YOUTH REPORT: CHELSEA 4 MIDDLESBROUGH 2
Chelsea's youth team earned a late victory at home to Middlesbrough on Saturday morning, despite relinquishing s two-goal lead.
The Blues looked to be home and dry after an impressive first-half display, with goals from Jordan Houghton and Ambrose Gnahore giving us a comfortable lead, only for Middlesbrough to hit back with two quick goals late on that looked to have earned them a point.
Character and determination shone through, however, to ensure victory. First George Cole converted a header on the stroke of 90 minutes, before fellow sub Conor Hunte stroked home a fourth as Boro went in search of another unlikely equaliser.
It had taken Chelsea just nine minutes to break the deadlock when Houghton rose to head home from close range inside the area, following a corner that had come about after good work down the right from Tom Howard and Fankaty Dabo.
More work from Howard, this time from the right, created an opportunity for Charlie Colkett to double the lead but he was denied by a sharp save from Middlesbrough goalkeeper Luke Coddington, who had already impressed once with his sharp reflexes in the build-up to the first goal.
Boro had a goal ruled out for offside on 22 minutes as they launched a rare counter-attack in an opening that will have left Chelsea coach Adi Viveash pleased with his side's dominance.
When Boro came forward again, Ben Killip saved comfortably from Jordan Jones, and at the other end Reece Mitchell's effort was deflected into the side netting after Alex Kiwomya had slipped him in.
Chelsea captain Houghton shot just over from distance after good work from Kiwomya and Colkett as Chelsea regained control, but the visitors should have equalised just before the half-hour, only for their centre-forward to miss his header after an acrobatic cross had found him in space four yards out.
Dion Conroy had another header saved at a corner before Boro again came close from their own, the ball lifted over the bar from close range with Chelsea looking a little static in defence. Killip would have to save again before the break when possession was lost near the edge of the home box, Scott McCarthy firing hard but straight.
Into the second half, Chelsea struggled to exert the same control over the game, but doubled the lead on the hour when substitute Gnahore cut inside from the right after Houghton had set him clear, and slotted home beneath Coddington.
Colkett was prevented from adding a third by another smart save from the away goalie, before Boro were brought back into the game with just under 15 minutes to go by their forward, who had found space down the middle of Chelsea's defence and finished neatly.
Within a minute the visitors were level, a ball pulled back from the bye-line and finished low into the bottom corner when danger looked to have passed.
Coddington saved again from sub George Cole as Chelsea pressed once more, and then the midfielder struck the bottom of the post with injury time approaching as the three points looked to have slipped away.
However there was a final twist, and it was a case of third time lucky for Cole, whose individual skill inside the area allowed him to lift the ball over his marker, turn and beat the keeper with a close-range header.
Boro had around a minute to find an equaliser, but as they poured men forward, Chelsea pinched possession, again thanks to Cole, and broke, allowing sub Conor Hunte to poke a fourth goal into the bottom corner to confirm the victory.
Chelsea: Ben Killip; Fankaty Dabo, Johnathon Muleba, Dion Conroy, Kevin Wright; Jordan Houghton (c), Jesse Starkey, Charlie Colkett ( sub George Cole 75), Tom Howard (sub Ambrose Gnahore h-t), Alex Kiwomya ( sub Conor Hunte 55), Reece Mitchell.
Unused subs: Mitchell Beeney, Cheke Kandi.