Chelsea’s strong start to the new Premier League 2 season continued as they marked their first home game of the campaign with a stylish 4-1 victory over Liverpool at Aldershot’s EBB Stadium on Monday night.
The hosts controlled proceedings from first to last, and were more than good value for the three points, but they were made to wait before being able to secure a result. Josimar Quintero opened the scoring on the hour mark only for Harry Wilson to immediately reply for Liverpool, but Mason Mount – who would go on to miss a penalty –Dujon Sterling and Iké Ugbo ensured victory.
As always, be sure to check out Dan Davies’ excellent match gallery by clicking HERE.
Despite the newly-titled league being bumped up to the Under-23 age bracket, Adi Viveash selected what will end up being one of the youngest teams anyone will see all season with several 17 year-olds and one 16 year-old in Dujon Sterling named in his starting eleven. Deprived of the services of Jake Clarke-Salter, Fankaty Dabo, Ola Aina and Charlie Colkett for one reason or another, he was able to call upon the returning Brad Collins in goal but he was just one of two 19 year-olds leading the side.
Liverpool, on the other hand, included Cameron Brannagan in a more experienced side that also saw highly-rated Welsh striker Ben Woodburn start after a pre-season spent scoring goals with their first team. They were were looking to rebound from an opening weekend hammering at the hands of Southampton.
The Blues, on the other hand, had earned a credible point away to last year’s runners-up Sunderland in their first fixture and were in good form early on here. Sterling and captain Jay Dasilva manned the wide positions in a 3-4-2-1 formation and both got forward well in the opening exchanges, the latter trying his luck with a low shot blocked to safety by a Reds defender.
Another Liverpool man also got in the way of Mount’s attempted curler with the mercurial midfielder then just unable to connect with Sterling’s cross at the end of a sweeping Chelsea move. Mount, who earned a promotion to the Development Squad ranks after a scintillating 2015-16 under Joe Edwards at academy level, was pulling all the strings and soon played Quintero in for a chance that was hit rather tamely at Polish goalkeeper Kamil Grabara.
Quintero himself caught the eye with his busy and effective work in the centre of the park but it was a dazzling run towards goal that got him involved next, felled as he was on the edge of the area by Kane Lewis. Mount could only hit the wall from the very close-range free kick but followed that up by delivering a slide-rule, forty-yard through ball to release Ugbo, who was denied the chance to bear down on goal by the quick instincts of the onrushing Grabara.
Liverpool’s brightest moment had come when captain Wilson closed down Fikayo Tomori’s attempted clearance but Collins was able to gather and otherwise had barely been able to break a sweat in the home goal. Mount was guilty of the most glaring miss just before the break as he prodded wide from Dasilva’s cutback but it was a half of positive endeavour and play by the young Blues.
The one-way traffic picked back up when second half action got underway with Tomori heading wide and Isaac Christie-Davies planting another shot frustratingly straight at the busy Grabara, and Ugbo was just too short to reach a looping Dasilva delivery shortly afterwards.
The breakthrough finally arrived just after the hour mark. Christie-Davies drove a ball into the Liverpool left channel for Sterling to chase; he in turn showed a tremendous fleet of foot to reach it and directed a cross into the middle where Quintero arrived on cue to slam home from eight yards out. That lead was only to last a minute though as Liverpool went down the other end from the restart and pulled level through Wilson’s perfectly-executed curler into the top corner from the edge of the area.
It was well and truly against the run of play and, as if to demonstrate that, Chelsea went back ahead five minutes later. Ugbo and Quintero did well and the Ecuadorian, looking for a second, saw his left-footed dig turned home very deliberately by Mount. Suddenly everything was happening and a clumsy trip by Jordan Williams on Ugbo in the very next attack presented the Blues with a chance to pull clear from the penalty spot, but Mount watched as Grabara flung himself to his right to make a very good save to deny him.
They didn’t have to wait very long for their next chance and this time they made it count. Sterling closed down Williams’ clearance, the ball ballooning high into the Hampshire evening sky. Grabara, excellent up to that point, made a dog’s dinner of collecting the ball, dropping it into Sterling’s path, and he poked home from a yard out.
Ugbo might have made it four, shooting off target from the edge of the area, and Collins finally had a save to make in the 83rd minute to push Wilson’s dangerous free kick away for a corner. Mount and Dasilva had been the stars of the show all night though and almost capped the win in style as they exchanged passes before Mount fashioned another shooting chance to extend Grabara one more time.
A fourth came in stoppage time as substitute Charlie Wakefield made a quick impact, initially squaring for fellow replacement Harvey St Clair – making his Development Squad debut – only for him to be crowded out, but he stayed alert and picked the ball back up before crossing to the far post, where Ugbo hooked home for the goal his hard work had warranted.
It was a confident and professional display from such a young team and the sort of performance that will inspire confidence for the games to come. The group are next in action on Sunday away to Manchester United but, before that, Jody Morris’ Under-18s take on Swansea at Cobham on Friday in a match you can watch live on Chelsea TV.
Chelsea: Collins, Sterling, Colley, T.Chalobah (St Clair 85), Tomori, Quintero (Wakefield 78), Mount, Scott, Ugbo, Christie-Davies (Colkett 67), J.Dasilva (c)
Subs not Used: Thompson, Sammut
Goals: Quintero ’61, Mount ’67, Sterling ’72, Ugbo ‘90
Liverpool: Grabara, Lewis (Hart 76), Maguire, Williams, Whelan, Virtue (Kane 76), Wilson (c), A.Phillips, Lennon (T.Gomes 76), Brannagan, Woodburn
Subs not Used: Firth, N.Phillips
Goals: Wilson ‘62