PL2 report: Man United 0 Chelsea 4

A fine win in Manchester helped our development squad rise to mid-table in Premier League 2 as they continued their good form with a third league win in four games.

Goals from Juan Castillo, his sixth of the season, Reece James and Kylian Hazard settled an interesting and well-contested league encounter at Leigh Sports Village. Castillo broke the deadlock early on with a magnificent solo run and finish but Jamie Cumming needed full attention and application to make some important saves to preserve our lead before half-time.

Another early goal after the restart gave us breathing space, Hazard lashing in from 10 yards out, before Reece James’s stunning strike and a bending finish from Harvey St Clair sealed the points. The victory sees the Blues leapfrog West Ham into sixth in the standings.

Edwards was missing five of the side who started in our last outing at this age group, the narrow semi-final defeat in the Checkatrade Trophy 10 days previously. Ethan Ampadu, Marcin Bulka, Trevoh Chalobah, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Dujon Sterling all remained in London with Antonio Conte’s first team squad, who took on Hull City in the FA Cup on the same evening.

Those absences saw the return of Jamie Cumming in goal, Josh Grant into the back four and Luke McCormick in midfield, while Isaac Christie-Davies and Hazard, along with Harvey St Clair, joined the attacking support for lone striker Daishawn Redan. The Blues switched to 4-2-3-1 as Reece James, Richard Nartey and Castillo joined Grant in defence, while skipper Ruben Sammut partnered McCormick in central midfield.

United made four changes from their last PL2 fixture at the start of the month as they searched for a first win in the league since October and an opportunity to reignite their survival ambitions in Division One. With the bottom two sides relegated to the second tier, the visitors were also cautiously looking over their shoulders at the drop zone, with the gap just four points and six games of the campaign to play.

Ricky Sbragia’s side were quickest out the blocks in the first 10 minutes, pressing our defenders in possession high up the pitch and retrieving the ball with their hassling. Matthew Olosunde created the first chance following a purposeful run down the left wing, beating Hazard and James before sliding a ball into the box, though Joshua Bohui failed to hit the target with his rising effort.

Slack play at the back handed the hosts their next opportunity as a cheap corner was conceded and floated in from the left towards the far post. The ball fell invitingly for Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and the 21-year-old hooked it towards goal on the spin but Cumming was alert and pushed it over the bar.

Edwards’s travellers have developed a clinical edge in recent weeks and that proved useful once more as they took the lead with their first attacking foray of intent. It was a goal that owed everything to the endeavours of Castillo, the Dutch teenager driving forward from the right-back position, over halfway and right through the heart of the home defence. Escaping from red shirts with his pace and quick feet, he moved into space on the edge of the box and found the bottom corner with a confident low finish.

The advantage embedded confidence throughout our side and deflated the ambitions of the Red Devils. James delivered from the right after 15 minutes and had home keeper Kieran O’Hara back-pedalling but St Clair was unable to slid it in at the back post.

O’Hara had more work to do moments later as he clawed at St Clair’s deep delivery and then scrambled to stop James’s strike creeping into the far corner. Edwards’s side were enjoying a productive period in the final third and Redan came within a whisker of converting James’s teasing low centre before the striker failed to make sufficient contact with an effort after Hazard’s enterprising run.

Down the other end, Ethan Hamilton’s strike had string but lacked the accuracy to trouble Cumming, who gathered the ball at the second attempt. After the impact of Castillo in breaking the deadlock, it was another Netherlands native who began to grow in influence. Tahith Chong brought a smart save from Cumming at the near post after half hour, before swinging in a dangerous set-piece that Grant managed to divert from danger with his head.

The hosts continued to push for an equaliser as the interval approached, Olosunde’s deflected shot bringing another good low save from our goalkeeper, who also held Zachary Dearnley’s drive from distance as United ended an open half in the ascendancy.

There was little to separate the sides in terms of first-half performance as the two managers surveyed the scene at the break, though the lead was quickly doubled after the restart as Chelsea moved into a commanding position in the contest.

The goal was fashioned through our best move so far as Redan combined neatly with St Clair before the latter delivered from the left side. The ball bounced up kindly for Hazard but the Belgian was unforgiving with his finish as he fired home from close range.

Penalty appeals in both boxes followed before the hour mark as Chong went down under a challenge from McCormick, before Hazard stumbled in the opposite 18-yard area, though the referee was unconvinced by either call.

Edwards introduced Charlie Colkett from the bench, the midfielder making his first appearance since an injury led to his return from a loan at Vitesse, and the points were secured with 30 minutes remaining as James smashed in a third. McCormick created the danger with a positive forward run and James found the net with a super strike across goal and into the corner.

United kept looking for openings and Nartey made a brave block to keep Chong’s attempt from harm’s way before James did similar to fling himself in front of Devonte Redmond’s drive. However, the visitors carried the greater attacking threat and O’Hara was required to make a flying save to keep out McCormick’s curling shot following Cole Dasilva’s tee-up.

The game’s fourth goal duly arrived with 12 minutes to play and it was the boys in blue celebrating once again. Joseph Colley’s arrival saw Grant switch to left-back, allowing him more licence to roam, and it was from the left that the 19-year-old provided the assist for St Clair, who bent a shot beyond O’Hara’s dive.

An impressive performance and emphatic winning margin saw the Blues triumph away at United for the first time since beating them to the Under-21 Premier League title in May 2014. Edwards’s next assignment comes with his Under-19 side in the UEFA Youth League next week, when Feyenoord visit Aldershot for a last-16 meeting on Wednesday 21 February.

Before then, our youth team take on Everton tomorrow morning (Saturday) in the semi-finals of the Under-18 Premier League Cup. There will be updates on how Jody Morris’s side fare on our official @chelseafc Twitter.


Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Jamie Cumming; Reece James, Josh Grant, Richard Nartey, Juan Castillo (Joseph Colley 75); Ruben Sammut (c), Luke McCormick; Kylian Hazard (Cole Dasilva 63), Isaac Christie-Davies (Charlie Colkett 58), Harvey St Clair; Daishawn Redan
Unused subs Nicolas Tie
Scorers Castillo 10; Hazard 49; James 60; St Clair 78

Manchester United Kieran O’Hara, Joe Riley (c), Matthew Olosunde, Ro-Shaun Williams, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (Tyrell Warren 43), Devonte Redmond, Tahith Chong, Ethan Hamilton, Joshua Bohui, Angel Gomes (Darren Buffonge 58), Zachary Dearnley (Indy Boonen 67)
Unused subs
Theo Richardson, Callum Whelan
Booked Hamilton 77

Referee Glen Hart
Crowd 2,035