Chelsea’s Under-21s continued their fine recent form with a confident 5-0 victory over Norwich City at Aldershot on Wednesday evening.
Early goals from Reece Mitchell and Jordan Houghton established a stranglehold on the game which the Blues never relinquished and they added further to the scoreline in the second half. Kasey Palmer’s 12th of the season put the result beyond doubt before centre-backs Dion Conroy and Fikayo Tomori each added a spectacular strike to add gloss to the final outcome.
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Adi Viveash kept faith with the majority of the side that he was so pleased with in a scrappy, hard-fought draw at Sunderland last time out some three weeks ago. Jamal Blackman came in for Brad Collins in goal whilst Jake Clarke-Salter, fresh off the plane from Paris last night with the first team, slotted back in at centre-half with Trevoh Chalobah the man to make way. Captain Fankaty Dabo continued in an advanced role on the right.
It took a matter of minutes for the hosts to take the lead. They adjusted to the atrocious weather conditions and questionable playing surface far better than Norwich but it was a defensive mistake that opened the door for them to make it 1-0. Goalkeeper Jake Kean crashed a clearance into team-mate Reece Hall-Johnson, allowing Tammy Abraham to collect and find Dabo, who delivered a cross for Mitchell to finish from close range.
The visitors tried to respond with a Benny Ashley-Seal effort hit straight at Blackman but Chelsea were in good nick early on and should have been two to the good when Abraham missed the target from a couple of yards out following good work by Palmer on the right. They wouldn’t have to wait long to increase the advantage though, with Houghton prodding home from a corner after eleven minutes.
Norwich looked to still be toiling from a 7-0 thrashing at the hands of a very experienced Manchester United team last week and it took them a long time to get into the game. They were second to loose balls in the middle of the park resulting in several fouls and little opportunity for them to wrestle the initiative away from Chelsea. Ashley-Seal looked the most likely but he was largely kept on the periphery of things, only able to deliver a threatening cross or two from the right to nobody in particular.
Clarke-Salter glanced a header over from Palmer’s free kick with Viveash’s boys looking for more goals but Norwich closed out the half in a more respectable manner by imposing themselves a little more in the opposing half and Under-16 forward Glenn Middleton drew Blackman into a smart low save moments before the break with a tricky effort from the edge of the box.
The general theme of the contest continued unabated after the restart too, with Kean’s intervention required to keep Abraham at bay after the prolific forward had linked well with the excellent Kyle Scott. A second half-chance in quick succession then came his way after Mitchell powered his way into the box but Michee Efete arrived in time to sweep up and clear the danger for Norwich.
Ever-determined, Abraham embarked upon a bustling run from the halfway line only to watch as Kean tipped his ferocious effort onto the post, but this time Palmer was on hand to fire the rebound into the roof of the net to make it 3-0 and put the Blues firmly out of sight shortly before the hour.
That offered Viveash the opportunity to introduce Conroy and Charlie Wakefield from the bench and it took the former less than a minute to make his presence felt. Popping up in attack despite replacing Clarke-Salter in defence, he showed an unfamiliar turn of foot to open up his options before jinking back inside and whipping a fine finish beyond Kean to make it four. It was just his third goal in more than 80 appearances for Chelsea’s various youth teams and by far the most unexpected.
Not to be outdone, Tomori weighed in with a special strike of his own with eight minutes remaining. Up for a corner, he connected flush with a full volley on his weaker left foot and thundered beyond Kean to put the cherry on a fine Chelsea performance. The result doesn’t see them climb the table but they have closed the gap on several sides above them and, should they win all of their games in hand, will be firmly in title contention as the season run-in approaches.
Chelsea: Blackman, Aina (Wakefield 67), Tomori, Clarke-Salter (Conroy 67), J.Dasilva, Houghton, Dabo (c), Scott (Quintero 79), Abraham, Palmer, Mitchell
Subs not Used: Wright, Collins
Goals: Mitchell ‘4, Houghton ’11, Palmer ’57, Conroy ’68, Tomori ‘82
Booked: Wakefield, Palmer, Scott
Norwich City: Kean, Hall-Johnson (c), Uade, Godfrey, Coker, Efete, Adams (Ramsay 67), Grant, Ashley-Seal, Cantwell (McIntosh 79), Middleton
Subs not Used: Beauchamp, Lewis, Jaiyesimi
Booked: Hall-Johnson, Cantwell