Chelsea’s Under-18s continued their strong home record at Cobham with a 4-2 win over Arsenal on Saturday morning.
The Blues have struggled on the road so far this season but tend to be imperious on their own patch and, so it proved again here, as Martell Taylor-Crossdale helped himself to a hat-trick whilst Harvey St Clair chipped in with another as the duo continued their own prolific recent spells.
Following a disappointing 5-3 reverse at the hands of Norwich last time out, Blues boss Jody Morris will have wanted to see a reaction from his young side, and did he ever get it. Bolstered by the inclusion of Joseph Colley, Jacob Maddox and debutant goalkeeper Marcin Bułka, Chelsea roared out of the traps and were 2-0 up with only five minutes played.
Taylor-Crossdale grabbed both of them, the first coming after Arsenal goalkeeper Joao Virginia charged off his line in an attempt to intercept a long ball only to get it all wrong and leave the young forward with a tap in. That was followed by a penalty as Maddox stormed unto the box before being upended, allowing Taylor-Crossdale to confidently convert from twelve yards.
It was all Arsenal could do to hang on to just a two-goal deficit as they struggled to match Chelsea’s intensity. Captain Josh Grant forced a save from Virginia as he got forward well from left back, whilst schoolboy Callum Hudson-Odoi was enjoying himself against visiting skipper Tolaji Bola; confidently driving past him before whipping in a devilish cross that only just eluded St Clair.
Yet, instead of being out of sight, Chelsea went into half time with something to think about as Arsenal managed to reduce their arrears. Joe Willock did well to conjure space tight to the byline, which was enough for him to alllw Jordi Osei-Tutu to slide past Bułka at the far post.
On such moments do games change and, had top scorer Eddie Nketiah converted a gilt-edged chance early in the second half, it might have been an altogether different story. Instead, he dragged it wide of the post, and it wasn’t long before Chelsea were able to re-establish their two-goal cushion.
It owed much to the majesty of George McEachran. Using his low centre of gravity to his benefit, he danced his way past three red shirts down the right side, cutting inside and heading for goal but, before he could apply his finishing touch, St Clair pounced to lash home from the edge of the six yard box for his fourth goal of the season.
Marc Guehi and Reece James were both in the right place at the right time to continue to frustrate the hard-working Nketiah but Arsenal’s indiscipline cost them any chance of a comeback as they conceded a second penalty. Taylor-Crossdale crashed a shot into the post and St Clair, collecting the rebound, was fouled. Taylor-Crossdale sent Virginia the wrong way to complete his hat-trick and make it eight goals in five games to add to his eight pre-season tallies.
A smartly-taken individual effort from substitute Josh Benson made things look a bit better for Kwame Ampadu’s away side and Nketiah had two more sights of goal late in the day but Bułka remained on top of things to see out a handsome 4-2 win. The challenge for the group now must be to take some of their home form on the road with them, starting next Saturday at Aston Villa.
Chelsea: Bułka, James, Colley, Guehi, Grant (c), McCormick, Hudson-Odoi, Maddox (Gallagher), Taylor-Crossdale (Castillo), McEachran, St Clair
Subs not Used: Cumming, Uwakwe, C.Brown
Goals: Taylor-Crossdale (3), St Clair
Arsenal: Virginia, Osei-Tutu, T.Bola (c) (Omole), McGuane, Olowu, Ballard, J.Willock, Burton, Nketiah, Malen (Coyle), Smith-Rowe (Benson)
Subs not Used: Okonkwo, Thompson
Goals: Osei-Tutu, Benson