Chelsea’s Under-18s bounced back from defeat at Manchester City last weekend with a 1-0 win over Everton at Cobham on Saturday to get their national title challenge back on track.
The Blues know they will likely have to emerge victorious from the Elite stage of competition if they are to feature in next season’s UEFA Youth League and were able to secure all three points in a game of few chances courtesy of Dujon Sterling’s second goal in as many games just before half time.
It was a closely-contested affair throughout with two well-matched teams comfortable in possession, capable in attack yet durable in defence, and each were able to blunt the best efforts at breaking through in a deadlocked opening to proceedings.
Mason Mount, lively throughout, hooked the best chance wide of Ciaran O’Loughlin’s post shortly after Trevoh Chalobah had intervened to keep Nathan Holland at bay in Everton’s best offering, but it was a case of whoever made the fewest mistakes emerging on top.
A momentary hesitation in the visitors’ ranks was all it took five minutes before the break as Sterling seized on a loose ball high up the pitch and used his pace to sprint clear on goal. Despite losing his footing, he got back up in time to find the back of the net, just as he had at City last time out.
Holland might have ensured a quick restoration of parity for John Ebbrell’s side had he seized on Josh Grant’s short back pass more swiftly or had he not then wasted a clear shot from twelve yards out, but Nathan Baxter was on hand each time to deal with the danger.
Baxter would be the busier goalkeeper in the second half too as Everton stepped things up in their bid to turn things around. Shayne Lavery stroked one tamely at the Chelsea stopper when well placed, Holland planted a header towards goal in a similar vein, and Antony Evans whipped a curling effort just past the post in quick succession.
Leading scorer Nathan Broadhead was next to prove his profligacy, screwing awkwardly wide when presented with time, space and Holland for support, and it was a crucial moment in the context of the match as it was the last time Everton were really able to threaten.
Chelsea coach Joe opted to shore up by reverting to a flat back four – having started with a 3-4-2-1 look – and introducing Cole Dasilva, Charlie Wakefield and Luke McCormick from the bench. They were able to settle down and see the game out on top whilst conjuring up a few more opportunities to make the scoreline a more comfortable one.
Jacob Maddox won a free kick which Miro Muheim watched deflect wide and, from the ensuing corner, Ugbo’s hit was cleared off the line. Ugbo was also kept out late on by O’Loughlin before Maddox skied the rebound over, but the win positions Chelsea nicely for the visit of West Ham next weekend.
Before then, however, there remains the small matter of a UEFA Youth League Quarter Final at home to Ajax on Tuesday and the first leg of this year’s FA Youth Cup Semi Final at Blackburn on Friday night.
Chelsea: Baxter, Sterling, Colley, Grant (c) (C. Dasilva), Chalobah, Sammut, Maddox, Mount (McCormick), Ugbo, Christie-Davies, Muheim (Wakefield)
Subs not Used: Suljic, Cumming
Everton: O’Loughlin, Yates, Mellen, Baningime, Feeney, Yarney, Holland (c), Kiersey, Lavery (Brewster), Evans, Broadhead
Subs not Used: Pierce, Morris, Harrington, Lees
Booked: Feeney, Yarney