YOUTH REPORT: FULHAM 5 CHELSEA 0
The youth team suffered defeat at a snowy Motspur Park on Saturday morning…
A double from Muamer Tankovic and goals from George Williams, Moussa Dembele and Patrick Roberts inflicted on Adi Viveash's side only their second league defeat of the season, their first having come on the same ground back in December.
There were a full 11 changes from the Under-19 side that were victorious in the NextGen Series last 16 in Barcelona in midweek. Chike Kandi returned up front with Reece Mitchell and Tom Howard either side of him, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek skippered the team from midfield alongside Jesse Starkey and Isak Ssewankambo.
League ever-present Kevin Wright (pictured) continued at left back, with Dion Conroy, Jonathan Muleba and Fankaty Dabo making up the rest of the back four, while Ben Killip was the man between the sticks for the visitors.
The opening exchanges were fairly even with Loftus-Cheek forcing an early save from Fulham keeper Max Oberschmidt while, at the other end, Williams had a good opportunity that was eventually thwarted by the covering defenders. Oberschmidt was called into action again to deny Starkey's dangerous dipping effort from 20 yards with a good strong hand down low to his left, before Stephen Arthurworrey hit the post with a header from an inswinging free kick.
Starkey then hit a free kick of his own straight at the goalkeeper before probably the visitors' best move of the game. Loftus-Cheek threaded a delicious ball through to Howard, who cut inside on the edge of the box before finding the overlapping Wright with a clever back heel, though the full-back's effort was saved well at the near post.
Killip had to be quick off his line to deny the dangerous Williams after a jinking run from the winger before the hosts broke the deadlock just after the half hour mark. Roberts crashed an effort against the bar from outside the area and Tankovic was on hand to bundle home the rebound from underneath the bar.
The young Blues had barely time to regroup before the deficit had been doubled, however. Dembele hit the post as the hosts went for the kill, before a loose ball out from Killip was pounced on by Tankovic, who confidently finished past the keeper from 10 yards for his second of the morning.
It was a quick-fire double that knocked the stuffing out of the visitors, who had admittedly struggled to get their game going, and the task of clawing it back against the defending U18 champions was quickly becoming an uphill battle.
The second period continued in much the same fashion as the first had played out, with Fulham in control and the visitors struggling to achieve their usual rhythm and fluidity in possession. Kandi got in down the right-hand channel early after the restart but his cutback was well snuffed out, while Tankovic saw a bending effort from distance fly over the bar as he sought a hat-trick.
However it wasn't long before the game was finally put to bed and it was the impressive Roberts who conjured up a magical assist after a beguiling run down the right. He beat a couple of defenders before laying it off for Williams to tap in from close range.
Viveash attempted to shake things up with a double change not long after, with George Cole and Ambrose Gnahore replacing Starkey and Kandi, and it wasn't long before Cole was lining up a sighter at Oberschmidt's goal, though his execution was missing as it flew high and wide. Dembele had a free header at the back post fly over Killip's bar just after, with Fulham continuing to threaten as the game became more and more open. It wasn't long before the striker did get himself on the scoresheet, though, finishing off another tidy Fulham attack from close range to bag himself a deserved goal.
Wright had a right-footed effort fly wide, Conroy headed over and Ssewankambo was marshalled well before seeing his blocked effort go behind for a corner as the minutes ticked towards full time, though it was Fulham on the break who added a fifth late on, with Roberts getting in on the act by confidently finishing off another good Fulham move.
For Chelsea it was certainly a day to forget at the end of a busy February and a result that leaves them with a win, two draws and a defeat in their opening four games of this Elite Round group.
Chelsea: Killip, Dabo, Conroy, Muleba, Wright, Ssewankambo, Loftus-Cheek (c), Starkey (G Cole 54), Howard (Solanke 68), Mitchell, Kandi (Gnahore 54)
Fulham: Oberschmidt, Donnelly, Richards, Arthurworrey, O'Reilly, Sambou, Roberts, Hyndman, Dembele, Tankovic, Williams.