FA YOUTH CUP REPORT: CHELSEA 3 BARNSLEY 0
Chelsea booked our place in the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Barnsley at Staines Town courtesy of a ruthless first-half performance in which all three goals were scored.
Lewis Baker opened the scoring on the half-hour, crashing a free-kick beyond Elliott Chadderton, before Alex Kiwomya doubled our lead five minutes later.
Two minutes before the break, Kiwomya put us firmly in the ascendancy with his second of the night, an absolutely unstoppable strike which was fit to grace any occasion.
Nathan Ake and Reece Mitchell both went close after the break, while Kiwomya should have secured his hat-trick late in the game.
The holders, however, march on, and we will now face either Manchester City or Derby County away in the next round.
Chelsea manager Adi Viveash named a strong starting line-up, with Ake, who travelled to Prague with the first team, starting alongside Alex Davey in the centre of defence. Baker skippered the side in midfield, while Kiwomya, Jeremie Boga and Connor Hunte were tasked with supplying lone striker Reece Mitchell, who led the line in the absence of the injured Islam Feruz.
It was a positive start by the Blues, and we were almost rewarded for our early ambition inside the opening five minutes when Ake was allowed to advance unchallenged before seeing a stunning strike from 30 yards brilliantly saved by Elliott Chadderton in the Barnsley goal.
The visitors were struggling to retain possession early on, but with their first attack of any note almost broke the deadlock.
The ball was worked out wide to Erico Sousa, who managed to get beyond Andreas Christensen and crash a powerful left-footed strike past Mitchell Beeney which bounced back off the foot of the post; Harrison Biggins pounced on the rebound and looked set to score, only to be denied by a magnificent block by Ake.
Slowly but surely the visitors were growing into the game, and but for an over-hit pass by Darren McKnight, Rhys Oates would have been clean through on goal, while moments later Beeney made a fantastic save down to his right to thwart George Maris who beat the offside trap and raced on to a delightful pass by Brad Abbott.
Against the run of play, however, we took the lead on the half-hour mark.
As Kiwomya worked himself into a dangerous position on the edge of the penalty area he was scythed down, and from the resulting kick Baker stepped up and curled a low strike into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
The goal appeared to spark us into life, and five minutes later we doubled our advantage.
Christensen displayed wonderful technical ability to bring the ball out from the back and beat three men, before laying it into the path of Kiwomya, who controlled it with his first touch and drove the ball into the far corner.
After a relatively slow opening to the game, two goals in quick succession had put the holders firmly in control of the tie, and it was to get even better.
Two minutes before the break, a lovely move culminated with Kiwomya firing an unstoppable strike into the top corner, giving Chadderton no chance.
Within a couple of minutes of the restart we should have been out of sight; Baker's delivery was teasing, but as Ake got across his marker to meet it, Chadderton made the save.
Abbott became the first player to enter the referee's book following a late lunge on Mitchell, and it was Boga who took the subsequent free-kick, curling his strike high over the bar.
Much of the game in the second half was being played in the midfield area, with Barnsley offering little in the way of an attacking threat and the Blues unable to reproduce the ruthlessness in the final third which we enjoyed before the break.
Viveash made his first change of the evening midway through the second half, replacing Boga with Jesse Starkey, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek should have wrapped the game up when he was put through one-on-one with Chadderton, but the midfielder's finish was straight at the 'keeper's legs.
It was to be Loftus-Cheek's final contribution as minutes later he made way for Dion Conroy, with the substitute moving into the heart of the back-four alongside Davey, and Ake playing further forward.
As time began to ebb away and the visitors started to take more risks, spaces inevitably opened up for us on the break, with two glorious opportunities wasted in the space of a few minutes, first by Mitchell and soon after by Kiwomya.
The damage had been done in the first half, however, and we remain on course to successfully defend the trophy.
Viveash was understandably delighted at the final whistle.
'We had a few scares early on, but we had enough chances to win three games in the end,' he said. 'It's the first clean sheet we've kept since I've been doing the Youth Cup and that's very important going into the quarter-finals.
'Some of our play was outstanding. We created numerous chances and their 'keeper made some great saves, but it was a really good team effort.'
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Mitchell Beeney; Andreas Christensen, Alex Davey, Nathan Ake, Adam Nditi; Lewis Baker (c), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Dion Conroy 69); Alex Kiwomya, Jeremie Boga (Jesse Starkey 65), Connor Hunte (Chike Kandi 75); Reece Mitchell.
Unused substitutes: Ben Killip, Fankaty Dabo.
Barnsley (4-2-3-1): Elliott Chadderton; Josh Alderson, Jamie Moore, McCauley Shillito, George Smith; Harrison Biggins (Greg Simmons 50), Brad Abott; George Maris, Darren Mcknight (Omari Alexander Salmon 60), Erico Sousa; Rhys Oates.
Unused substitutes: Connor Mackey, Tom Williams, Dean Freeman.
Highlights for the game are available via Chelsea TV's online access.