Chelsea’s Under-18s continued a season of remarkable results as they triumphed 6-4 in the latest of their clashes with Tottenham Hotspur in Enfield on Saturday morning.
Meeting for the third time in a fortnight with a fourth lined up this Wednesday in the FA Youth Cup, the Blues went behind early to a Shayon Harrison goal but were quickly on terms through Ruben Sammut’s first of the season. Iké Ugbo’s brace either side of a reply by Harrison saw Joe Edwards’ side take a 3-2 lead into the break but two more from Harrison ensured the hosts retook the lead before the hour. However, the Blues had the last laugh as Tammy Abraham came off the bench to score a late hat-trick to seal three points and a significant boost ahead of Wednesday’s big match.
With that second leg very much in mind, Edwards used the lack of an Under-21 fixture to field a stronger youth team than usual in the league and gave playing time to many of those likely to be involved at Stamford Bridge. Jared Thompson deputised for Brad Collins in goal but Jake Clarke-Salter captained the team in a back four that also saw starts for Charlie Wakefield, Ali Suljic and Josh Grant.
Sammut and Mukhtar Ali were joined in midfield by Jeremie Boga, with Charly Musonda and Kasey Palmer also included behind Ugbo in attack. It had the look of an exercise aimed at building confidence and form with a big midweek performance required but Chelsea got off to the worst possible start as they found themselves a goal behind inside five minutes.
Tottenham’s approach play down the right was neat and tidy but not especially threatening until the Blues let them stroll into the box, and before they could react to the impending danger Harrison had swept home his 14th league goal of the season.
At least they weren’t behind for long though. Musonda’s wicked delivery from a free kick on the right practically begged to be attacked, and Sammut obliged by thumping a header past Harry Voss to break his long-standing youth team duck.
Level and enjoying the better of the game, it wasn’t long before Chelsea took a 2-1 lead. Musonda again obliged with the set piece, delivering a corner that was met by Grant and, although Voss flapped at it enough to help it onto the woodwork, Ugbo was prompt and efficient in turning the loose ball home from a yard out to continue his own good form in front of goal.
Action swung back the other way and Harrison levelled the scores at 2-2 with less than half an hour on the clock; his left footed effort was well struck and had just enough on it to escape the grasp of Thompson and sneak over the line.
The hosts might have gone ahead had Clarke-Salter not reacted well to deny that man Harrison from latching onto a poor back pass by Ali, whilst Zenon Stylianides curled one into Thompson’s waiting arms from the edge of the box. Not even a lively darting run from Marcus Edwards could give Spurs the edge at the break and it went to Chelsea as they sprung a counter attack; Ugbo easily outraced Christian Maghoma before finding the composure to slot past the onrushing Voss for his second of the game.
Half Time merely provided an opportunity for the two teams to catch their breath and work out ways to add to the goal tally. Spurs did the better in that regard with a quickfire double to re-take the lead but it did owe something to fortune as they were awarded a highly dubious penalty five minutes after the restart.
Edwards wriggled his way into the box but appeared to have run into a blue wall as Chelsea dispossessed him; the referee deciding they had done so illegally and with a stray leg impeding the England Under-17 international. Harrison stepped up to whack home to complete his second hat-trick in three weeks with the visitors continuing their protests.
Harrison’s virtuoso performance continued when he struck a fourth with the pick of the bunch, collecting the ball thirty yards from goal before advancing and arrowing a shot into the far corner to make it 4-3. It was the second time the young forward had netted four in a match against Chelsea, having also done it last season in a 7-2 win over a a schoolboy-laden Blues team.
By no means were they out of it here though. A double substitution saw Abraham and Jay Dasilva replace Boga and Clarke-Salter, with Kyle Scott arriving in relief of Palmer moments later, and their arrivals proved pivotal in swinging the pendulum back in their favour.
Abraham was a handful as he so often is and after one or two half-chances that had served as warnings, he struck. Collecting the ball wide on the left of the area, he cut back inside and headed for goal before sending an unstoppable shot low into the corner for number 30 of his prolific campaign.
He wouldn’t have long to wait for number 31 either. Spurs turned possession over on the edge of their own box, allowing Scott to feed the big striker and, after getting the ball out of his feet, he slammed in via the crossbar to make it 5-4 with ten minutes remaining.
Tottenham sent for their own reinforcements in Ryan Loft and duly had chances to square things up again. Edwards flashed one wide after a jinking run before he gave way for Loft, who had a shot well blocked by Sammut shortly after coming on. Harrison tried to repeat the trick that had led to his fourth but was just off target this time but this was to be Chelsea’s day.
Musonda was kept from scoring a sensational solo goal by a quite brilliant flying save by Voss but there was little the home goalkeeper could do to prevent the game’s tenth and final goal. Scott’s slide-rule pass released Abraham, who lofted a deft finish over Voss to make it 6-4, seal an unlikely hat-trick in just half an hour, and ensure that his team not only start the Tier One Playoffs with a win but also go into Wednesday’s all-important Youth Cup second leg with a win.
You can buy tickets for that match at Stamford Bridge until 4pm on the day of the game itself, with no sales on the door. Tickets can still be ordered online or over the phone but must be collected from the ticket office and are priced at £5 for adults and £3 for concessions. Don’t miss out on what could be yet another storybook night in Chelsea Youth Cup lore.
Tottenham Hotspur: Voss, Paul, Muscatt, Amos, Maghoma, Walkes, Stylianides, Goddard (Hayford), Harrison, Edwards (Loft), Sterling (Daly)
Subs not Used: Glover
Goals: Harrison (4)
Chelaea: Thompson, Wakefield, Suljic, Clarke-Salter (c) (Dasilva), Grant, Sammut, Palmer (Scott), Ali, Ugbo, Boga (Abraham), Musonda
Subs not Used: Baxter, Tomori
Goals: Sammut, Ugbo (2), Abraham (3)
Booked: Sammut, Scott