Second-half goals by Ronnie Stutter and Leo Castledine gave Chelsea Under-21s an impressive win over high-flying West Ham United which head coach Mark Robinson hopes will give his team a confidence boost as we maintain our 100 per cent record in the Premier League 2 in 2024.
A tight first half was light on chances, although both teams threatened from distance. Samuel Rak-Sakyi was desperately unlucky when his curling effort struck the foot of the right-hand post, while Ted Sharman-Lowe saved well low down from West Ham’s Sean Moore.
Leo Castledine was denied a fine goal by the keeper just before the break, swivelling to half-volley Dylan Williams’ cross low, meaning it was goalless at the end of 45 minutes during which West Ham had enjoyed more of the ball, but Chelsea had looked more threatening.
Both goalkeepers were called into action to make good saves early in the second half, Ronnie Stutter seeing his low shot kept out before Sharman-Lowe did well again to stop a close range effort by Divin Mubama.
As things began to open up, Castledine was furious with himself for not getting the first goal when he met another Williams cross from the left with a diving header, but it bounced just wide.
However, just a minute later, the Blues did find the breakthrough. Rak-Sakyi showed good awareness to hook a loose ball into space, releasing Stutter to run at West Ham’s last man. The striker twisted and turned to leave Luizao floundering before slotting low past the keeper from a tight angle.
West Ham tried to hit back, Sharman-Lowe denying Mubama again from point-blank range after a defensive mix up by Chelsea, but we made the victory safe from the penalty spot late on.
Stutter played in Deivid Washington with a pinpoint through-ball and the Brazilian was brought down as he rounded the goalkeeper. Up stepped Castledine and, although the keeper got a hand to his low penalty, it had too much power and nestled in the back of the net.
While this result was undeniably something of a statement win for Chelsea, ending West Ham’s run of six consecutive league wins and inflicting their first defeat since the opening day of the season back in August, Under-21s head coach Mark Robinson is making sure his players keep their feet on the ground.
‘It’s really important we don’t get carried away and we reflect on our wins the same way as the games we draw or lose – reflect not only on the things that went well, which there were a lot of, but also the things that still didn’t go well enough.
‘I have to say it was a really pleasing evening, though. The pitch and the conditions were quite difficult, so there were elements of our football that we could have done better, but in terms of managing the game, our approach to the game and the psychological side to it after going 1-0 up, it was excellent.
‘There were some really good individual performances in there as well, I honestly don’t think we had an average performance on the night. Although collectively it could have been a little bit more cohesive at times, there were also some passages of play that were very good.’
Having called on his team to produce a more balanced performance to add more defensive steel to our excellent recent attacking form, it was also pleasing to end the game with a clean sheet, with the contributions of captain Billy Gee and goalkeeper Sharman-Lowe standing out.
‘We’ve got to thank some very good defending for that clean sheet, particularly from Billy and a really excellent save from Teddy as well, but that’s all part of it.
‘It’s very rare you’re going to go through a game against quality opposition and them not have some sort of chance, but there was definitely more resilience to our performance.’
The fact that it came against a side in such good form previously this season makes the 2-0 victory all the more impressive and underlined our own credentials, moving the Blues within four points of the top three in the PL2.
‘You never want to use another club as a benchmark, we have got to create our own benchmarks, but there’s no denying it’s a very strong group of theirs.
‘They won the FA Youth Cup and their league very comfortably last year and they’ve taken that group into the Under-21s, plus obviously some older players who have been in and around their first-team.
‘So it was a really good result for the lads and one they should hopefully gain even more confidence from.’
West Ham United 0-2 Chelsea
Chelsea (3-4-1-2): Ted Sharman-Lowe; Brodi Hughes, Billy Gee (c), Dylan Williams; Zain Silcott-Duberry, Samuel Rak-Sakyi, Jimi Tauriainen (Ollie Harrison 84), Zak Sturge; Leo Castledine; Deivid Washington (Frankie Runham 90+1), Ronnie Stutter (Dujuan Richards 90+4)
Unused subs: Teddy Curd, Richard Olise
Scorers: Stutter 69, Castledine pen 88
Booked: Tauriainen 36
West Ham (3-4-2-1): Jacob Knightbridge, Junior Robinson, Oliver Scarles, Regan Clayton, Luizao, Kaelen Casey, Lewis Oxford, Patrick Kelly, Divin Mubama (Kamarai Simon-Swyer 77), Sean Moore, George Earthy
Unused subs: Mason Terry, Sean Tarima, Josh Briggs, Daniel Rigge
Booked: Mubama 45, Kelly 50, Casey 56, Moore 90+3