Under-18s: West Ham United 1-5 Chelsea

Chelsea are champions of the Under-18 Premier League South for a fourth year in a row after defeating West Ham United 5-1 at Little Heath on Saturday morning.

The Blues also surpassed last season’s total of 52 points – with two games to spare – with a resounding win that owed much to a devastating first half in which the majority of the damage was done. Charlie Brown scored a brace, won a penalty which Billy Gilmour duly dispatched, and laid on an assist for Tino Anjorin, whilst Conor Gallagher’s captain’s performance earned him a goal in the second half. The only blot on the copybook came when Bernardo Rosa beat Karlo Žiger to deny the Blues another clean sheet.

Having produced such a strong second half in beating Southampton last time out in the league, Jody Morris made just one change to that starting eleven, with Brown replacing Martell Taylor-Crossdale in attack. The former Ipswich youngster has been in fine goalscoring form of late, notching in both legs of the FA Youth Cup Semi Final against Birmingham, and would play a considerable role here too.

Knowing they needed just a point to secure another trophy for their collection, Chelsea’s bright start matched the warm spring conditions in Romford, and they were soon a goal to the good. Brown was pulled to the ground when attempting to connect with a cross from the left, a penalty was awarded, and Gilmour beat Joseph Anang from the spot with a well-struck effort into the bottom corner.

West Ham competed well in midfield, despite facing the considerable talents of Gallagher and George McEachran, but every time Chelsea managed to penetrate their guard and get into the final third they looked dangerous. Anjorin linked well with Jonathan Panzo before lashing over the crossbar, Gilmour had a free kick safely gathered by Anang, and the pressure eventually told as the Blues kicked through the gears to pull away before the break.

Brown made it 2-0 with a typically clinical finish after Gallagher had won possession and Anjorin supplied the through ball, and they weren’t done. Uwakwe went close to a third before Brown himself added it in the 39th minute; after battling away with Gallagher to recover the ball in the West Ham box, he was on hand to turn home the rebound after Anang had been unable to hold onto Anjorin’s shot.

Anjorin himself wasn’t to be denied either, making it 4-0 a minute later with a devastating first-time finish from Brown’s layoff as Chelsea cut a swathe through the Hammers’ rearguard.

It was as comprehensive as it was controlled, and it was therefore perhaps a little disappointing that those same standards weren’t applied in the second half. Certainly, the result was never in doubt, and further chances came and went without Uwakwe, McEachran or Anjorin adding to the scoreline, but West Ham came into the match more and more as the game went on.

Gallagher made it 5-0 with a deserved goal in a move he both started and finished; a powerful tackle on the halfway line took the ball away from his opposite number, and he then got into the box to apply the finishing touches, with some quick feet on display to work the space in which to beat Anang.

A fifth clean sheet in a row was wiped off when Rosa squeezed a free kick through Žiger’s grasp for a consolation the hosts merited, but it was only the second goal conceded by Morris’ boys in the last ten matches, an outstanding record at any level. To their credit, West Ham could have added to that, as Aji Alese cracked the foot of the post whilst masquerading as a forward, and sub Kevin Dalipi bent one wide in the closing stages.

Chelsea didn’t need to exert themselves to the full extent of their capacities in the end, and have been the best team in the South section by a considerable distance all season long. They’ll try to retain their Under-18 national title in a single-legged against presumptive North champion Manchester United in the coming weeks.

West Ham United: Anang, Greenidge, Fevrier, Barrett (Dalipi 63), Alese, Wells (c), Watson, Belic, Spyrides (El Mhassani 76), Mingi, Rosa (Adarkwa 78)
Subs not Used: Jinadu, E.Longelo

Goal: Rosa 65
Booked: Wells

Chelsea: Žiger, Lamptey (Wakely 64), Lavinier, Guehi, Panzo, Gallagher (c), Uwakwe, Gilmour (Mola 80), Brown, McEachran, Anjorin (Taylor-Crossdale 69)
Subs not Used: Askew, Walters

Goals: Gilmour 7 (pen), Brown 27, 39, Anjorin 40, Gallagher 62
Booked: Lamptey