YOUTH REPORT: CHELSEA 0 READING 3
It was a case of the more clinical side succeeding at Cobham on Saturday as the young Blues went down to a visiting Reading team that end the campaign as runners-up in the Elite Group, after 10 consecutive wins.
A first-half free-kick strike from Craig Tanner gave the Royals the lead before Sean Long doubled their advantage early in the second half and then Tanner grabbed his second, and Reading's third, with a tidy finish.
There was a first appearance in the league for Charly Musonda, younger brother of Under-21 regulars Tika and Lamisha, as he started in midfield alongside fellow schoolboy Charlie Colkett and captain John Swift (pictured).
Chike Kandi led the line up front once more, supported by Ambrose Gnahore and George Cole from the flanks. In defence Dion Conroy and Jonathan Muleba partnered one another at centre-back with fit-again Adam Nditi at left-back, Fankaty Dabo at right-back and Ben Killip between the sticks.
The visitors went into the game still fighting for top spot in the elite group and began proceedings looking very much like a side that had recorded nine wins on the trot. Killip was called into action within the opening five minutes as he made a smart stop from Murombedzi from the edge of the penalty area.
However Chelsea were proving to have an early threat of their own, springing quick attacks on the break from deep and fashioned an opportunity to run at the Reading defenders early on. Skipper Swift flashed a chance past Dan Lincoln's far post before Musonda and Colkett combined to create an opening that was just spoiled by a heavy first touch from the Belgian.
Fosu then found himself in a promising position having been fed in behind down the left flank, but Dabo recovered well and stood his ground before the eventual effort was dragged just wide. Kuhl capitalised on some sloppy ball retention at the back from the young Blues but Killip was once again a match for the final effort at goal.
After 20 minutes a Blues break led by Kandi was ended abruptly and rather cynically as the striker was upended by Kuhl about 25 yards out. The midfield man was booked for his troubles by the referee, however Swift's free-kick flew harmlessly over the bar.
Gnahore then brought a smart stop from Lincoln between the Reading sticks, before the impressive goalkeeper then made a fine save from Cole as the wideman lashed a loose ball towards the top corner. At the other end Killip also had to be on full alert to dash off his line and thwart Kelly's attempted chip with a good double-handed save, before Muleba cleared the loose ball from danger.
Gnahore saw an excellent effort from the edge of the box bend agonisingly just over before the deadlock was finally broken a couple of minutes before half time. Tanner's first free-kick effort 25 yards out was charged down by Musonda from the wall, though the referee adjudged the block to have been with the youngster's arm and awarded a second free-kick a dozen yards closer. This time Tanner made no mistake, bending the ball beyond the wall and past Killip into the goalkeeper's unguarded side of the goal.
It gave the visitors an advantage at the end of an even half, full of decent opportunities, and put them on course to leapfrog Fulham and top the elite league.
The hosts started the second period brightly and Kandi worked himself an early chance that Lincoln was once again equal to from just inside the box, before Cole's free-kick from further than 30 yards was tipped expertly around the post.
Schoolboy Dom Solanke replaced Musonda not long into the half and provided a further threat through the middle with his pace and directness, though it was Cole once again testing Lincoln and bringing another smart save from the visiting goalkeeper.
Tanner then fired over after Fosu found his clever run before Swift shot over down the other end as the game opened up, and both sides chased the important next goal. That came shortly after and it was Reading who doubled their advantage, right-back Long finishing a neat move with a tidy finish past Killip.
The goal took the wind out of the Chelsea sails slightly, though Kandi was again denied by Lincoln as the hosts continued to fight. Adi Viveash swapped Nditi, recently returned from injury, for Nortei Nortey midway through the second period, with Dabo switching over to left-back.
Solanke, operating through the middle, almost got lucky after chasing down a short pass back to the goalkeeper but was just beaten to it by Lincoln, before the substitute then got in behind after a clever slide-rule pass from Swift, but found the angle too tight and the eventual chance for Gnahore was dealt with by recovering defenders.
Reading then killed off any lingering Chelsea hope by bagging a third goal, Tanner grabbing his second of the game after finishing off another flowing move with a composed finish past the onrushing Killip.
It was the final action of note as the game petered towards its conclusion, though Swift did still find time to drill an effort low and just past the far post. The visitors had taken their chances and reaped the rewards with maximum points.
Viveash's boys now have one remaining league game to play, with Crystal Palace the visitors to Cobham on Friday, before the FA Youth Cup final second-leg against Norwich City at Stamford Bridge on Monday 13 May.
Second-half goals from Fulham gave them a 2-0 win over Everton so they win the Under-18 Premier League Elite Group title.
Chelsea Killip; Dabo, Conroy, Muleba, Nditi (Nortey); Colkett, Swift (c), C.Musonda (Solanke); G Cole, Kandi (Howard), Gnahore.
Reading Lincoln; Long, Cooper, Hyam, Griffin; Murombedzi, Kuhl, Stacey; Fosu, Kelly, Tanner.