Chelsea’s Under-18s warmed up for their midweek FA Youth Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday with a 3-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Cobham on Saturday.
In a typically entertaining London derby between two top-class academies, it was Chelsea who were able to establish a strong lead, as goals from George McEachran and Martell Taylor-Crossdale twice put them three to three good shortly after half time. They were however made to work hard for their win as Reo Griffiths and Tashan Oakley-Boothe reduced the deficit to make it a tense finale for the Blues.
With the Development Squad fixture at Arsenal postponed 24 hours earlier, Jody Morris was afforded a wider pool of talent from which to pick his team, and so called upon the experience of Joseph Colley and Jacob Maddox for the occasion. Colley joined Josh Grant and Marc Guehi in a three-man defence, whilst Maddox partnered Luke McCormick in midfield, with Reece James and Cole Dasilva wide and Callum Hudson-Odoi joining McEachran and Taylor-Crossdale in attack.
Tottenham enjoyed the better of the early stages and might have been ahead had Jamie Cumming not dealt well with a short backpass nearly seized upon by Kazaiah Sterling, but the hosts were quickly able to eke out a 9th-minute lead courtesy of a fantastic goal. Hudson-Odoi’s deftly flicked through ball took both Tottenham defenders out of the picture and released McEachran, who was composed enough to lob the ball over the advancing Brandon Austin to make it 1-0.
John McDermott’s visitors reacted well, settling into a ten-minute passage where they were easily the better team and had half-chances spurned by by Sterling and Nick Tsaroulla.
Keanan Bennetts then went close-but-not-close-enough with a free kick before Taylor-Crossdale showed him how it’s done to double Chelsea’s lead before the break. Japhet Tanganga was booked for a clumsy foul on Hudson-Odoi, allowing Taylor-Crossdale to step up and drill a low strike under the jumping Tottenham wall and into the corner for his 14th of the campaign.
He could have added to it before the half time whistle were it not for a good save, but he only had to wait six second half minutes to get his second and a third for Chelsea that threatened to put them out of sight. It was a silky-smooth team move with Maddox at the heart of it, and it was his cross that was expertly guided home by Taylor-Crossdale, and that should have been that.
Had either of Cole Dasilva’s ensuing tries gone in then it almost certainly would have been game over but, a team of Tottenham’s calibre will always be in with a shout, and when substitute Griffiths pulled one back with a header after seeing his initial effort come back off the crossbar, they’d produced a lifeline to cling onto.
The pressure increased but was largely well handled by Chelsea, with all three central defenders imperious at times. Hudson-Odoi and Taylor-Crossdale both had good chances to restore the three-goal lead without capitalising – the latter after a foul by Tariq Hinds that might have seen another referee produce a red card – but 3-1 it remained until minutes from time, when another sub in Oliver Skipp played Oakley-Boothe in for another well-taken goal, leaving a nervous last few minutes for the Blues.
They handled it well and secured another three points that will go a long way to ensuring they qualify for the elite merit group when the leagues split come March. Next up, however, is that Youth Cup Fifth Round tie against Sheffield Wednesday at Aldershot on Wednesday. Tickets are priced at £3 for adults and £1 for concessions, and the fixture will also be broadcast live on Chelsea TV.
Chelsea: Cumming, Guehi, Colley, Grant (c), C.Dasilva, McCormick, James, Maddox, Taylor-Crossdale (Castillo), McEachran (St Clair), Hudson-Odoi (Gallagher)
Subs not Used: Thompson, Nartey
Goals: McEachran, Taylor-Crossdale (2)
Tottenham Hotspur: Austin, Eyoma, Tsaroulla, Marsh (Skipp), Dinzeyi, Tanganga, Shashoua, Duncan, Sterling (Griffiths), Oakley-Boothe, Bennetts (Hinds)
Subs not Used: Freeman, Velasco
Goals: Griffiths, Oakley-Boothe
Booked: Tanganga, Marsh