A thrilling match at Cobham ended in a 4-3 victory for Chelsea against West Ham United, which was no less than the Blues deserved despite a few scares from the visitors, the Under-18s securing a win in our fist home game of the season.
In truth, the scoreline doesn’t reglect Chelsea’s dominance for much of the game, but some frantic action at either end resulted in a hugely entertaining tie.
First Myles Peart-Harris gave us a deserved lead by turning in Armando Broja’s cut-back from close range, but two goals from West Ham in the space of a minute just before half-time, first from a corner and then a rebound after a good save from Lucas Bergstrom.
However, the Blues came out firing after the break, with Broja equalising from the penalty spot after being fouled in the box and Dynel Simeu capitalising on a West Ham defensive mistake to give us the lead from close range.
That advantage was extended to two by Broja’s composed finish after he and Marcel Lewis had dispossessed West Ham on the edge of their own box, but we had to endure some nervous moments in the final few minutes after West Ham had pulled a goal back with a deflected effort which wrong-footed Bergstrom.
Ed Brand made two changes to the team which had won away at champions Arsenal on the opening day. Sam McClelland came into the back three alongside skipper Simeu and Levi Colwill, with Bergstrom continuing between the posts behind them. That saw Henry Lawrence move to the left wing-back spot in an otherwise unchanged midfield four, with Tino Lavramento on the right and Lewis Bate partnering Xavier Simons in the middle. Broja resumed his duties as the lone striker, but with Marcel Lewis joining Peart-Harris behind him.
West Ham had the first attempt on goal five minutes in, but the low shot from outside the box was never troubling Bergstrom, who gathered the ball with a minimum of fuss. Things were much more difficult for his opposite number in the Hammers’ net moments later, when Lawrence cut in from the left and forced a good save low at the near post.
Bergstrom had to be brave to beat the striker to a clever through pass, diving in to claim the ball despite a sliding challenge which resulted in the referee blowing for a foul.
The visitors were applying plenty of pressure though, with Colwill needing to intervene with an excellent sliding interception to cut out a squared pass on the edge of the six-yard box which took Bergstrom out of the game.
However, despite the pressure, it was Chelsea who came close to getting the opening goal as we broke down the right, Lewis running at the left-back before playing in Livramento, but the keeper made himself big to stop the shot. It was the same story just seconds later, this time Lewis unable to find a way past Krisztian Hegyi after being found all alone at the back post with a pass across the face of goal.
There was concern for Broja when he went down following a challenge with the goalkeeper, trying to close down the West Ham back line and block the clearance, but after a brief pause he was okay to continue.
After dusting himself down, Broja had a big part to play in the opening goal as the game approached the half-hour mark. The striker latched onto a sliced West Ham clearance just outside the box, beat his man down the right channel to reach the byeline and cut the ball back for Peart-Harris to calmly turn the ball past the keeper from a few yards out.
By now Chelsea were dominating possession and Broja will be disappointed not to have extended our lead, after being found on the penalty spot by Lewis’ cross from the left and rising above the West Ham defenders, but he couldn’t keep his header away from the keeper. He went close again five minutes before half-time, being played in by Livramento’s through ball, but his shot rippled the side netting at the near post.
However, against the run of play, West Ham pulled level just before the break, as Veron Parkes’ clever run across the face of goal allowed him to meet a corner kick at the near post and head it past Bergstrom from close range.
Unbelievably, the visitors then got another to take the lead less than a minute later. Bergstrom did well to get down and stop Dan Chester’s shot from the edge of the box, but could do nothing as Seb Nebyla followed up to slide in the rebound from close range.
Brand chose to make a change at half-time, Dion Rankine replacing Simons and taking up a position on the left wing, with Lawrence switching into midfield.
The Blues had the best possible start to the second half when a challenge on Broja in the box saw the referee pointing to the penalty spot. The striker got up and took the spot-kick himself, smashing the ball into the roof of the net with enough power to beat Hegyi, despite the keeper getting a hand to it.
Just six minutes later we were ahead, as Simeu capitalised on a defensive mix-up by West Ham. The visitors’ skipper intercepted Bate’s high ball across the edge of their box, but sent it looping towards his own goal, wrong-footing the keeper, before Simeu got to the ball first to nudge it across the line and make sure.
Before long, we had extended our lead to provide some breathing room for the first time. Lewis did well to put pressure on West Ham’s defenders, allowing Broja to steal in and nick the ball away inisde the box. He steadied himself, then finished well under pressure to make it 4-2 to Chelsea, a lead we more than deserved, despite West Ham enjoying more possession in the second half.
That goal was quickly followed by our second substitution, as Sam Iling Junior replaced Peart-Harris and went out to the left, Rankine taking up Peart-Harris’ role behind Broja.
Lewis went inches away from getting a fifth, as he chested down a headed clearance on the edge of the box and hit a sweet half-volley just wide of the top corner, and Rankine then tested the keeper with a powerful effort at the near post.
Iling Junior came even closer, cutting onto his right foot after being found in the left channel by Lewis and curling an effort towards the far post from just outside the box, which unfortunately clipped the angle of post and bar on its way behind for a goal-kick.
However, it was the Hammers who found the net again, in rather fortunate style, as substitute Sam Caiger’s hopeful shot from just inside the penalty area was deflected and spun into the net with Bergstrom left stranded.
Bergstrom was equal to anything else West Ham could throw at him in the closing stages, though, as the tension rose and things became a little scrappy.
However, the victory was no less than Chelsea’s performance had deserved despite West Ham providing a few scares along the way, and ensured we took maximum points from our first two league games of the season.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1) Lucas Bergstrom; Dynel Simeu (c), Sam McClelland, Levi Colwill; Tino Livramento, Xavier Simons (Dion Rankine h-t), Lewis Bate (Bashir Humphreys 88), Henry Lawrence; Myles Peart-Harris (Sam Iling Junior 65), Marcel Lewis; Armando Broja
Unused subs Jake Askew, James Clarke
Scorers Peart-Harris 27, Broja 48, 64, Simeu 54
Booked Broja 76
West Ham United (4-2-3-1) Krisztian Hegyi; Harrison Ashby, Josh Okotcha (c), Jamal Baptiste, Will Greenidge; Keenan Appiah-Forson (Iyiola Adebayo 81), Jake Giddings; Kai Corbett, Seb Nebyla (Sam Caiger 71), Dan Chesters (Leanon Peake 79); Veron Parkes
Unused subs Serine Sanneh, Spencer Keller
Scorers Parkes 44, Nebyla 45, Caiger 83
Booked Ashby 66
-Additional pictures courtesy of Mark Sandom