Chelsea Under-18s moved up to second in the table and kept up the pressure on first place by overcoming a stubborn Aston Villa with second-half goals from Donnell McNeilly and Shaun Wade.

The report

Our third consecutive win in the Under-18 Premier League arrived courtesy of a 2-0 victory over Aston Villa at Cobham, taking us above Tottenham Hotspur on goal difference and keeping us within three points of first-placed West Ham United, having played three games less than the leaders.

A young Blues side, including three players making their full debut at this level, had to be patient as it remained goalless deep into the second half, despite enjoying good possession high up the pitch.

We found the breakthrough with just under 20 minutes remaining, as a high press from Tyrique George and Donnell McNeilly won us possession on the edge of Villa's box, allowing McNeilly to give us the lead by lifting a clever finish over two players.

We had further chances to extend our lead, mostly from set-pieces, before our second arrived late on to make the three points safe. After a patient build-up two substitutes combined, when Ollie Harrison found Shaun Wade with a raking long pass, and the forward slotted a finish under the goalkeeper.

Our Under-18s are now unbeaten in the league since October, dropping just two points during that spell.

The reaction

In addition to another valuable three points in the title race, Under-18s head coach Hassan Sulaiman was quick to point out that this was an important victory to help the team get back to winning ways following the painful FA Youth Cup exit on penalties away at Millwall three days earlier.

'We went into this game with two things in mind,' explained Sulaiman. 'The first was the need to bounce back from our FA Youth Cup defeat to Millwall and the second was the need to handle the mental and physical fatigue that follows a difficult week.

'Having said that, we needed quite a lot of the boys to play again in the league match against Aston Villa, which was always going to be a challenge, particularly as the Under-21s had a game on Friday and another on Monday, either side of ours.

'However, this provided us with an opportunity to call up some of the young boys, and we gave Under-18s debuts to three players, who all performed really well.'

Looking at the victory over Aston Villa itself, Sulaiman was pleased with the performance and the three points, but again it was the possible impact on our chances for the remainder of the season which was foremost in his mind.

'We started the game well, dominating the first half. We had quite a lot of entries into the final third, despite not registering a goal, and we were unfortunate with a few opportunities.

'We began the second half in a similar fashion, with good dominance on the ball and really good pressing action out of possession, which is what led to our first goal.

'This was a really important game to win, as we didn’t want our Youth Cup defeat to hinder the progress we have been making in the league.

'We wanted to continue our recent good league form despite going out of the cup, and we achieved that, to keep the pressure on West Ham at the top.'

The teams

Chelsea 2-0 Aston Villa

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Teddy Curd; Harrison Murray-Campbell, Saheed Olagunju (Travis Akomeah 86), Landon Emenalo, Olutayo Subuloye; Harrison McMahon (Ollie Harrison 74), Reiss Denny (c); Frankie Runham (Chinonso Chibueze 86), Tyrique George, Kobe Barbour (Shaun Wade 65); Donnell McNeilly
Unused sub: Kai Crampton
Scorers: McNeilly 73, Wade 88
Booked: Murray-Campbell 44, Subuloye 46

Aston Villa (3-4-2-1): Sam Lewis, Luka Lynch (Jacob Green 65), Rodrigo Fortes, Jack McDowell, Nile Timson, TJ Carroll, George Hemmings, Abube Onuchukwu, Rory Wilson (Vinnie Hayward 65), Charlie Pavey (Cole Ramsey 89), Cole Brannigan (Trai-varn Mulley 45+2)
Unused sub: Alex Hammond