Chelsea’s Under-18s emphasised that they are the team to beat in the South League this season as a resounding 7-0 win over Norwich City this Saturday lunchtime extended their lead at the top of the table.
It was perhaps as one-sided a contest as you might see at this level all year long, with Miro Muheim and Iké Ugbo each grabbing themselves a brace as Chelsea bossed things from first to last. Joseph Colley, Charlie Wakefield and Mukhtar Ali also got in on the act whilst the Blues also saw two more disallowed and Ali missed a late penalty to boot.
Norwich’s team has grown younger each week since they opened the campaign with a 4-1 reverse to Chelsea up at London Colney but they fielded a more experienced side for this return fixture, yet looked distinctly off the pace early on. The pitch was both heavy and excessively watered, resulting in several misjudged passes and unpredictable consequences, but Chelsea adapted better and the sheer weight of their attacking droves soon overwhelmed the Canaries.
Ugbo had spurned two early chances – his profligacy owing something to the sodden turf – before Muheim opened the scoring with a clinical finish from left of centre after squaring up Owen Wallis to work a yard of space in which to get his shot away. One became two in short succession when schoolboy goalkeeper Fergal Hale-Brown failed to hold onto Muheim’s right-footed hit, leaving Ugbo to turn home from close range at the second time of asking.
It was a similar story for Chelsea’s third; the young stopper only able to push Muheim’s header back into danger, where Colley reacted ahead of anyone else to turn home his first goal for the club. The first half was barely thirty minutes old but the result had rarely been in doubt and, but for one or two bounces and deflections, Ugbo, Ali and Muheim might each have had further room for celebration.
Wakefield made it 4-0 before the break with the goal of the day, embarking on a dazzling, slaloming run that began on the halfway line, took in three evaded tackles and culminated with an expert finish in via the post from the edge of the area.
Norwich manager Graeme Murty held his half time team talk on the bench rather than in the dressing room and his youthful group initially responded well to his words, making the hosts work harder when things got back underway. Chelsea were always assured in their approach though and before long had found a fifth goal.
Wakefield responded fastest to an unfortunate Norwich touch in midfield and sprinted into the penalty area, where he twisted and turned before being hauled to the ground for a penalty. Muheim won a quick game of rock-paper-scissors with Ugbo to earn the right to take and convert authoritatively, adding his second of the day before being replaced by Harvey St Clair.
He and fellow substitute Hubert Adamczyk both chanced their arm without finding the target, as did Wakefield, Christie-Davies and Ugbo as Norwich heads dropped and things began to rather resemble target practice. Number six came when Hale-Brown shovelled St Clair’s strike towards Ugbo, who gave Ali the easiest goal he’ll score all season.
The two combined for another that was ruled out for offside whilst another penalty, won by Christie-Davies’ quick feet, went to waste when Ali placed it wide of the post. The seventh and final goal came seconds later though, Ugbo springing the offside trap and running unchallenged to slide the ball under the goalkeeper for his fifth in two matches against Norwich this season.
St Clair also saw one disallowed for a curious offside decision and, importantly, the clean sheet was preserved despite some late fight where Jared Thompson had to be alert to make two saves from Benny Ashley-Seal, whilst Louis Ramsey drove wide when well-placed.
The league-leading Blues now take their strong record on the road for the next two fixtures with trips to Aston Villa and Southampton certain to provide a stern test of their title credentials.
Chelsea: Thompson, Grant (c) (Adamczyk), Colley, Suljic, Chalobah, Ali, Wakefield, Mount (McCormick), Ugbo, Christie-Davies, Muheim (St Clair)
Subs not Used: Cumming, Nartey
Goals: Muheim (2, 1 pen), Ugbo (2), Colley, Wakefield, Ali
Norwich: Hale-Brown, Ramsey, Lewis, Walters (Black), Wallis, Crowe, McIntosh, Sambu (Syme), Couzens, Jaiyesimi (Boateng), Ashley-Seal
Subs not Used: Oxborough, Ellesley