Our development squad moved into fourth in the Premier League 2 table with a comprehensive victory at Stamford Bridge.
Richard Nartey’s opener after just four minutes set the tone for a dominant Blues display and it was followed by a brace from Ike Ugbo (pictured top celebrating his second) either side of the interval as the Blues recorded a first win in five. Adi Viveash’s side complete the campaign with a home game against leaders Everton next time out followed by a trip to Derby County next month.
The hosts made six changes from their last outing, a defeat to Liverpool almost three weeks previously in which a number of regulars were absent while carrying out FA Youth Cup duties. Mitchell Beeney came into the side in goal while the Youth Cup quintet of Dujon Sterling, Trevoh Chalobah, Mason Mount, Harvey St Clair and Ugbo all returned.
Searching for a first win in five outings, the Blues started brightly in the evening SW6 sunshine. Mount, who signed a new long-term contract earlier in the week, took centre stage early on with a free-kick curled narrowly over before the midfielder’s clever movement earned him space in the final third and allowed him to play through St Clair, the winger thwarted by Denver Hume’s covering challenge.
It didn’t take long for us to find the opener though and the Shed End net was rippling with just four minutes on the clock. Mount swung in a set-piece from the right which evaded the leaping Ugbo but was converted at the far post by Nartey, the defender celebrating his maiden goal at the older age group.
Buoyed by the early lead, Viveash’s side started to dominate, moving the ball with speed and precision while hunting a second goal. Isaac Christie-Davies fashioned space on the edge of the box but saw his strike blocked from close distance before St Clair advanced dangerously into the 18-yard area but was cleverly eased off balance and could only fire a weak shot straight at Max Stryjek, the Sunderland goalkeeper.
Unable to cope with Chelsea’s quick pressing, Sunderland’s ball retention was poor and the Blues continued to dominate possession. One particularly easy-on-the-eye period resulted in Christie-Davies running towards the penalty area before the 19-year-old slipped through Mount, though the goal gaped only momentarily as he took the ball too far wide before his clipped cross was cleared.
Christie-Davies then stole possession from a defender and the Blues were bearing down on Stryjek with a numerical advantage but the pass to St Clair was overhit. The Sunderland stopper was more seriously tested moments later as Elliot Embleton’s pass back was seized upon by the alert Ugbo, however the keeper reached the ball with an outstretched hand and palmed the danger away.
Yet our dominant display had the two-goal advantage it deserved seven minutes before the break. Under-16 defender Jon Panzo picked up the ball in an advanced position on the left flank and Ugbo’s diving header met his teasing cross to place the ball firmly into the bottom corner.
It could have been 3-0 before the interval as Mount again drifted into space in the area between defence and midfield, though his strike lacked the accuracy to trouble the goalkeeper. Sunderland made a change up front for the second period, introducing Josh Maja in an attempt to keep hold of possession better. However, within five minutes of the restart there was a second goal of the night and a 20th goal of the season for Ugbo.
St Clair and Mount combined neatly on the right and the latter’s cutback was perfect for Christie-Davies, whose first-time shot was parried by Stryjek. Yet the loose ball fell favourably for our well-positioned number nine and he fired in the rebound from just a few yards out.
It was a third goal that effectively sealed the three points with over half an hour remaining and the tempo of the game inevitably dropped off thereafter. Mount continued to tease and torment, twisting inside and out before firing straight at Stryjek before Rees Greenwood struck a first shot of note at Beeney’s goal after 70 minutes. However, his teammate Maja got in the way and the ball deflected to safety, summing up the visitors’ difficult night.
At the back, the hosts were rarely troubled but crucially remained concentrated and defended well when required, claiming a second clean sheet in three games. They make their final Aldershot appearance of the season against Everton in a fortnight, followed by the Derby date to conclude the campaign in early May.
Academy action resumes tomorrow morning (Saturday) when our youth team travel to Manchester City in the Under-18 Premier League merit round. Jody Morris’s side are bidding to win the national title and have won their opening two games in the seven-game mini-league. The game kicks off at 11.05am and is live on Chelsea TV.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Mitchell Beeney; Dujon Sterling, Trevoh Chalobah, Richard Nartey, Jon Panzo; Ruben Sammut (c), Kyle Scott (Conor Gallagher 86); Harvey St Clair (Charlie Wakefield 64) (Josimar Quintero 71), Isaac Christie-Davies, Mason Mount; Ike Ugbo
Unused subs Nathan Baxter, Ali Suljic
Scorers Nartey 4; Ugbo 38, 50
Sunderland Max Stryjek; Josh Robson (Dan Casey 71), George Brady, Tom Beadling, Denver Hume; Elliot Embleton (Dan Wright 83), Ethan Robson (c); Luke Molyneux, George Honeyman, Rees Greenwood; Joel Asoro (Josh Maja h/t)
Unused subs Sam Brotherton, James Talbot
Booked J. Robson
Referee Constantine Hatzidakis
-Additional picture courtesy of Mark Sandom