YOUTH REPORT: STOKE CITY 0 CHELSEA 2
Chelsea's Under-18 side bounced back from league defeat at Tottenham last week with a 2-0 win over Stoke City on Saturday in Staffordshire. A bright start earned the visitors a two-goal lead at the interval and, despite easing off the pressure in the second period, Adi Viveash's side held on to claim their second away win of the campaign.
George Cole scored the opener, bending in an excellent free kick after Jeremie Boga (pictured) had been felled on the edge of the area, before Boga himself added a second with a wonderful, individual effort. The young Frenchman picked the ball up on the left, drifted infield and beat three defenders before firing past Dale Eve in the Stoke goal from 20 yards, via the inside of the post.
Charlie Colkett, Ola Aina and Kasey Palmer all went close to grabbing a third after the interval, while Ambrose Gnahore had an effort cleared off the line, as Chelsea continued to dominate. However, there was to be no bolstering of the advantage as the young Blues finished the game with a man more on the pitch after a late Stoke injury.
Viveash was happy to see his side return to winning ways, particularly at the end of a week in which many had travelled with Dermot Drummy's Under-19 team to Schalke in the UEFA Youth League.
'It was a funny game,' he said. 'We were very dominant in possession and played some really good stuff in parts in the first half. It should have been a few more really but the second half drifted a little bit. We had a few of the boys who'd been involved at Schalke and it must have been the oldest youth team we've had this season, so there was a lot of experience.
'Dion Conroy played the first half in central midfield so that was good for him to be in a different position, but the main pluses were the players returning from injury getting minutes again - Jeremie got another 90 minutes, George Cole got his first 90 minutes since coming back from his injury, Reece Mitchell got 60 minutes and he's been out even longer, and Charlie Colkett played his first half of football since pre-season, so they are the real positives.
'We haven't had a clean sheet away from home yet this season so that was another good thing. Some of our football was very good but, with all due respect to Stoke, they weren't one of the best teams we've played this year and I felt our technical level was a little bit below the usual at times.
'We gave away possession sloppily and things broke down on us but it's obviously positive to get back to winning ways after last week. The boys have had a long journey, a three-hour trip up on the day and the energy levels after being away in Germany were good, so all in all it's been very pleasing.'
The manager was also keen to praise the performance of right-back Aina, remarking: 'He was our best player. He made some lung-busting runs from full-back and got better and better as the game went on. I was pleased for him as he's had a difficult start to the season but his form is starting to come back really strongly in the last few weeks and today I thought he was excellent.'
The Under-18s' league game against Wolverhampton Wanderers, originally scheduled for next Saturday (2 November), has been postponed due to Wolves' involvement in the FA Youth Cup, so the youth team's next action is a trip to Arsenal on Saturday 16 November.
Chelsea: Brad Collins; Ola Aina, George Brady, Jon Muleba (c), Kevin Wright (Fankaty Dabo h/t); Kasey Palmer, Dion Conroy (Charlie Colkett h/t), Jeremie Boga; Reece Mitchell (Chike Kandi 62), George Cole, Ambrose Gnahore.
Unused subs: Nathan Baxter
Stoke: Eve, Banks, Pickerill, Lecygne, Sanders (c), Edwards, Pringle (Shields h/t), Monlouis, Coban (Weston-Hayles 71), Richards (Shenton h/t), Taylor.
Unused subs: Douglas, Roberts