YOUTH REPORT: CHELSEA 1 FULHAM 0
A late winner from schoolboy Dominic Solanke made it two wins in less than 24 hours for the Under-18s, as they recorded a narrow victory over local rivals Fulham at Cobham on Saturday morning.
Forward Solanke swept home a volley for his first goal at this level inside the final five minutes, netting the only goal in a well contested encounter of few chances.
The visitors had the more goalscoring opportunities across the 90 minutes, with a combination of goalkeeper Ben Killip, some brave defending and some wasteful finishing to thank for the clean sheet, while Chelsea, under the management of Joe Edwards, standing in for Adi Viveash, could point to Kasey Palmer's early effort as the closest they had come until Solanke ensured all three points late in the day.
Killip was in the thick of the action after just two minutes, racing from his line to deny a forward who had broken through down the Fulham left.
At the other end Palmer rattled the crossbar with his drive from the edge of the area, but that would be the last chance either side saw for the first half an hour, with a period of tight defensive play and misplaced passing from either side eventually brought to an end when Fulham's Emerson Hyndman fired over from 12 yards out. Shortly afterwards Fankaty Dabo had to block a Fulham header on the line as the visitors started to threaten.
Four minutes before the break, Isak Ssewankambo combined with Killip to block another Hyndman effort at close range, and from the resulting corner striker Moussa Dembele (no relation to the Spurs and former Fulham man) headed just wide.
It took another 15 minutes after the restart for a meaningful opportunity to be created, and once more it fell to Fulham, Dembele first heading into a Chelsea defender before sweeping the rebound wide from an angle, with Killip probably beaten.
Although well intentioned, Chelsea's short passing was still letting them down as moves were frequently brought to an end before reaching the final third. A free-kick on the edge of the box 20 minutes from time gave them their first opportunity of the half, but George Cole lifted it high over the bar.
A break from substitute Tom Howard then set up Solanke for the Blues, but when it looked as though he would score, the youngster let the ball run too wide before he could shoot. Eventually the ball was worked to another sub, Ambrose Gnahore, who shot powerfully but off target.
With time running out, a frustrating goalless draw looked likely, but after plenty of practice, Chelsea eventually got it right. Patient build-up play saw the ball worked neatly into the area, and when it was squared across goal, Solanke was on hand to convert from close range, sealing a win that had for long periods looked unlikely for this inexperienced side.
It caps an excellent 24 hours for the Academy, and brings to an end a run of six straight league defeats while the group has focused on the FA Youth Cup. They now travel away to Bolton on Tuesday.
One of the squad for today's game, Ismail Seremba, will be moving on at the end of the season it was confirmed this week.
The forward, who has been with Chelsea since Under-13s, will play university football in the United States with Akron Zips.
'Ismail has always worked very hard and has been bright around the building and popular with the other players,'says youth team manager Adi Viveash.
'He had more impact last year than he did this year, and it is important that if you leave Chelsea you find your route and that is a different route.
'Ed Brand, one of our Academy coaches who was a youth player here, did similar, and we wish Ismail great success in what will be a fantastic life experience. He is a very good student as well so that part of it will suit him.'
Chelsea: Ben Killip; Jonathan Muleba, Isak Ssewankambo, Dion Conroy (c) (sub Nortei Nortey 60), Fankaty Dabo; Kasey Palmer, Jesse Starkey, Charlie Colkett; Connor Hunte (sub Ambrose Gnahore 65), Dominic Solanke, George Cole (sub Tom Howard 73).
Unused subs: Ismail Seremba, Sam Bangura.