YOUTH REPORT: CHELSEA 4 LIVERPOOL 2
A thrilling match at Cobham saw Chelsea's Under-18s emerge victorious against Liverpool after a fine display of attacking football.
Despite dominating from the start and taking the lead through Kasey Palmer inside the first quarter of an hour, the Blues found themselves going in at half-time undeservedly a goal down after Liverpool's counter-attacking style got them goals from Daniel Cleary and Adam Phillips.
But the Blues were not to be denied after the break, putting the visitors on the back foot almost immediately and turning the game around thanks to impressive team goals, finished off by Palmer and Dominic Solanke.
The icing on the cake came when Ambrose Gnahore's deflected free-kick span into the back of the net, ensuring a comfortable final 20 minutes for the home side.
Bradley Collins was given the nod to start between the posts, while the captain's duties were handed to centre-back Jonathon Muleba.
A positive team selection saw Charly Musonda, (pictured above) Ambrose Gnahore and Kasey Palmer all lining up in the advanced midfield positions of a 4-2-3-1 formation, while Dominic Solanke was picked as the lone striker.
Liverpool applied some early pressure, almost fashioning a chance for Ryan Kent, but George Brady showed his strength to hold him off and end the threat.
That meant it was Chelsea who tested the goalkeeper first. Jordan Houghton played a good ball to give Gnahore space in the box, but Reds stopper Ryan Crump saved his low shot. The Blues soon went close again, Musonda cutting in from the left wing for an effort on goal, but his skidding drive went narrowly wide of the near post.
Chelsea keeper Bradley Collins made his first save after eight minutes, comfortably holding Harry Wilson's curling shot.
The home side nearly took the lead with the next attack. Gnahore headed a corner low towards goal, but Isaac Christie-Davies couldn't react in time to take advantage of the ensuing scramble, after Crump had saved with his legs.
As Chelsea started to take control, Musonda clipped the outside of the post with a powerful shot from the edge of the area, following a strong solo run. The Belgian then teed up Jordan Houghton (pictured below), whose powerful effort caused plenty of problems for the Liverpool keeper.
It wasn't long before the Blues had the lead. A short free-kick, awarded for a cynical trip on Musonda, found Kasey Palmer with space in the centre. After advancing to the edge of the area, Palmer showed great technique to curl the ball across Crump and into the bottom corner.
After the opener, the game settled into an entertaining pattern, with Chelsea dominating possession and building from the back, while Liverpool tried to use the pace of Wilson and Ryan Kent on the counter-attack.
The scores were level five minutes later, though. Collins could only parry a Liverpool free-kick, with Daniel Cleary in the right place at the right time to convert the rebound from close range.
The game opened up almost immediately, with Gnahore forcing a save from Crump after another impressive run from Musonda, before Shey Ojo squandered a great chance for Liverpool, shooting wide of the near post when through on goal.
Palmer and Gnahore both went close to restoring Chelsea's lead in a frantic few moments, but successive close-range blocks from the Liverpool defenders and goalkeeper kept the ball out.
In the end, it was the visitors who put themselves in front before half-time. A quick counter from Liverpool set Kent running down the left wing, before cutting inside and playing in Adam Phillips to drill the ball under Collins' body.
Chelsea made one change during the half-time break, with Dion Conroy coming on at the back for captain Muleba. Houghton was handed the armband for the second half.
The Blues went straight on the attack and had Liverpool worried early on when Gnahore broke into the left channel, but Palmer couldn't quite reach his driven ball across the face of goal.
Palmer (pictured below) didn't have to wait long for his second goal, though. A fine passing move found Solanke with his back for goal, but an excellent swivel and reverse pass left Palmer with only the goalkeeper to beat. The winger showed great composure, deftly lifting the ball over the advancing keeper.
Both sides then went close to taking the lead from range, with good efforts by Liverpool's Wilson and Chelsea's Aina going narrowly wide.
It was then Chelsea's turn to use the counter-attack, as Musonda cut inside from the left played the ball across the edge of the penalty area to Solanke. The striker promptly beat his man and slotted the ball confidently into the back of the net, giving the Blues the lead our slick attacking play had deserved.
It took only two minutes for that lead to be extended, too. Gnahore's free-kick from just over 20 yards took a deflection off the Liverpool wall, leaving the wrong-footed Crump with no chance.
Blues boss Adi Viveash made his second change after the goal, bringing on Ali Mukhtar to replace Isaac Christie-Davies.
Liverpool also made a couple of substitutions, with Alex O'Hanlon and David Roberts coming on in place of Wilson and Sam Hart, but they couldn't help the Reds find a way back into the game.
The final substitute of the game had a bigger influence, after Chike Kandi replaced Houghton, with the captain's duties this time being passed to half-time substitute Conroy.
Kandi had a hand in the best two opportunities of the closing stages. First Solanke couldn't keep his shot down after being found on the penalty spot by the substitute, before the roles were reversed in the dying seconds as Kandi went close from Solanke's cut-back.
In the end it was a performance that left Viveash with smile on his face, with the Blues attacking play and threat in front of goal giving him particular pleasure.
'I thought we played really well in both halves, although in the first half the goals just went against us,' he said. 'We made a lot of good moves and some promising one-touch play, as well as scoring a great goal. But then all of a sudden we found ourselves a goal behind after what were, from our point of view, a couple of poor goals.
'I'm really pleased with the way we played in the second half, especially our attacking play. We changed the system a bit today, playing with what was effectively three number 10s across the space behind the striker. Those three, and Dominic up front, did some outstanding work today and I was really pleased with the threat we posed.
'We've had a good start to the season and scored plenty of goals, but we've still got more work to do, especially defensively.'
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Bradley Collins; Ola Aina, George Brady, Johnathon Muleba (c) (Dion Conroy h/t), Kevin Wright; Isaac Christie-Davies (Mukhtar Ali 70), Jordan Houghton (Chike Kandi 82); Kasey Palmer, Charly Musonda, Ambrose Gnahore; Dominic Solanke
Unused substitute: Ben Killip
Liverpool (4-3-3): Ryan Crump; Darius Waldron, Daniel Cleary, Tom Brewitt, Sam Hart (David Roberts 80); Adam Phillips, Nathan Burke (c), Shey Ojo; Harry Wilson (Alex O'Hanlon 74), Daniel Smith, Ryan Kent
Unused substitutes: Jack Alexander, Andrew Firth, Louis Robles.
Pictures courtesy of Mark Sandom.