UNDER-21S REPORT: SOUTHAMPTON 1 CHELSEA 4
Our Under-21s recorded their first win of the new 2013-14 season in some style with a 4-1 win over Southampton at St Mary's. Omar Rowe gave the hosts the lead before goals from Alex Davey, Isaiah Brown, Lewis Baker and substitute Islam Feruz overturned the deficit and gave the Blues our first points of the campaign.
Dermot Drummy made five changes from the side that went down 4-2 to Tottenham at Aldershot last week in the season opener. Jamal Blackman replaced Mitchell Beeney between the sticks, Isak Ssewankambo and Alex Davey came into the defence, while Lewis Baker and Lamisha Musonda replaced Josh McEachran and John Swift in midfield.
Isaiah Brown continued as the lone striker, supported by Alex Kiwomya and Musonda from the flanks, while skipper Nathan Aké, Andreas Christensen and Ruben Loftus-Cheek kept their starting places as well.
The game began at a relatively slow pace, with the visitors content to retain possession of the ball in their own half and wait for openings rather than force the play. The first chance of note fell for the visitors as Baker fed Brown in behind, though the covering defender Jordan Turnbull did well to intervene and put the ball behind for a corner.
Boga, operating centrally in the No.10 role, then came alive, bursting through the Southampton defence before arrowing a low shot goalwards that keeper Cropper did well to get down and get a strong hand to.
However, it was the hosts who took the lead midway through the first half. Rowe's left-footed free kick from wide was whipped into a dangerous area and deceived Blackman to fly through a crowded penalty box and into the back of the net.
Their lead should have been doubled shortly afterwards as a good move involving Rowe and Moore fashioned an opening for Jerome Sinclair, whose bending effort just went the wrong side of the far post.
Loftus-Cheek then had an opportunity to level the scores as Baker's free kick found him in space in the penalty box but his final effort after controlling the ball was saved well by Cropper. Yet that moment was forgotten about moments later as the visitors grabbed an equaliser. Baker again delivered dangerously and Alex Davey had the simple task of flicking the ball home past a helpless goalkeeper.
The game then opened up with chances at both ends. Rowe narrowly missed the target from a tight angle before Kiwomya caused problems running past a couple of defenders but his final effort was skewed into the side netting.
Chelsea then reversed the deficit by taking the lead in impressive style, playing out from the back with Blackman before bursting forward through the ever-threatening Boga. The Frenchman fed Kiwomya down the right channel and the winger's far-post delivery was nodded in by Isaiah Brown for his second goal in as many Under-21 league games at the start of this new season.
We went into the break in the ascendancy and with the lead, though the one blot as the interval loomed was the withdrawal of Boga after a foul from Harrison Reed for which the midfielder was booked.
The hosts came out for the second period intent to close the deficit quickly and Isgrove caused problems down the Saints' right side, first forcing a comfortable save from Blackman down low before driving into the penalty area past Christensen to the byline, though his cutback narrowly evaded the lurking striker Sinclair.
On the other flank Rowe did well to beat his man before thumping the base of Blackman's near post. Aké then ventured forward from his left-back position to present himself with an opening, though couldn't test Cooper from a narrow angle.
The Saints goalkeeper was busy shortly later though as Baker, from a similar position to where he assisted for Davey in the first half, whipped a left-footed free kick effort past the despairing Cropper and into the far top corner to extend the Blues' advantage with a little over 20 minutes to play.
The remainder of the game was played at a slower pace as Drummy's side sought to see the game out. John Swift replaced Loftus-Cheek in midfield while Ryan Seager entered the fray for the hosts as they looked to grab a way back into the match. However, that prospect was snuffed out as the final whistle approached as Feruz found the net from near 30 yards with a great strike on his right foot as defenders retreated.
It was a fantastic goal that capped off a very good evening for the Under-21s on the South Coast as we notched up our first win of the campaign. Next up we entertain Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday 24 August.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Jamal Blackman; Isak Ssewankambo, Andreas Christensen, Alex Davey, Nathan Aké (c); Ruben Loftus-Cheek (John Swift 57) Lewis Baker, Jeremie Boga (Islam Feruz 45); Alex Kiwomya, Lamisha Musonda, Isaiah Brown.
Unused: Mitchell Beeney, Fankaty Dabo, Dion Conroy.
Southampton (4-3-3): Cropper; Young, Stephens (c), Turnbull, Targett; Reed, Flannigan, Moore; Isgrove (Seager 66), Rowe, Sinclair.
Unused: Johns, Colmer, Branker, McCarthy.