FA YOUTH CUP REPORT: CHELSEA 4 DARTFORD 0
Chelsea's youth team began their 2013/14 FA Youth Cup campaign with a comfortable win over non-league opposition at Aldershot's Electrical Services Stadium. A hat-trick from Dominic Solanke and a strike from defender Fankaty Dabo sent the Blues through to Round 4, the draw for which will be made on Friday.
Adi Viveash mixed those involved predominantly with his Under-18 group with a few schoolboys and a couple of players usually involved with Dermot Drummy's Under-21s. Schoolboy Solanke led the line up front, supported by George Cole and Reece Mitchell from the flanks, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek skippered the team from midfield.
Jeremie Boga and Charly Musonda made up the midfield trio, with the back four made up of Kevin Wright, Dion Conroy, Jonathan Muleba and Dabo, in front of Mitchell Beeney in goal.
Dartford started the game brightly, settling down well against opponents far higher up the football pyramid, and set the early momentum by winning a couple of corners inside the first 10 minutes. Freeman Rogers profited as a loose ball bounced up invitingly for him to strike from 20 yards, however the defender's effort took a slight deflection as it flew just wide for another corner.
The non-league visitors were defending strongly and were bravely taking on the challenge of facing last year's finalists. Cole (pictured below), providing much of the Blues' early threat down the right wing, delivered invitingly though his centre was headed away, before more trickery from the wideman and another cross won the hosts' first corner of the game.
The set-piece was worked short and Boga found himself in space inside the box, only to be thwarted by an excellent sliding challenge with the linesman's flag also adjudging him to be offside.
Solanke and Mitchell both had efforts well blocked as the Dartford defenders remained alert and were faced with growing waves of attacks, though Muleba had to be quick to snuff out the threat posed by Femi Akinwande, blocking the quick striker's shot at Beeney's goal.
Captain Loftus-Cheek, influential in the middle of the field, fashioned the game's best chance up to that point for himself after Mitchell had regained possession deep into the Dartford half. Involved in his third Youth Cup campaign, Loftus-Cheek worked some space with some neat footwork before firing low and just beyond Oli Gibson's near post.
It wasn't long before the hosts took the lead though, and the opener arrived midway through the first half. Mitchell was the provider, progressing down the left before finding Solanke with a good cross from out wide, and the schoolboy proved deadly from close range, controlling expertly under pressure and in a confined space before finishing emphatically beyond Gibson (pictured top).
That goal was settling for Viveash's side, though Dartford responded quickly as Becka-Kah Dembele's deep inswinging free-kick forced Beeney to tip the dipping ball over his bar. However, despite frequent attacking forays, led predominantly by striker Akinwande, the visitors soon found the deficit doubled.
Mitchell and Solanke combined to great effect once again, with the former beating his man down the left before finding the young striker with a low centre that Solanke met with a convincing finish, this time with his right foot, grabbing his ninth goal of the season.
Chelsea kept the pressure on, buoyed by the quickfire double after a slightly nervous opening period. Mitchell raced clear having been supplied by Solanke, in a reversal of the roles for both goals. His shot was sliced narrowly the wrong side of the near post.
The young Darts' biggest threat continued to come from Akinwande, who shot wide just after the half-hour mark. However their hopes took a further dent as Viveash's side grabbed a third goal with 10 minutes of the half remaining.
Dabo advanced forward encouragingly from right-back before exchanging passes with Boga and, on receiving the pass back, fired a stinging effort at Gibson in the Dartford goal. The shot proved too much for the goalkeeper to handle, squirming into the back of the net to give the defender his secnd goal of the season.
It was perhaps harsh on Dartford, who had contested the tie well throughout the opening half, but the young Blues had been clinical in taking chances, despite not playing as well as they might have hoped.
Solanke span in behind once again, supplied by Loftus-Cheek, though was marshalled well by the covering defender and the resultant corner was fired high over the bar by Musonda (pictured below) as the half came to a close.
Ainsley Everett shot wide as Dartford looked to start the second period with an early goal that might resurrect them in the tie. Their finishing had let them down in the first half and continued to lack composure.
Loftus-Cheek forced Gibson into a good save with a powerful effort after picking the ball up from Boga on the edge of the box, but the game had resumed in a rather flat manner after the interval with Chelsea in control but unable to breach the robust Darts backline.
Viveash made a double change after an hour, seeking to introduce fresh impetus. Tammy Abraham and Ola Aina entered the fray, in place of Mitchell and Dabo respectively, the latter hobbling slightly after a heavy challenge moments before.
Boga saw a free-kick 20 yards out fly over, after Abraham had been upended on the edge of the box, before a super late tackle denied the schoolboy forward once again as he found space and brief time in the box.
Beeney in goal was fairly untroubled throughout the second period, while the hosts poured forward but struggled to supply the final pass that would cut the visiting defence apart. However they did manage to grab a fourth goal courtesy of a perfect assist from substitute Colkett. The midfield man advanced towards goal before supplying an exquisite pass forward for Solanke and the in-form striker did the rest, confidently finishing beyond Gibson for his hat-trick.
In the game's final exchanges, Conroy was called into action as Dartford moved forward in a rare attack, covering ground across the face of goal and denying substitute Brima Daramy with an excellent challenge.
That proved to be the final action of a match that Chelsea dominated throughout and their comfortable victory ensured progress to the fourth round. Next up for Viveash's Under-18s is a league trip to West Brom this Saturday.
Viveash credited Dartford for providing a stern test to his side, though admitted the Blues' play in the final third had let them down on occasions.
'It was a tough game but we knew that coming into it,' he told the official Chelsea website. 'Dartford worked really hard and they were a credit to their football club.
'Our play around the final third is the bit that will need some tinkering with. We had many opportunities but at times it wasn't quite happening, but we got a clean sheet and Mitchell Beeney was very good. He made an important save from the free kick at 1-0.
'The pick of the players tonight were the two centre-backs, Conroy and Muleba, along with Solanke. We needed the centre-backs to be calm as Dartford had a bit of pace and aggression but their concentration was very good.
'It's quite difficult when the onus is on you, you're expected to win and you have to produce but that's what we have to get used to and we delivered in the end tonight.'
Chelsea Mitchell Beeney; Fankaty Dabo (Ola Aina 60), Jonathan Muleba, Dion Conroy, Kevin Wright; Charly Musonda, Ruben Loftus-Cheek (c), Jeremie Boga; George Cole (Charlie Colkett 72), Reece Mitchell (Tammy Abraham 60), Dominic Solanke.
Unused subs Bradley Collins, Ruben Sammut
Scorers Solanke 22, 29, 80; Dabo 36.
Bookings Dabo 55
Dartford Oli Gibson, Freeman Rogers, Harrison Bray, Michael Azaiya, Ronnie Vint (c), Ebou Adams, Becka-Kah Dembele (Bode Andidugbe 64), Clifford Edaferhoro, Femi Akinwande, Kieran Scantlebury (Calvin Ekpiteta 75), Ainsley Everett (Brima Daramy 64)
Unused subs Robin Woodward, Charlie Bex, Calvin Expiteta
Bookings Bray 90+1
By Sam Poplett