Chelsea remain top of the Barclays Under-18 Premier League after a resounding 5-0 victory over Swansea City at Cobham on Saturday.
The gulf in class between the Blues and the Category One newcomers was clear throughout and goals from Mukhtar Ali, Isaac Christie-Davies, two from Jacob Maddox and a first at this level for Malakai Hinckson-Mars ensured a suitably comprehensive final score, and it could easily have been more.
Swansea were somewhat controversially promoted to Category One football in the summer on the expectation that their academy will be appraised as such in the coming months. It proved an immense source of frustration to the likes of Ipswich Town, who missed out on the same status by 0.2% in their last audit, and with the Welsh side arriving in Surrey with just two points from their opening right matches, it hadn’t been the most auspicious of starts on the field of play either.
They found themselves behind early on here too when Ali collected the ball in the area before swivelling to fire a left-footed effort beyond Lewis Thomas to add to his two strikes at Tottenham last week. Early goalmouth action had otherwise been looking but you sensed that once Chelsea had the lead, they were never going to be in danger of losing it.
Swansea did enjoy a strong spell midway though the first half with set pieces causing a few concerns for the Blues’ rearguard. Aaron Lewis flashed a volley just wide before Connor Quigley drew a save from Jared Thompson, playing his first league game of an injury-hit season to date.
The hosts enjoyed plenty of success down the Swans’ left and would add two more goals before the break courtesy of Josh Grant’s attacking endeavour. The Chelsea captain, celebrating his 17th birthday this weekend, first latched onto a smart searching ball from Luke McCormick before patiently waiting and cutting back for Christie-Davies to steer home a goal for the third match in succession.
Grant then intercepted a loose ball on the halfway line and headed for the hills, eventually slipping the ball inside to Maddox who, in turn, was able to gather himself and finish coolly under the despairing dive of Thomas. Had Trevoh Chalobah’s quite ridiculous 35-yard blockbuster not hit the crossbar in between, it might have been a more handsome scoreline at the interval, but it was already more than enough.
Taking their collective feet off the gas a little early after the restart, Wakefield tested Thomas and both Ali and Christie-Davies were afforded rests with opportunities to impress from the bench handed to Hinckson-Mars and to Dan Kemp. The latter, always lovely, made it count quickly as he was fouled and awarded a penalty but, just as he did in pre-season against the same opposition, he couldn’t make good on his own hard work, hitting the crossbar from twelve yards.
Not that it mattered. Grant poured himself down the right again and again and whilst he saw Thomas save his shot, the rebound landed nicely for Maddox to double his tally and make it 4-0. Chelsea began to queue up for scoring opportunities and several came and went before Grant claimed a fourth assist, firing across the face of goal for Hinckson-Mars to hook home from a yard out.
The same combination was repeated moments later only for Hinckson-Mars to this time manage to miss the target when scoring would have been easier, but it was barely a contest at this stage. Coach Joe Edwards, set to be involved with the England Under-17 World Cup team in the coming weeks, handed George McEachran an Under-18 debut in the late stages in relief of another prestigious younger brother in Chalobah, and the Blues look well set to continue their challenge at the top of the table as they head to Fulham next weekend.
Chelsea: Thompson, Grant (c), Colley, Nartey, C. Dasilva, Chalobah (McEachran), Christie-Davies (Hinckson-Mars), McCormick, Maddox, Ali (Kemp), Wakefield
Subs not Used: Cumming, Guehi
Goals: Ali, Christie-Davies, Maddox (2), Hinckson-Mars
Thomas, Davies, Lewis (Darame), Evans, Quigley (J. Jones), Cooper, Lewis, Dyson, Edwards (Griffiths), Watts, Evans
Subs not Used: B.Jones, Lang