YOUTH CUP REPORT: CHELSEA 4 SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 1
Chelsea's youth team progressed to the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup at Aldershot on Wednesday night. First-half goals from Izzy Brown and Charly Musonda put Adi Viveash's side into a half-time lead, before Charlie Colkett extended the advantage after the restart from the penalty spot.
The visitors pulled a goal back in the final 10 minutes through midfielder Jack Stobbs, though last year's finalists held strong to claim the victory, with Dominic Solanke grabbing a fourth goal in stoppage time. The win sets up a fifth-round away tie against either Cardiff City or Oxford United.
There were three changes from the side that started in the 4-0 victory over Dartford in the last round, with Brown replacing Reece Mitchell in attack. Solanke, who scored a hat-trick in the third round, supported Brown in the No.10 role, while George Cole and Musonda started on the flanks.
Mitchell Beeney continued in goal, protected by a back four of Ola Aina, Dion Conroy, Jonathan Muleba and Fankaty Dabo. Ruben Loftus-Cheek captained the side from midfield alongside Colkett and Solanke.
The visitors from South Yorkshire were looking to cause another Cup upset, after knocking out Crystal Palace in the previous round with a penalty shootout win, though the young Owls suffered an early setback as Viveash's side took the lead inside two minutes.
Loftus-Cheek burst forward from midfield and advanced down the right channel, beating a couple of defenders before delivering a low centre towards striker Brown (pictured below) in the penalty area. The forward had found himself some valuable space in the box with a clever run and finished over Joe Wildsmith in the Sheffield Wednesday goal, with the aid of a slight deflection, for his ninth goal of the season.
The early goal set the tone for much of the early pressure from the hosts and visiting defender Bradley Beatson had to be alert to deny Colkett after some clever intricate build-up play involving the midfield man and Solanke.
Musonda fired wide after a period of sustained possession from Chelsea, while Aina's galloping run forward from right-back was only thwarted by a well-timed tackle as he moved into the Owls' box. Yet Steve Haslam's side ought to have been level after 19 minutes. Beatson found space to win an unchallenged header from a left-sided corner, though could only direct his effort straight at the grateful Beeney.
The young Blues continued to control the game, though Sheffield Wednesday's robust, deep defending in numbers required the hosts to be at their creative best to find an opening. Loftus-Cheek shot over the bar after Musonda had advanced towards goal by skipping past a few defenders, before the young Belgian then had a chance of his own.
Brown's good work down the left fashioned the opportunity and Musonda was only denied by another important block from the recovering defender. From the resulting corner the Blues forced a good save from keeper Wildsmith, as Cole's inswinging delivery from the left was met in the air at the back post by Loftus-Cheek.
As the interval loomed Chelsea managed to eradicate some of the sloppiness that had crept into their game after taking an early lead, and returned to moving the ball quickly through the midfield third. Solanke was denied by another impressive stop from the onrushing Wildsmith after Brown's pass forward, while Musonda could only skew the follow-up wide after Cole showed excellent vision to find him at the back post.
However, Musonda quickly made amends as he doubled the Blues' advantage in the final few minutes of the half, notching his third goal of the campaign in the process. Solanke led the quick charge forward after the hosts won the ball in midfield and the schoolboy supplied Musonda out on the left flank. The midfielder's exquisite control and first touch helped him accelerate away from defender Seanan Foster and, after skipping past another couple of defenders, he fired confidently into the bottom corner beyond the despairing dive of Wildsmith.
Chelsea started the second period where they left off in the first and should have added a third goal to their tally inside three minutes of the restart. Solanke found Cole down the right channel with an excellent ball inside the defender and the wideman skipped past the onrushing Wildsmith before clipping an inviting ball into the box. With striker Brown waiting and well positioned it seemed inevitable that he would bag his second goal of the evening, but he could only fire over the bar from five yards out.
