Our development squad jumped two places in the league table following their biggest victory of the season in the north-east this afternoon (Sunday).
Joe Edwards was able to name a strong side for the trip to Sunderland, who sat a place and a point behind the Blues at kick-off. A high-tempo start saw the visitors ahead after two minutes and 3-0 up at the break, with Ike Ugbo, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ethan Ampadu all on the scoresheet in the first half.
There was plenty to be satisfied with on our first win away at Sunderland since 2013, though Hudson-Odoi took the plaudits by completing his treble with a stunning strike and a cooly-taken penalty.
Edwards made four changes from the side that advanced in the Checkatrade Trophy in midweek, with Charly Musonda, Ampadu and Ugbo all involved. The latter, who completed a loan move to Milton Keynes earlier in the month, led the line up front supported by Musonda, Harvey St Clair and Hudson-Odoi as the Blues lined up in a 4-2-3-1 system.
Jamie Cumming returned in goal behind a back four of Cole Dasilva, Trevoh Chalobah, Juan Castillo and Ampadu, while Kyle Scott partnered skipper Ruben Sammut in central midfield.
The hosts were winless since October before claiming three PL2 points against Derby County last weekend, though it was the bright Blues who struck the first blow in this contest between ninth and 10th in the Premier League 2 Division One standings. St Clair’s dangerous and direct running from the right caused the initial problems and his strike was kept out by Michael Woud diving to his right. However, the loose rebound fell kindly for the alert Ugbo and the 19-year-old turned the ball in from six yards out for his first goal on his first appearance for Edwards’s side this season.
The joint-lowest scorers in the league this term, Sunderland’s task was already looking a difficult one and they had to rely on Woud to keep the deficit at one in the immediate moments after falling behind. Musonda was playing just off Ugbo in the ‘number 10’ role and made progress through the middle before taking aim at goal, though the keeper again dived well to parry away the danger.
The left flank was proving a productive attacking route for the visitors and both Hudson-Odoi then Castillo advanced into promising areas to deliver into the box, though neither cross could find a teammate in the middle. The Black Cats had largely settled from the early blow of conceding and the contest evened out somewhat before an individual moment of magic extended our lead.
Hudson-Odoi’s quickness of footwork and thinking has been demonstrated on plenty of previous occasions but the 17-year-old combined them to great effect after 20 minutes. He jinked his way past defenders as he moved into the box from the left and then dummied into space before firing an unstoppable drive into the roof of the net.
The visitors were now mixing confidence with quality and their hunger for more goals was not yet satisfied. Musonda earned himself a set-piece opportunity after being taken out by Thomas Beadling but the Belgian’s effort lacked the accuracy of his stoppage-time winner at Fratton Park on Tuesday.
Sunderland fashioned two rare chances in quick succession as the half-hour mark approached, with Benjamin Mbunga-Kimpioka firing harmlessly over from the edge of the box before Jack Diamond forced a decent save from Cumming.
However, that proved to be the limit of the home side’s attacking powers and it was soon 3-0. A corner from the left was kept alive and Ampadu, teed up by Ugbo, steered a low shot into the bottom right corner for his first Chelsea goal.
There was still defending to do for the visitors and Chalobah produced a good header to clear Josh Robson’s centre but the clear-cut chances continued to come down the other end of the field. Brandon Taylor made a crucial block to stop Ugbo’s effort heading towards goal before Woud twice kept out St Clair, most impressively with a reaction stop after the wideman had fired low towards the near post.
Edwards made two changes at the interval, replacing St Clair and Scott with Isaac Christie-Davies and Kylian Hazard. The alterations made little impact on the flow of the game, though clear-cut chances were more limited in the early exchanges of the second period. Hudson-Odoi continued to catch the eye and it was a stunning strike from the teenager that added to the goal tally 15 minutes after the restart.
Causing problems down the left as he had all afternoon, the forward cut inside and unleashed a curling shot that was placed to perfection into the far top corner. Our England Under-17 World Cup winner took the applause but the Blues were not finished there.
Luke McCormick, another new introduction to proceedings, volleyed at goal with his first action but a deflection took the sting from his effort and Woud was able to gather comfortably. Down the other end, Jake Hackett’s deep delivery found Robson at the far post but the full-back’s header was aimed straight at Cumming.
The Blues rounded off an impressive display with their fifth goal 15 minutes from time. Hudson-Odoi was again pivotal, driving forward on the flank and feeding the overlapping Castillo, who had advanced infield into the box. The Dutchman took a touch but was then brought down and the referee had little choice but to point to the spot, handing Hudson-Odoi the chance to complete his hat-trick with a cool penalty.
With a first clean sheet in the league since October in sight, the visitors continued to defend the box well and only Lee Connelly threatened Cumming’s goal in the latter stages, firing comfortably over. This was an afternoon that Sunderland could conjure up little to spoil as Edwards’s side got five goals, three points and climbed two places in the league table.
Next up is our Checkatrade Trophy quarter-final tie against Oxford United at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday 23 January. Supporters can purchase tickets online and at the box office from tomorrow (Monday).
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Jamie Cumming; Cole Dasilva, Trevoh Chalobah, Ethan Ampadu, Juan Castillo; Ruben Sammut (c) (Luke McCormick 62), Kyle Scott (Isaac Christie-Davies h/t); Harvey St Clair (Kylian Hazard h/t), Charly Musonda, Callum Hudson-Odoi; Ike Ugbo
Unused subs Marcin Bulka, Richard Nartey
Scorers Ugbo 2; Hudson-Odoi 21, 59, (pen) ‘74; Ampadu 33
Sunderland Michael Woud, Owen Gamble, Joshua Robson, Thomas Beadling, Brandon Taylor (Rees Greenwood h/t), Alex Storey, Jack Diamond (Lee Connelly 70), Elliot Embleton, Benjamin Mbunga-Kimpioka, Jake Hackett, Christopher Allan
Unused subs Sam Brotherton, James Talbot, Jacob Young
Booked Beadling 23; Gamble 50; Robson 68
Referee Thomas Bramall