UEFA YOUTH LEAGUE REPORT: CHELSEA 4 BASEL 0
We opened our UEFA Youth League campaign in style, scoring two goals in each half to beat Basel 4-0 at Cobham with a convincing display.
After a slow start, a Deni Kadoic own-goal gave us the lead after 20 minutes, and shortly after John Swift doubled our advantage when he finished well from Kevin Wright's cross.
The two-goal lead ensured Basel would have to chase the game after the break, playing into our hands. Islam Feruz made it 3-0 just after the hour, and an impressive display was rounded off late on when Alex Kiwomya scored the fourth.
Next up in the Youth League is an away trip to Steaua Bucharest.
Blues manager Dermot Drummy named a similar side to the one which beat Norwich City 2-0 in the Under-21 Premier League last Friday, but was shorn of the services of certain players due to the Under-19 format of this competition. Mitchell Beeney replaced Jamal Blackman in goal, and there were also starts for Kevin Wright, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Kiwomya. Nathan Ake skippered the side, partnering Andreas Christensen in the centre of defence, with Feruz selected as the focal point of the attack.
It was apparent from the opening few minutes of this clash that there would be different demands placed upon our youngsters than they have grown accustomed to domestically, with our Swiss opponents well organised and confident in their play from the outset.
Drummy's side, particularly when playing at home, are used to dominating possession for long periods, and while we were seeing plenty of the ball early on, Basel were equally content to knock it around as they patiently waited for an opening.
It was the Blues, however, who threatened first. Loftus-Cheek did well to bring a lofted Lewis Baker pass down and get beyond his marker, and though the flight of the ball ensured he had to take his shot early, the midfielder fired powerfully towards goal, denied only by a brilliant save from Basel goalkeeper Pascal Albrecht.
It was Chelsea beginning to look the more threatening of the two sides, and Feruz wasted a good opportunity when, as the Blues broke at pace, he opted to ignore the run of the unmarked Isaiah Brown and go alone, eventually seeing his ambitious strike blocked.
Twenty minutes into the game, though, the pressure eventually told courtesy of some excellent link-up play between the same pair. On this occasion it was Brown supplying the pass, slipping Feruz in on the left-hand side of the penalty area, and as the striker rolled the ball across goal, Basel defender Kadoic diverted it into the back of the net.
In truth, Kadoic was unfortunate, but on the balance of play it was a lead we probably merited after asking all of the questions from an attacking point of view during the opening exchanges.
Having taken the lead, we began to settle into our stride, and we didn't have to wait long to extend our advantage. As the ball was worked out wide to Wright, the left-back displayed tremendous strength and desire to work himself into a dangerous position, and his pull-back was perfect, landing at the feet of Swift, who calmly dispatched his strike into the roof of the net to make it 2-0.
With Baker and Loftus-Cheek holding, Swift, wearing the number 10 shirt, was given license to affect the play higher up the pitch, and his goal was just reward for an impressive opening 27 minutes in which he was always willing to receive the ball and look for a killer pass.
Basel, perhaps sensing how a quick response might alter the flow of the game, went on the front foot for the first time in the match. Cedric Jan Itten was first to threaten, ghosting into the box unmarked, but as he misjudged the flight of the ball the defender could only steer his effort over the bar.
The second half began with a wonderful opportunity to put the game out of sight. It was Swift who produced the initial strike, and though Albrecht saved well, the rebound fell invitingly for Isak Ssewankambo, but the defender failed to find a full connection on his subsequent shot and the ball rolled harmlessly wide of the post.
Just before the hour mark it was Baker's turn to pose a threat, and it came at the culmination of a delightful passage of play. Brown crossed from wide on the left, but as Swift produced a dummy which allowed the ball to run into the path of the advancing midfielder, his strike was comfortable for Albrecht to deal with.
Our first substitution of the afternoon saw Charly Musonda replace the impressive Loftus-Cheek, and shortly after we extended our lead.
The goal owed much to the work carried out by Kiwomya on the right-hand side, who picked out the run of Feruz inside the box. Feruz, a player who needs no second invitation to go for goal, saw his powerful drive parried by Albrecht, but he made no mistake as the ball rebounded back into his path, crashing his strike into the back of the net to make it 3-0.
Kiwomya was growing into the game and his influence was becoming more significant throughout the second half with the Basel defence struggling to contain his adventurous running.
As an attacking unit Basel were virtually non-existent after the break, and the third goal ensured we were able to see the game out comfortably, with the visitors visibly flagging having chased the ball for long spells.
A delightful move between Baker and Swift almost yielded another opportunity six minutes from time but the duo opted to play one pass too many. Both players, however, will have taken great heart from their displays, both individually and as a partnership, with their slick interchanging and obvious understanding a delight to watch at times.
It had been one-way traffic after the break, and the seal was put on a convincing win with a couple of minutes left on the clock. Musonda, who had looked so comfortable in possession after coming on, found Kiwomya just inside the penalty area. The winger had time to take a touch, and subsequently scored the goal he had been threatening with a tidy finish, although Albrecht, who had performed well for much of the game, will feel he could have done better.
Drummy reflected on a job well done at the final whistle, but felt there were areas in which we could improve.
'We had an idea of how Basel would set up and we had a plan, but I felt there was a bit of nervousness because the game was played at a low tempo and with a lot of errors,' he said.
'I'm sure we can play more fluent but we're happy with the result. It's about what you do with possession, but also about not giving the opposition chances, and I think we gave them chances, but we'll work on that. They're young men, we play an open game at times and leave ourselves open, I have to accept that as a coach.
'We've started our campaign with three points and we have to keep trying to win every game because that's what's required, and hopefully do it in style.'
Chelsea (4-3-3): Mitchell Beeney; Isak Ssewankambo, Andreas Christensen, Nathan Ake (c), Kevin Wright; Lewis Baker, Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Charly Musonda 63), John Swift; Alex Kiwomya, Islam Feruz, Isaiah Brown.
Unused substitutes: Ben Killip, Dion Conroy, Fankaty Dabo, Kasey Palmer, Ola Aina.
Basel (4-3-3): Pascal Albrecht; Michael Schar, Deni Kadoic, Cedric Jan Itten, Robin Kamber; Albian Ajeti, Breel-Donald Embolo, Neftali Manzambi (Antonio Fischer 63); Joel Keller (Raul Petretta 80), Marko Drakul, Manuel Weber.
Unused substitutes: Niklas Lindenthal, Lumturim Selmani, Serkan Korkmaz.
You can see full 90-minute highlights of the game tonight at 10.30pm on Chelsea TV.