A Chelsea Under-19 side achieved its best result yet in the club’s debut season in the NextGen European tournament, dominating almost the whole of Thursday afternoon’s game against Norwegian side Molde.
Islam Feruz (pictured) celebrated his call-up this week to the Scotland Under-21 squad with two goals before the interval at Cobham, and although manager Dermot Drummy made several change for the second-half, it had no effect on the team’s rhythm as Alex Kiwomya, Reece Mitchell, Lucas Piazon and George Saville added to the tally.
In the game against Molde in Norway last week it needed a late Chelsea goal to earn a point, but with the young Blues especially effective down the flanks in this rematch, goals looked likely from the off .
There was a very early opening for Chelsea when Piazon slipped past the Molde right-back Eirik Haugan and squared the ball. John Swift shot wide. Mitchell Beeney in the Chelsea goal had to push a free-kick wide of the post soon after and then saved from Jan Aboubacar but after that, Molde barely troubled our keeper again.
Chelsea started to push forward with a couple of attacks breaking down on the edge of the box, but then Piazon in a central position played a lovely reverse pass through to Feruz and although the striker’s initial shot was saved, the ball spun up and he had a straightforward task in heading it into the net.
Haugan continued to be exposed, Adam Nditi leaving him trailing but then not delivering an accurate cross. The Chelsea left-back advanced again soon after and this time shot near-post, the effort saved.
The young Blues had settled into a steady stride and more goals looked well on the cards. The second came on 21 minutes, Feruz confidently stroking the ball home first time after Nditi had steamed forward and exchanged passes with George Saville, before picking out the centre-forward’s run. Good passing and movement all round.
The Saville-Nditi combination caused the Norwegians problems again but after Nditi’s cross cleared a crowd in the middle of the area, Piazon and Houghton had shots blocked.
Saville, recently on the first team bench for two games, was moving forward from a nominally deep midfield role to join the attacking play at every opportunity. On 36 minutes, Molde midfielder Eirik Hestad was booked for going in late in a challenge with Saville in the centre circle as Chelsea continued to have the upper hand.
Three minutes before the break Feruz had a chance of a hat-trick but fired into the sidenetting from a difficult angle after Piazon had forced the ball across the six-yard box.
In this competition, five substitutions per team are permitted and Drummy made four at half-time – Alex Kiwomya for Feruz, Isak Ssewankambo for Swift, Reece Mitchell for Houghton and Ambrose Gnahore for Nditi.
One of those subs, Mitchell, looked to be going around the keeper to score early in the half but the Norwegian stopper managed a crucial touch with his finger-tips.
The freshly-introduced midfielder did however have a hand in Chelsea’s third goal, taking Fankaty Dabo’s pass and laying it through the centre of the Molde defence to Kiwomya, who kept his cool to find the bottom corner.
Chelsea then scored three goals in four minutes to complete the impressive display – the first by Mitchell who from the right-hand side curled the ball left-footed past the keeper. Piazon had patiently delayed his pass to find the substitute in space. Then Piazon put his own name on the scoresheet with a direct free-kick from 20 yards out. The game had barely kicked off when Dabo, an impressive performer at right-back, crossed and Saville volleyed in from 10 yards out.
With the win Chelsea move within five points of group leaders CSKA Moscow with two games in hand, and two points behind Ajax who have played the same number of matches. The remaining two group games are against the Dutch club.
The top two in each of the four groups go through to the knockout stage, as do the four best third-placed sides.
‘It was pleasing in the end and we were worthy winners,’ said Drummy after the game. ‘We showed a good attitude all round but in the first half we could have played more clinically. We improved that in the second half when we brought on some fresh faces and gave Jesse Starkey and Ambrose Gnahore their debuts at this level and they acquitted themselves really well. To win 6-0 is nice for the boys and they did it in the right way.
‘It is important we use new players, we are development coaches. Sometimes when you lose and you talk about development people think you are shading over it but we have to challenge players and we do that.
‘It is not easy because if you loses a few games on the trot the confidence can go but you have to trust in the players. It is a risk to bring on four players at only 2-0 up but I look at it as experience for them and I do trust them.’
Chelsea: Mitchell Beeney; Fankaty Dabo, Alex Davey, Dion Conroy, Adam Nditi (Ambrose Gnahore h-t); Jordan Houghton (Reece Mitchell h-t), George Saville (c); Lewis Baker (Jesse Starkey 67), John Swift (Isak Ssewankambo h-t), Lucas Piazon; Islam Feruz (Alex Kiwomya h-t).