Chelsea’s 100% record at home in the Under-18 Premier League continued on Saturday morning courtesy of a 2-0 win over Reading at Cobham.
The Blues were made to work hard for their reward and had to wait until well into the second half before they eventually took the lead, but a lovely team goal finished by Tariq Uwakwe was the least they deserved. Substitute Charlie Brown added gloss to the scoreline with practically the last kick of the match and, on balance, it was a fair outcome.
It was a familiar-looking side selected by manager Jody Morris, with Jamie Cumming keeping goal behind a back four of Reece James, Marc Guehi, captain Josh Grant and Cole Dasilva. A midfield quartet of Luke McCormick, Conor Gallagher, Uwakwe and George McEachran rotated between operating as a diamond and a box, leaving Martell Taylor-Crossdale and Harvey St Clair to lead the line in attack.
Reading had been involved in a number of high-scoring contests this season, notably a 7-4 win at Brighton last time out, but their set out their stall to defend early, often, and in numbers here. As the majority of visitors to Cobham are, they were content to let Chelsea dominate possession whilst utilising a low block, making themselves hard to break down.
That limited the Blues to half-chances from the edge of the area for most of the first half. Gallagher and Taylor-Crossdale had the best of them, but rarely found the target and, when they did, Liam Driscoll was easily able to deal with what was thrown his way.
He was the busier of the two stoppers with Cumming left to sweep up the occasional set piece, but neither side looked especially threatening in an otherwise engaging first half. The hosts used the ball well at times, with McEachran and Uwakwe especially involved in some smart, one-touch approach play, but it would require more than that to break the deadlock.
Things began to open up in the second half with Chelsea more determined to fashion a goal and Reading a little more adventurous in their approach. James stung Driscoll’s hands with a first-time effort arriving late onto a cutback but it was the Royals who were guilty of spurning the best chance of all when Ben House slammed his shot into the side netting when wide open and well-placed inside the penalty area.
A Chelsea counter attack led by Dasilva ended with a wasteful finish by St Clair but they were to finally open the scoring and, when they did, they did it in some style. Taylor-Crossdale held the ball up on the right before finding Uwakwe, who handed over to McEachran for a beautiful reverse ball in behind for Dasilva. His first-time cross was gleefully converted by Uwakwe for a stylish and clinical conclusion to a truly brilliant passage of play.
Back came Reading though, and they carried more of a threat than at any point in the match. Cumming made a pair of good saves to deny Ramarni Medford-Smith and Danny Loader, whilst England Under-17 forward Loader then put one well over from a decent shooting angle.
Taylor-Crossdale should’ve put the result beyond doubt before limping off with cramp in stoppage time but, right at the end, Brown opened his body to steer expertly beyond Driscoll and into the far corner to secure the 2-0 final score. Chelsea head to Tottenham next weekend for a London derby in which they hope to claim their first away win of 2016-17.
Chelsea: Cumming, James, Guehi, Grant (c), C.Dasilva. McCormick, Gallagher (Castillo), Uwakwe, Taylor-Crossdale (Nartey), McEachran (C.Brown), St Clair
Sub not Used: Thompson
Goals: Uwakwe, C.Brown
Reading: Driscoll, Howe, Medford-Smith, Odimayo, Philby, Shokunbi (Denton), Rollinson, Loader, House, Holsgrove, Green (Coleman)
Subs not Used: Hillson, Wilson, Buchanan