The young Blues maintained their incredible 100% league record this campaign with a 2-1 win over Fulham at Cobham. Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s first-half goal put the hosts in front before a resilient visiting side pulled one back midway through the second period through Muamer Tankovic. However, Adi Viveash’s side fought right until the end and got their reward with a late own goal winner. It means the Under-18s now have six wins from six this season.
With an Under-19 side in NextGen action in Moscow in midweek and Dermot Drummy’s Under-21s having played the previous evening at Craven Cottage there were plenty of opportunities for the youngsters
Ruben Loftus-Cheek started in midfield, alongside Jesse Starkey and John Swift, while Reece Mitchell, Ambrose Gnahore and Tom Howard made up the attacking trio. Jordan Houghton skippered from centre back, alongside Dion Conroy, with Kevin Wright and Jon Muleba taking the full-back positions and Mitchell Beeney between the sticks.
The opening exchanges were even and the visitors, who lost their own 100% league record last week, were clearly going to provide stiff competition to Viveash’s young side. Chances were few and far between in the first ten minutes and it took a quarter of an hour for the hosts to take the lead, with one of the game’s first real chances. A great cross-field pass from Muleba found Loftus-Cheek in plenty of space at the far post and the midfielder had time to take a touch to control and slot the ball low past Max Oberschmidt in the Fulham goal.
The visitors were quick to respond and went close to getting an immediate leveller, though Tankovic’s deflected effort span just over Beeney’s bar and behind for a corner. At the other end Gnahore got in behind down the left flank after some good Chelsea interplay but his effort trickled agonisingly beyond the far post, with Oberschmidtbeaten.
Howard and Muleba then combined down the right to win the ball back high up the field, and the opening came for the midfielder, whose low effort was well hit but central and comfortably gathered. On the other flank Gnahore was tricky in getting in behind the Donnelly once again and, while Swift did well to turn the delivery goal-bound, it was a comfortable save.
Fulham remained a constant danger, though, and there was a scare when Muleba got the wrong side of Tankovic, running towards his own goal, and upended him. The referee adjudged the foul to have occurred right on the edge of the box, though it was a close call. The resultant set-piece was gathered by Beeney at the second attempt.
Mitchell had a chance to use his pace in behind with five minutes of the half remaining but his ball inside to Swift was just over-hit and, despite Gnahore doing well to win the ball back, he was marshalled well.
Conroy strode into growing space in front of him and hit a sweet effort that flew over but, as the interval loomed it was the visitors dominating possession and Chelsea working hard to keep their defensive shape and press the ball. On the one occasion that Houghton and Conroy were split, with a ball in between them feeding in Roberts, the latter recovered well and made a good sliding challenge to keep the danger at bay.
The visitors came out and started very brightly after the break, with Swift having to make an important sliding intervention early on, while Tankovic had a decent sighter at goal but sliced his volley wide. Woodron then glanced a header just wide as the visitors remained on the front foot.
Chelsea remained a constant threat on the break and Gnahore kept Oberschmidt busy with a decent effort after coming inside onto his left foot, before combining with Swift to set the midfielder up with a decent opening that he could only hit the side netting with. Tankovic had another opportunity on the volley, this time hit much sweeter but still just missing the target, though the warning signs were there that the visitors were close to a leveller.
That equaliser eventually came with less than 15 minutes remaining, as the ever-dangerous Tankovic finished tidily from close range to bring the scores level. Houghton had to defend strongly inside his own box as both sides sought a winner, and Tankovic again went close with a dipping effort from nearly 30 yards, before the Blues snatched a winner.
Gnahore probed down the right and fired a dangerous centre across the face of goal which could only be turned into his own net, under pressure, by substitute O’Neilly. Chelsea had a few more tense moments to hold on but defended resolutely and came away with their sixth win from six league games.
Chelsea Beeney; Muleba, Conroy, Houghton (c), Wright (Dabo 78); Loftus-Cheek, Swift, Starkey (Colkett 70); Howard (Hunte 58), Gnahore, Mitchell.