Chelsea underlined their superiority in the Under-18 Premier League once again on Saturday as they beat local rivals Fulham 6-1 at Cobham to record their sixth successive victory of the season so far
The match pitted first against second, with the two West London academies in free-scoring form, but it was the Blues’ pedigree that shone through on a remarkable morning at their training ground in Surrey. Despite falling behind to a Jayden Harris goal midway through the first half, Chelsea responded with five goals in a twelve-minute blitz before half time, leaving Fulham shell-shocked in the process.
With four key players away with England at the Under-17 World Cup, it promised to be a stern test of the depth available to Jody Morris. Two schoolboys were included in his starting eleven, as Faustino Anjorin and debutant Dynel Simeu were the beneficiaries of those absences, whilst Marcel Lavinier returned to the squad after a recent spell training with Portugal’s Under-18 squad. Reece James dropped back down from the Development Squad ranks to lend his expertise as captain.
Fulham were much the better side early on though, threatening through recent first-team debutant Matthew O’Riley and Nico Santos, and it came as little surprise when they made the breakthrough first after 23 minutes. Santos’ mazy run cut the Chelsea defence apart, leaving Harris to apply the finish past the French goalkeeper Nicolas Tié. It was the first league goal the Blues had conceded this season, bringing an end to a run of more than 550 minutes without allowing a goal.
Finding themselves behind in a match for the first time since April’s home game against Blackburn, the response was swift and decisive. It took five minutes to produce the equaliser, with Billy Gilmour finding the back of the net for the third game in succession, this time with a volley from a partially-cleared corner that left the unsighted Luca Ashby-Hammond rooted to his spot.
The floodgates then opened as Chelsea’s rapid direct breaks and accurate crossing proved to be too much for Fulham to handle. Tariq Lamptey, celebrating his birthday and a maiden professional contract, provided the delivery for Martell Taylor-Crossdale to establish the lead with a first-time finish at the near post, an act he would repeat two minutes later on the other side as James this time came up with the assist for 3-1.
The skipper played a key role in the fourth goal on 36 minutes as he headed Tariq Uwakwe’s corner back across goal to give Daishawn Redan a simple finish for his third goal in two games, and there was still time before the break for Taylor-Crossdale to complete a ten-minute hat-trick, gleefully sweeping home after Redan had bested Jose Garrido on the right.
A half time scoreline of 5-1 didn’t so much reflect badly on Fulham as it did well on Chelsea; the visitors had been the better team up until the moment they took the lead, but Morris’ youngsters simply went up through the gears after that, and the game as a contest was well and truly finished.
Tié prevented Cameron Thompson from adding to his league-leading seven goals shortly after the restart with a smart save one-on-one, but he had relatively little else to do thereafter, save for showing confidence and authority in claiming any high ball into the penalty area.
Chelsea, understandably, played with more control to preserve their win, but continued to look for openings to add further gloss to the scoreline. Lamptey, impressive throughout, worked Ashby-Hammond into a good save with a powerful shot when cutting in from the left, but there was to be just one more goal to complete the 6-1 final score, and it came from the schoolboy Anjorin, who was on hand to poke home from six yards out following some penalty-box pinball.
Redan threatened late on with some impressive driving runs that lacked a finishing touch, whilst substitute Renedi Masampu came within inches of a goal where, rather than the ball ending up in the back of the net, he himself did instead.
The win keeps Chelsea atop the Southern section with six wins from six, with twenty goals scored and just one conceded. They have next weekend off before embarking upon a pair of away trips to Leicester City and Southampton in mid-October.
Chelsea: Tié, Lavinier, Wakely, Simeu (Masampu 63), Lamptey, Uwakwe, James (c), Gilmour (Mola 71), Taylor-Crossdale, Anjorin (Walters 65), Redan
Subs not Used: Žiger, Brown
Goals: Gilmour 28, Taylor-Crossdale 30, 32, 40, Redan 36, Anjorin 65
Fulham: L.Ashby-Hammond, Felix, Martin, Francois, Asare, Garrido, York (Hilton 58), O’Riley (Abraham 58), Thompson, Harris, Santos (Tahir 80)
Subs not Used: Wickens, Davis
Goal: Harris 23
Booked: Hilton, Harris