Salter, this year’s vintage looked every inch the contenders they’re expected to be with as resounding an early-round win as their predecessors.
They needed less than three minutes to get things off and running. As it was last year in the Fourth Round clash between the two sides, Dasilva’s well-crafted cross from the left was too good for Abraham to turn down; he thumped a header beyond Town goalkeeper Jake Turner – on loan for the night from Bolton – to make it 1-0.
It was his 50th goal of the calendar year when including friendlies and international fixtures, and he wasn’t about to settle for a nice round number. He and his Blues team-mates had hit their stride in double-quick time and began to pepper Turner’s goal with attempts to enhance their advantage.
Mukhtar Ali strode forward imperiously before firing wide, sixteen year-old Mason Mount dug out a fine cross for Dasilva which saw a header saved at the near post, and Terriers England Under-17 defender Jordan Williams almost turned one into his own net after a dazzling run down the right by Charlie Wakefield.
Turner was required again to intervene when Abraham latched onto Ali’s chipped through ball and tried to improvise a flicked shot towards the goal, but there was little the borrowed stopper could do to prevent the second. It was a carbon copy of the opener and of several previous efforts too as Abraham found the top corner from another quality left-sided Dasilva delivery.
It was no more than Joe Edwards’ side deserved for their efforts but it did arrive just as Huddersfield began to get a foothold in the game for the first time. They continued to improve as the first half wore on and should have gone into the break with just a one-goal deficit to work on as first Regan Booty couldn’t get enough purchase on a shot, allowing Dasilva to clear on the line, before Rekeil Pyke spurned a late free header by nodding it tamely into the grateful arms of Nathan Baxter.
Things carried on in much the same vein after the restart with Isaac Christie-Davies whipping a free kick in from a wide position and striking the crossbar, whilst Abraham flashed one well over from distance, but a momentary loss of focus from a set piece on Chelsea’s part allowed the visitors back into the game nine minutes into the second half. Boyle’s corner was flicked on at the near post and found centre-back Cogill waiting to apply the finishing touches unmarked at the far post.
Chelsea’s response was telling. A patient build-up against a tightly-packed and well organised defence ended when Trevoh Chalobah looped a volley over the crossbar but a moment of immense quality two minutes later saw the two-goal lead restored. Ali’s arrowing crossfield pass was taken down expertly by Dasilva, leaving Williams well out of position, and as he aimed to feed Abraham, the unfortunate Jacob Hanson turned into his own goal for 3-1 and Dasilva’s third assist of the evening.
It knocked the stuffing out of Town and effectively ended their chances of mounting a late and unlikely comeback. Ugbo and Sterling joined Jacob Maddox in coming off the bench to positive effect and it was Maddox, a player who has enjoyed a great run of form in his first year as a scholar so far, who went close to extending the lead as he steered a shot just inches wide of Turner’s left-hand post with a quarter of an hour remaining.
Nevertheless, a fourth arrived ten minutes from time when Ugbo and Abraham combined to positive effect; the substitute’s backheel looked to have given the latter a chance of completing yet another hat-trick and, although the post denied him, Ugbo was on hand to slam home his first FA Youth Cup goal.
Abraham was denied his treble by the woodwork a second time moments later when his deftly-floated free kick was pushed onto the angle of post and bar by Turner, who had a busy conclusion to his night’s work. He had to remain alert to palm away a shot by the rampaging Sterling and from the resulting corner could only watch as Clarke-Salter’s goal-bound header was cleared off the line.
There was a fifth in the first of four additional minutes when Mount displayed his penchant for defence-splitting through balls, dissecting the tiring Huddersfield back line and allowing Sterling to use his fresh legs to race clear on goal and slot beyond the despairing young goalkeeper. That gave way to 6-1 right at the end when Abraham did finally finish off his hat-trick, bundling home on the line after Sterling had twice unsuccessfully tried to find a way through to match last season’s scoreline against the same opponents.
The Blues will now await the winners of next week’s match between Manchester United and Queens Park Rangers before taking to the road to face them in Round Four in the new year. Before that, the Under-18s and Under-21s each have one fixture left in 2015, with the younger group away to Brighton this Saturday before Adi Viveash and company host Middlesbrough on Monday evening.
Chelsea: Baxter, Tomori, Clarke-Salter (c), Chalobah, J.Dasilva (Sterling 77), Sammut (Ugbo 67), Wakefield, Ali, Abraham, Mount, Christie-Davies (Maddox 63)
Subs not Used: Thompson, Muheim
Goals: Abraham ‘3, ’31, ’90, Hanson og ’63, Ugbo ’80, Sterling ‘90
Huddersfield Town: Turner, Williams, Clibbens, Spencer (c), Hanson, Cogill, Boyle, Booty, Pyke (Scott 63), Warde, Porritt (O’Brien 45)
Subs not Used: Brooke, Colville, Elliott
Goal: Cogill ‘54
Booked: Clibbens, Hanson, Cogill