Our table-topping Under-18s extended their lead at the top of the league following victory over Tottenham this morning (Saturday).
A fortnight after their last league outing, a 0-0 draw against Aston Villa in which they fired their first blank of the season, Jody Morris’s side had more joy in front of goal at Cobham. George McEachran opened the scoring with his third goal of the season before Martell Taylor-Crossdale bagged a brace either side of the interval, taking his tally to 15 league goals.
Spurs pulled one back after 73 minutes through substitute Reo Griffiths to launch a late comeback and Tashan Oakley-Boothe ensured a nervy finale by making it 3-2 with three minutes of normal time remaining. However, the Blues held on to the three points and took their unbeaten run in the league to 14 matches.
With a host of England youth internationals on show from both sides, Morris included seven young Lions in his starting team for the meeting of first and fifth in the Under-18 Premier League south section.
Three of those featured in attack for the Blues as Taylor-Crossdale led the line supported by Callum Hudson-Odoi and McEachran. The latter was the first McEachran of the day in action ahead of older brother and former Academy star Josh’s Stamford Bridge return later in the afternoon in the FA Cup with Brentford.
Jamie Cumming returned in goal protected by a back three of Marc Guehi, Joseph Colley and Josh Grant as Morris continued to adopt a 3-4-3 system. Luke McCormick partnered Jacob Maddox in central midfield, while Reece James and Cole Dasilva lined up at right wing-back and left wing-back respectively.
There was nothing to separate these two sides when they met back in October and the opening period followed a similarly competitive pattern, with both teams technically confident and able to harry at a high intensity out of possession. The hosts edged the early action with McEachran typifying their energy and industry, winning the ball deep in the Spurs half before his shot was blocked well (pictured below).
A pass from Colley back to the goalkeeper almost landed the Blues in trouble as Kazaiah Sterling raced on to the under-hit ball but Cumming was quick and brave to challenge at the feet of the striker. It took less than 10 minutes for Morris’s men to find a breakthrough and it was a goal from back to front worthy of breaking the deadlock in any game.
Cumming rolled the ball out to Grant, who set the move going down the left with a pass to the feet of Dasilva. The Wales Under-19 international acted quickly to find Hudson-Odoi and the forward fed a brilliant ball forward for McEachran to run on to in behind the Spurs defence. If the build-up had been easy on the eye, the finish was sumptuous as the 16-year-old lifted the ball delicately over the onrushing goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
The goal reignited Tottenham’s threat and they dominated the next 20 minutes as they searched for a quick equaliser. Sterling and left-back Nick Tsaroulla both fired wide with decent opportunities to test Cumming before the goalkeeper got a little lucky in taking the opportunity to smother the ball after Sterling had charged down his clearance.
The visitors, managed by former Millwall and Wolves boss Kenny Jackett, were causing problems in wide areas as they looked to expose the high Chelsea wing-backs. A free-kick earned from advancing infield from the right flank was sent sailing over the bar by Keanan Bennetts before the Blues doubled their lead just after the half-hour mark.
Despite much of the play taking place in their own half, the home side looked dangerous on the counter-attack with the pace of their attacking trio. Hudson-Odoi’s advance through the middle earned the league leaders a well-positioned free-kick after 32 minutes and Taylor-Crossdale took full advantage, firing through the wall and beyond goalkeeper Brandon Austin.
The striker came close to grabbing a third for his side before the break after latching on to a forward pass from McEachran, though Austin got down well to his right to push the low drive behind. From the following corner, James’s header at the back post was scrambled away as the Blues ended the half on top.
It was crucial for Spurs to strike next and bring themselves back into the contest but instead it was Chelsea continuing in the ascendancy after the restart. Austin thwarted Dasilva with a smart stop but the goalkeeper was helpless moments later as the hosts made it 3-0 with another clinical attack. McEachran combined neatly with Maddox before the latter supplied a low centre from the left that the instinctive Taylor-Crossdale prodded in from close range.
Any wind in the Spurs sailed was sucked out with that third goal and it was Morris’s side pushing to further extend their lead. Austin saved from Hudson-Odoi and Dasilva before the Welsh wing-back shot high over the bar after a blocked Taylor-Crossdale effort had fell invitingly into his path.
Tottenham reduced the deficit 17 minutes from time through substitute Reo Griffiths, who headed in at the second attempt after his first effort had rebounded back off the bar. Down the other end, Taylor-Crossdale went close to sealing the points as he raced on to a long clearance but his effort was narrowly off-target and that handed Spurs the opportunity to make it a nervy ending as Oakley-Boothe beat Cumming with a smart finish.
Yet despite a few long searching balls aimed into our 18-yard box and the referee affording five minutes of added time, the Blues held on to the points and move five points clear at the top of the south section.
Chelsea (3-4-3) Jamie Cumming; Marc Guehi, Joseph Colley, Josh Grant (c); Reece James, Luke McCormick, Jacob Maddox, Cole Dasilva; George McEachran (Harvey St Clair 76), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Conor Gallagher 79), Martell Taylor-Crossdale (Juan Castillo 90+1)
Unused subs Richard Nartey, Jared Thompson
Scorers McEachran 9; Taylor-Crossdale 32, 51
Booked St Clair
Tottenham (4-3-3) Brandon Austin; Timothy Eyoma, Japhet Tanganga, Jonathan Dinzeyi, Nick Tsaroulla; George Marsh (c) (Tariq Hinds 76), Dylan Duncan, Tashan Oakley-Boothe; Samuel Shashoua, Kazaiah Sterling (Reo Griffiths 59), Keanan Bennetts (Oliver Skipp 71)
Unused subs Tariq Hinds, Charlie Freeman, Pablo Gonzalez
Scorers Griffiths 73; Oakley-Boothe 87
Booked Dinzeyi, Marsh
-Pictures courtesy of Mark Sandom