Our Under-18s returned to winning ways with a thrilling seven-goal showing over Reading on Saturday morning.
Jude Soonsup-Bell opened the action, scoring his third goal of the season after nine minutes and he thought he got his fourth of the campaign later in the second half. Youngster Lewis Hall combined well with Alex Kpakpe for our second and a third through Harvey Vale soon followed.
We were dealt a blow before half time though, and Reading were back in the game with the second half still to play.
After an action-packed first 45 minutes there were still more goals to come. Charlie Webster got the young Blues back on track with his first goal of the season, shortly followed by a Kevin Abretti own goal,
Despite Chelsea imposing themselves on the game Reading still managed to steal a second goal through Malachi Talent, whose acrobatic attempt from close range wrapped up the scoring at 5-2 on the day.
The young Blues
Ed Brand handed a first start to Alfie Gilchrist and Hall. While on the bench sat schoolboys Leo Castledine, Ronnie Stutter and Brodi Hughes. Goalkeeper Jake Askew was between the sticks.
Chelsea open the scoring
On a busy weekend for Chelsea our under-18s got the match action underway in perfect conditions at Reading's new training complex. It was a slightly different look squad but our intentions remained the same, the first attack of the morning was after seven minutes and almost proved a success, Vale’s lofted ball over the defence set Soonsup-Bell away on goal. Reading defenders caught up with the forward and forced him on to his right foot allowing the home keeper to make a great save.
The hungry Soonsup-Bell was sure to make his next chance count though, and it came another seven minutes after his first. The forward collected the ball on the left and fought his way into the box before he skilfully lifted the ball over the grounded keeper. It was an excellent finish from our number nine and we led 1-0 inside the opening quarter.
Our second goal came mid-way through the half and was a goal the whole team could be proud of. Gilchrist won the defensive battle and Hall picked up possession on the right. The youngster then spotted Kpakpe in space on the opposite flank and switched play while he continued his run into the box where he met the left wing-back’s cross, steering a powerful header into the net. A fine first goal for Hall on his full under-18s debut.
It was more of the same for Chelsea's third as our dominance was clear to see. Possession on the right wing was well kept and smartly distributed to Hall by Silko Thomas. Our second goal scorer then made the by-line and squared for Vale who slammed home from close range.
Reading had their best chance just before the break through Kelvin Ehibhaimha, but Askew had his angles covered as the ball rolled wide. Soon after that attempt and in unfortunate circumstances the hosts found their goal, a flying effort by Benjamin Purcell was tipped on to the bar by the Chelsea stopper but it dropped to Harvey Maunder to volley into an open net. We took a 3-1 lead into half-time.
Chelsea began the second half with similar intensity to the first. Thomas and Kpakpe were particularly busy in the wide positions as we looked to build on our lead, but it was the hosts who first tried their luck on goal.
Against the run of play, we gave away possession cheaply on the right and allowed a cross into the box which tall forward Jahmari Clarke connected with freely, forcing Askew into a good stop. Luckily for Chelsea the Reading pressure was short lived and Charlie Webster reinforced our dominance moments later with an impressive solo effort.
The midfielder skipped his way into the box and smartly lifted the ball over the keeper and into the net, a finish similar to Soonsup-Bell’s opener, and the young Blues were not finished there.
As a result of the high Chelsea press we were able to steal the ball back in the danger area with Soonsup-Bell, who notched his second of the afternoon from close range. 5-1 Chelsea.
Frustratingly Reading found a second goal and it was from a set-piece. A home body headed on the initial cross to Talent at the back post who attempted an ambitious overhead-kick which nestled into the corner of the net.
Thankfully there were few Reading attacks to follow and we were able to see the remainder of the game out with full control, picking up a deserved three points.
After this weekend’s short trip to Reading the young Blues host Norwich back at Cobham ahead of a week of cup competitions at the end of the month.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1) Jake Askew; Bashir Humphreys, Charlie Wiggett (c), Alfie Gilchrist; Alex Kpakpe (Ronnie Stutter 88), Josh Tobin, Charlie Webster, Silko Thomas (Derrick Abu 79); Lewis Hall (Leo Castledine 57), Harvey Vale; Jude Soonsup-BellUnused subs Brodi Hughes, Malik MothersilleScorer Soonsup-Bell 9; Hall 25; Vale 34; Webster 56; Abretti (og) 57
Booked Kpakpe 78
Reading Coniah Boyce-Clark, Sam Paul, Lynford Sackey, Benjamin Purcell (Jay Senga 56), Kelvin Abretti, Tyrell Ashcroft, Jordan Hamilton, Malachi Talent-Aryeetey, Jahmari Clarke, (Alfie Anderson 70) Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan, Harvey MaunderUnused subs Matthew Rowley, Spike Steggall, David NyarkoScorer Maunder 41, Talent 65
Photography by Mark Sandom