Lewis Bate’s goal midway through the first half made it three wins from three for the Chelsea youth team at the start of the new campaign.
The young Blues were on the south coast on Saturday morning for their latest assignment in the Under-18 Premier League, looking to continue a 100 per cent winning opening made under new boss Ed Brand.
We dominated much of the contest against a Southampton side still looking for their first points of 2019/20, though a lack of finesse in front of goal prevented us from recording a more comfortable scoreline. However, Bate’s brilliant strike was ultimately enough to secure the points and take us joint-top of the early league standings.
Brand made three changes from last weekend’s thrilling 4-3 win against West Ham at Cobham. Lucas Bergstrom was on the bench the night before for our development squad and Myles Peart-Harris missed out through injury, while Xavier Simons dropped to the bench.
It was 3-4-2-1 again from the start and the visitors went close to taking the lead inside five minutes as Armando Broja got on the end of Marcel Lewis’s cross from the left, though Saints keeper Oliver Wright was positioned well to make an important early save.
The opening exchanges followed a similar pattern as Brand’s boys enjoyed plenty of possession up against an opponent happy to sit back and defend deep in their own half. It meant space was restricted so patience and persistence was required.
Broja almost capitalised on a defensive mistake to break the deadlock, stealing the ball from Southampton skipper Pascal Kpohomouh on the edge of the box, though the Albanian Under-21 international failed to find the target with his effort.
Yet with 22 minutes on the clock, the home side’s resolve was finally broken. Bate picked up the ball 25 yards from goal and accepted the invitation to take aim, firing a brilliant effort beyond Wright into the top corner.
The deficit failed to alter Southampton’s approach, although they managed to restrict us to mostly long-range efforts throughout the remainder of the first half. Bate and Henry Lawrence tried from distance, before Broja forced a good save from Wright and Lewis curled one just wide moments before the break.
It was much the same story in the second period, although Brand will have been disappointed his young charges didn’t extend their advantage to give the game a more comfortable feel in the latter stages. Broja did everything right before toe-poking Tino Livramento’s cross agonisingly wide before Wright did well to keep hold of Lawrence’s deflected effort.
Southampton were waiting for that one chance to come and they almost found an equaliser with 18 minutes remaining. It came predictably on the counter-attack as Jayden Smith led the charge forward and supplied the overlapping Roland Idowu, but Jake Askew’s goal remained untroubled.
Wright continued to come out on top in his one-on-one duel with striker Broja, thwarting the teenager again from a tight angle, while Broja’s replacement George Nunn ought to have put the game to bed in stoppage time with a free header guided wide.
In the end, despite some profligacy in front of goal, our youngsters came away with maximum points on the road for the second time this season, on a day when Chelsea Academy graduates from yesteryear took centre stage for the senior side in the Premier League.
Next up for the Under-18s is a home game against Aston Villa next weekend.
-CHELSEA DEVELOPMENT SQUAD VS BRIGHTON AT STAMFORD BRIDGE - CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS PRICED AT £5 FOR ADULTS AND FREE FOR CONCESSIONS
Chelsea (3-4-2-1) Jake Askew; Dynel Simeu (c), Sam McClelland, Bashir Humphreys (James Clark 76); Levi Colwill, Lewis Bate, Henry Lawrence, Tino Livramento (Pierre Ekwah Elimby 67); Marcel Lewis, Dion Rankine; Armando Broja (George Nunn 81)Unused subs Ethan Wady, Xavier SimonsScorer Bate 22
Southampton Oliver Wright, Ryan Cluett, James Morris, Sam Bailey, David Agbontohoma, Pascal Kpohomouh (c) (Jack Turner 49), Seamas Keogh, Callum Watts, Jayden Smith, Marco Rus (Kazeem Olaigbe 76), Ramello Mitchell (Roland Idowu 66)Unused subs Matthew Hall, Sam BellisBooked Watts
-Match pictures courtesy of Mark Sandom