Chelsea returned to Under-18 league action after a prolonged international and Easter break ob Saturday and did so in some style, hammering Reading 6-2 at Cobham in a stunning second half display.
Trailing by a goal to nil at half time, the young Blues simply blew away their visitors from Berkshire with half a dozen goals in less than half an hour. Iké Ugbo and Jacob Maddox led the way with two apiece, whilst there was also room for Miro Muheim and Luke McCormick to weigh in, the latter with his first of the season.
It was the fourth meeting between the two teams in 2015-16 and, particularly after a recent FA Youth Cup clash, they were well aware of each other’s threats. Chelsea moved the ball well in early passages and looked the better side only to quickly then find themselves trailing as Harrison Bennett opened his body to dispatch a fine curling effort beyond the reaxh of goalkeeper Nathan Baxter.
The hosts weren’t at their sharpest but were still able to conjure up chances. Isaac Christie-Davies saw a header cleared off the line, Ugbo slammed into the side netting from close range and Mason Mount hit the post having initially been denied by a brave save from the Royals’ Luke Southwood.
Reading, for their part, showed glimpses that reminded everyone they finished second to Chelsea in the southern section and remain national title contenders in their own right. Tyler Frost drove one straight at Baxter when he might have done better, and top scorer Sam Smith fizzed wide from a right angle following good work by Danny Loader.
They did, however, lose Bennett and influential defender Axel Andresson to injury just before the break, and the ensuing reshuffle and relative inexperience of their replacements ultimately had an impact on the outcome.
Chelsea were made to wait some five minutes for their visitors ahead of the second half but wasted little time in setting about turning things around. Switching to a 4-2-3-1, they approached things with a swagger and a verve missing earlier in the game, and were quickly on level terms.
Maddox was at the heart of things, combining well with Ugbo in an intricate move down the right. He saw his effort come back off the post but Muheim was on hand to beat his man to the rebound and prod home the loose ball.
That increased tempo and urgency then resulted in Ramarni Medford-Smith misjudging a backpass under pressure, one which sold Southwood short and allowed Maddox to steal in, nod past the advancing Reading ‘stopper and find the empty net to make it 2-1.
Tails up, Chelsea looked unstoppable. Mount danced his way into a promising position on the left and picked out Wakefield, and although his controlled shot was expertly saved by Southwood, Ugbo gleefully gobbled up a tap-in to make it three and put the result beyond doubt.
The blue tide continued unabated though, with the scoring only halfway done. A melee from a corner saw Joseph Colley crudely brought down for a penalty that Reading keenly disputed, but McCormick confidently converted from twelve yards to get on the scoresheet for the first time this term and cap another excellent display with individual reward.
Their fifth was the pick of the bunch. Blessed with time and space against a defeated foe, Josh Grant looked up and whipped in an elegant cross that cried out for a willing header. Maddox obliged, arriving against a bigger opponent but with better timing to plant his finish into the bottom corner.
Ugbo matched his tally by notching a league-leading 19th of the season – 21 in all competitions – when he pulled a looping deflected Wakefield effort out of the air and found the target from six yards out. There was just time enough for Smith to crack in a fine consolation effort for the away side but the day belonged to the Blues, who now look forward to the return leg of their FA Youth Cup Semi Final against Blackburn this coming Friday at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea: Baxter, Sterling, Colley, Grant (c), Muheim (C. Dasilva), McCormick, Wakefield (Hinckson-Mars), Christie-Davies (Chalobah), Ugbo, Mount, Maddox
Subs not Used: Cumming, Nartey
Goals: Muheim, Maddox (2), Ugbo (2), McCormick
Reading: Southwood, Howe, Richards, Bennett (Medford-Smith), Osho (c), Andresson (Coleman), Frost, East, Smith, Loader (Rollinson), Davis
Subs not Used: Tupper, Shokunbi
Goals: Bennett, Smith