The visitors responded positively, with frontman Franck Betra forcing a comfortable save from Beeney from distance, before the lineman's flag saved Chelsea scares at the far post after a low driven cross from the right caused problems.
Solanke then saw a low effort cannon back off the near post as Viveash's side pushed for another goal, which soon arrived on the hour mark. Brown was clearly upended by Warren Clarke as he burst into the box and, after the referee had awarded the penalty, Colkett (pictured below) stepped up and dispatched confidently into the bottom right corner.
Loftus-Cheek forced another good save from Wildsmith before some complacency at the back almost reduced the visitors' deficit. Conroy's heavy back pass evaded Beeney and spun dangerously towards goal, though the defender was left sighing in relief rather than disappointment as the ball inched just outside the far post.
Kasey Palmer and Mukhtar Ali were introduced into midfield midway through the half, as Brown and Colkett departed the action, with Solanke moving into his more familiar central striker role, and it was the striker continuing to link the play between midfield and attack as the tie entered its final stages.
Yet Sheffield Wednesday refused to bow out of the competition without a fight and almost pulled a goal back as substitute Jake Ellam squandered an excellent opportunity at the front post after a delivery from the right.
The reprieve on the Chelsea goal was only temporary, however, as the visitors soon found a way past Beeney to get themselves on the scoresheet. A clever set-piece routine paid dividends as Jack Stobbs found space at the far post and lofted the ball over Beeney and into the back of the net.
The Blues had to contend with increased pressure on their goal in the remaining minutes, though it was Viveash's team that had the final say as Solanke finished emphatically from close range following Palmer's centre from the right. It was the striker's 16th goal of an impressive season to date and sealed an assured victory for last season's finalists.
Next up for Viveah's Under-18s is a league game against Tottenham at Cobham on Saturday 18 January.
Manager Viveash was understandably pleased with another Cup win, particularly in difficult conditions at Aldershot's Electrical Servives Stadium. Speaking to the official Chelsea website after the game, he said: 'Obviously we're pleased to get through. The pitch through the middle was very wet and didn't suit how we like to play but we got a great early goal.'
The boss was particularly pleased with the performance of goalscorer Solanke, who netted his fourth goal of the Youth Cup campaign to date.
'Solanke was outstanding,' he went on. 'He deserved his goal at the end, made the other three and had another really good night as a schoolboy. Jon Muleba and Dion Conroy were very strong at centre-back, Mitchell Beeney was calm in goal and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (pictured below). gave a captain's performance in midfield.
'I thought their goalkeeper had a very good night. He made four outstanding saves and so it could have been a bit more comfortable in the end. We took too many touches in the first half and slowed the pace of the game down.
'They had a good shape playing 4-5-1, they sat in their own half and looked to counter but I thought we defended the threat of their striker well for the majority of the night and we got goals at good times.
'We were better than in the last round against Dartford but we had to be otherwise we wouldn't have got through. In cup competitions the main thing is getting a result but obviously we want to do it in a certain way and I thought it was a comfortable win tonight, without us being at the top of our game. '
Chelsea Mitchell Beeney; Ola Aina, Jonathan Muleba, Dion Conroy, Fankaty Dabo; Ruben Loftus-Cheek (c), Charlie Colkett (Mukhtar Ali 68), Charly Musonda; George Cole (Chike Kandi (90+2), Isaiah Brown (Kasey Palmer 63), Dominic Solanke.
Unused subs Bradley Collins, Jay Dasilva.
Goals Brown '2, Musonda '43, Colkett (pen) '59, Solanke 90+3
Sheffield Wednesday Joe Wildsmith; Seanan Foster, Matthew Penney, Simon Hanna (c), Adam Harvey (Connor O'Grady 73); Bradley Beatson, Jack Taylor (Mike Connell 60), Warren Clarke (Jake Ellam 79), Jack Stobbs, Charlie Dawes, Franck Betra.
Unused subs Sean Mullan, Jake Ellam, Like Smith.
Goals Stobbs '83
By Sam Poplett.