Chelsea secured a place in the last eight of this season’s Barclays Under-21 Premier League International Cup on Friday night courtesy of a 5-0 walloping of Celtic at Aldershot’s EBB Stadium.
Four goals in twenty-three resounding first-half minutes paved the way for their progression as Mukhtar Ali, Kevin Wright, Charly Musonda and Kasey Palmer all got on the scoresheet in a display of relentless and clinical attacking play. The remainder of the contest was far less remarkable but Reece Mitchell rounded things off nicely in stoppage time when he both won and scored a penalty.
Make sure you check out Dan Davies’ match photograph gallery by clicking HERE.
The Blues were quick out of the traps and had a two-goal lead with five minutes on the clock. Both goals were similar in their construction and owed much to Charly Musonda’s influence on the left. The Belgian, captaining his team in this competition, started by driving inside from the left before feeding it through to the overlapping Wright, who in turn cut the ball back across the face of goal for Ali to slot in his first goal at this level.
Moments later, Musonda found Palmer in a similar position and whilst goalkeeper Leonardo Fasan was able to get out to make a save, Wright had remained alert to the situation and collected the loose ball before finding the bottom corner to score his first goal since Under-16 level, a drought of more than three years.
The one-way traffic continued unabated as Celtic struggled to deal with the intensity of Chelsea’s pressing and the speed of their execution in possession, and Fasan had to be alert to keep Palmer and Tammy Abraham at bay before the quarter of an hour mark had been reached. By the time the clock had ticked around to that point, though, the hosts did have a third.
The build-up this time was down the right and heavily involved Ali; like Musonda before him he came inside before dropping a neat reverse ball around the corner to Palmer, who worked a yard of space to cross with a quick dummy, allowing Musonda himself to apply the finish at the far post.
Celtic’s troubles were encapsulated when midfielder Regan Hendry was booked for a cynical trip on the marauding Palmer to prevent him from running through clear on goal. To rub salt into an already severe wound, Palmer picked himself up and curled a delightful free kick beyond Fasan to make it 4-0 just over midway through the first half.
Jamal Blackman in the Chelsea goal was kept alert by right-back Daniel Higgins’ ambitious shot from the edge of the area having made up good ground on the right, but he was otherwise a spectactor as his teammates kept a firm grip on proceedings. Jack Breslin and Dirk Boerrigter each added their names to the list of those performing crude and contentious tackles on Chelsea players as the match ran towards half time with the visitors looking like they’d rather be anywhere else than in Hampshire on a cold December evening.
Fasan was busy again not long after the restart when he was called upon to beat away a sweetly-struck Charlie Colkett volley from the edge of the area but, owing to a combination of a more determined Celtic side and Chelsea not quite hitting the same highs as they had earlier in the game, it was a more even and respectable affair in the early stages of the second half.
Isaac Christie-Davies replaced the excellent Palmer with just over an hour played and long-range half-chances fell to both Musonda and Abraham, but a deflection took the former’s effort wide with Fasan stranded whilst the latter’s effort was dragged wide when he might well have done better. Musonda was then able to work Fasan with a near-post bobbler and, from the ensuing corner, Christie-Davies flashed a snap-shot over from inside the six yard box.
Alex Kiwomya replaced Josimar Quintero with fifteen minutes remaining and almost had an instant impact, racing clear down the right and pulling the ball back into the middle for the onrushing Musonda, who just couldn’t quite get there ahead of the clearing Celtic defender.
Things then grew rather spiky as Musonda saw yellow for his reaction to a tackle by Sam Wardrop before Colkett was sent off for collecting two bookings in the space of thirty seconds; the first for timewasting and the second for a rash tackle with tensions already high.
It was an unnecessarily sour development after the highs of the first half but the heavy lifting had long since been done, but things did end on a positive note when Mitchell drove past McCart down the left before the young full-back brought him down in the box and, with Abraham, Palmer and Colkett all off the pitch, he picked himself up to send Fasan the wrong way and make it 5-0.
The result meant Chelsea and Benfica progress from Group A and they join Porto, Villarreal, PSV, Sunderland and Athletic Bilbao in the Quarter Finals, with the final spot to be sorted between Tottenham and Everton. The competition will continue early in the new year.
Chelsea: Blackman, Dabo, Tomori, Clarke-Salter, Wright, Colkett, Quintero (Kiwomya 74), Ali, Abraham (Mitchell 85), Palmer (Christie-Davies 62), Musonda (c)
Subs not Used: Collins, Colley, Wakefield, Conroy
Goals: Ali ‘4, Wright ‘5, Musonda ’15, Palmer ’23, Mitchell ’90 (pen)
Booked: Musonda, Colkett
Sent Off: Colkett
Celtic: Fasan, Higgins, McIlduff, McCart, Kelleher, Breslin, Archibald (Johnston 70), Hendry, Boerrigter (Wardrop 45), Nesbitt (Murray 62), Miller
Subs not Used: McCabe, Payne, Lafferty
Booked: Hendry, Higgins