Chelsea secured back-to-back Under-18 league wins to start the new season as a Charlie Wakefield goal shortly before the hour mark proved enough to defeat Aston Villa 1-0 at Cobham on Saturday morning.
The Blues had racked up 23 goals in three meetings with their Midlands foes last season, including 12-2 and 8-3 triumphs, but the latest contest was a much tougher affair in which Villa had their chances to come away with at least a share of the spoils.
Coach Joe Edwards made one change from the team that opened up with a 4-1 win at Norwich last weekend and that was to bring in goalscorer Wakefield for Harvey St Clair. Everyone else retained their starting places, meaning Nathan Baxter in goal behind a defence of Dujon Sterling, captain Josh Grant, Ali Suljic and Trevoh Chalobah. An experienced midfield of Ruben Sammut, Mukhtar Ali and Isaac Christie-Davies kept things organised, with Wakefield and Jacob Maddox rotating in the wide positions either side of Iké Ugbo in attack.
Early chances were scarce, with both sides content to feel each other out without taking too many risks, but it was Chelsea who enjoyed the better of what did materialise. Wakefield, Ali and Grant all did enough to keep goalkeeper Charlie Bannister interested, whilst Ali also saw an acrobatic effort miss the target altogether. Baxter had much less to do despite the hard running of forward Moustafa Zeidan, although Easah Suliman did ask a save of him before the teams went in for half time.
Edwards introduced Cole Dasilva at the break with Suljic the man to make way, and with 56 minutes on the clock Chelsea stole ahead for a lead they were never to relinquish. Wakefield jinked in from the left, evading two Aston Villa defenders, before sizing up his options and arrowing a low left-footed effort into the bottom corner beyond the reach of Bannister.
More changes followed, with St Clair’s dribbling keeping Chelsea on top, whilst Villa added Liam Hailey, Alex Prosser and Kelsey Mooney to their options as they sought a way back into things. They began to look increasingly likely to do so too, pressing and haranguing the home defence and almost found a way though when Callum O’Hare stole a yard in the box only for Baxter to bravely intervene and claim the ball.
Chelsea might have added gloss to their victory when a fine move culminated in Ali’s shot crashing back off the angle of post and crossbar, but Villa were still just a goal away from earning a point and in a lengthy stoppage time period they very nearly did just that. Hailey found himself with a clear header six yards out following a corner, but he watched as it sailed over the goal, leaving his team to return home without anything to show for their concerted efforts.
Chelsea: Baxter, Sterling, Grant (c), Suljic (C. Dasilva), T. Chalobah (Kemp), Sammut, Maddox (St Clair), Ali, Ugbo, Christie-Davies, Wakefield
Subs not Used: Cumming, Hinckson-Mars
Goal: Wakefield ’56
Aston Villa: Bannister, Linley, Sundman, Humphries, Clark (Mooney), Suliman (c), Taylor, Clarke (Prosser), Zeidan, O’Hare, Cox (Hailey)
Subs not Used: Idem, Hall