UNDER-18S REPORT: ARSENAL 0 CHELSEA 3
The youth team defeated Arsenal 3-0 this morning (Saturday) thanks to a fantastic first half hat-trick from Jeremie Boga. The victory makes it six wins out of seven games in the league for Adi Viveash's Under-18 side.
Viveash made six changes to the side that won 2-0 at Stoke City last time out, with several of Dermot Drummy's usual Under-21 players coming in to the starting team. Mitchell Beeney was in goal behind a back four of Fankaty Dabo, Dion Conroy, Jon Muleba and Kevin Wright.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Charlie Colkett and Dominic Solanke made up the midfield trio, while Isaiah Brown led the line up front supported by George Cole and Boga from out wide.
It had been three weeks since the Under-18s' last outing, however that was hardly evident in the opening exchanges as the visitors started brightly and grabbed the opener inside six minutes. Boga skipped past a couple of defenders in effervescent fashion and fired a blistering low effort from outside the penalty area that was struck hard, low and right-footed past Ryan Huddart in the Arsenal goal.
It was the young Frenchman's second goal in as many Under-18 league games after his fantastic strike at Stoke last month and marks his return from a persistent injury problem that has hampered his momentum so far this campaign.
That lead ought to have been doubled a couple of minutes later as Brown raced in behind the Arsenal defence through the middle and rounded the goalkeeper, however his final effort was from a narrow angle and Tafari Moore cleared the danger off the line.
Arsenal responded with a couple of opportunities of their own and remained a constant threat to the Chelsea goal. Beeney had to be on full alert to deny Chuba Akpom's header from a floated corner delivery while, midway through the half, Jack Jebb went close as his free kick smacked against the post and rebounded away.
The young Blues were defending resolutely and Conroy made an excellent intervention as the ball looped over the defensive backline and towards the danger area, hooking it clear with advancing attackers lurking. The battle in midfield was fierce, with tackles flying in and the referee forced to hand out a couple of bookings as some players crossed the line.
Down the other end, Brown fed in Solanke with a good slide-rule pass but the striker's first touch let him down slightly and the chance disappeared, before Loftus-Cheek's header from a corner went narrowly over and Brown fired wide after cutting inside from the left channel.
Alfred Mugabo headed narrowly wide at the back post from Jebb's free kick as the hosts continued to take the initiative and threaten the Chelsea goal, though it was to be the Blues who grabbed a crucial second. Boga drifted infield from the left flank once again and, in almost identical circumstances to his opening goal, worked the space to fire a fizzing effort past Huddart and into the bottom far corner.
That goal took the wind out of the Arsenal sails, having come rather against the run of play during a period of the game in which the hosts were beginning to assert their authority. However Chelsea, and Boga, had more trouble to cause them and the wideman completed his hat-trick a couple of minutes before the break.
A wonderful move involving Boga, Brown and Solanke moving from left to right across the Arsenal final third saw Solanke float in a dangerous cross that Boga nodded past the despairing dive of Huddart and into the back of the net. It secured the youngster's first-half treble and sent the young Gunners into the break in despair.
The second period contrasted with the first, with Chelsea keen to focus on managing the game, keeping their three-goal lead intact, retaining the ball and pressing their opposition quickly and high up the field whenever they tried to play out from defence.
Solanke almost exploited a slip in defence as he spun in behind from the halfway line and advanced towards goal. With a numerical advantage, his pass towards Brown on the left was slightly overhit and the chance went.
Jon Muleba was forced off after failing to shake off an injury problem sustained before the interval, with George Brady replacing him at the centre of defence, while there was a return from injury off the bench for Charly Musonda, who replaced Colkett.
Beeney, whose involvement had been few and far between since the restart, was then called upon, denying Alex Iwobi's low effort with a good strong save down to his right, before Jebb fired over.
The visitors' high pressing game, encouraged throughout by their manager from the touchline, almost paid off as Boga nicked the ball from Moore but his dinked effort towards Solanke in the middle was cut out well, before Brown's powerful effort from distance was excellently tipped over by Huddart.
Jebb again tested Beeney in the final few minutes of the game, though again the goalkeeper was equal to his efforts, while Loftus-Cheek's dazzling run into the penalty area almost paid dividends but was eventually snuffed out by recovering defenders.
That was the final opening of a quiet second half in which the Blues did well to keep their lead safe throughout. The victory is their eighth from 11 league games so far this season and keeps them firmly involved at the top of the table.
Next up for Viveash's side is the visit of Aston Villa to Cobham on Saturday November 23.
Chelsea Mitchell Beeney; Fankaty Dabo, Dion Conroy, Jon Muleba (George Brady 53), Kevin Wright; Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Charlie Colkett (Charly Musonda 63), Dominic Solanke; George Cole, Jeremie Boga (Ambrose Gnahore 80), Isaiah Brown.
Arsenal Huddart, Moore, Uade, Wright, Siemann, Mugabo (Smith 68), Jebb, Crowley, Maitland-Niles, Iwobi, Akpom.