Chelsea’s Under-21s made it six games without defeat with a resounding home win against neighbours Fulham on Monday night.
Nathan Ake (main picture, right) set Chelsea on our way with a brilliant curling finish on the quarter-hour, and Dermot Drummy’s side never looked back in front of a watching Roman Abramovich and Rafael Benitez, who would surely have been impressed by what they saw, particularly in the opening 45 minutes.
As the first half wore on, so Chelsea’s performance improved, and there was no surprise when Islam Feruz doubled the lead with a well-taken finish following a smart through ball from captain George Saville.
Before half-time it was three thanks to a finely-worked team goal that saw the ball moved patiently from one end to the other and across both sides of the pitch before Lewis Baker squared for Adam Phillip to finish.
Striker Feruz was the recipient of the game’s first opportunity when he was presented the ball by Fulham defender Matthew Briggs, whose backpass fell woefully short. The Scottish striker ran on and attempted to lift the ball over goalkeeper Jesse Joronen but skewed his shot wide.
Billy Clifford lifted a shot wastefully over shortly afterwards following good work from Adam Phillip, and Feruz saw another effort blocked, before Phillip tested the keeper for the first time with a well-struck, though straight, free-kick.
The opening 15 minutes or so had been far from one-sided, though it was Chelsea getting their shots away and the Blues went in front through a fine goal from Nathan Ake.
Playing in midfield, the Dutchman received the ball inside the centre-circle, turned smartly and released before continuing his run, picking it up once more from Baker and bending home a lovely left-footed effort from the edge of the box, beating the fully stretched Joronen.
Ake looked comfortable in an unfamiliar role, and started Chelsea’s next flowing move too, which began in our own penalty area and ended with Phillip shooting too tamely at the keeper. Shortly afterwards Rohan Ince saw a header cleared off the line at a corner as the Blues began to dominate our west London neighbours.
Tika Musonda, overlapping from right-back, chased onto a Feruz pass and squared across goal, where only a Fulham interception denied Phillip a tap home.
Watching on, both Roman Abramovich and Rafael Benitez would be encouraged by what they had seen from Drummy’s youngsters.
Feruz was booked for a foul on 25, before Phillip went close once more with a low drive that flashed just past the post.
A second Chelsea goal was looking likely, and when it arrived it was once again a result of superb midfield work.
Captain George Saville showed excellent footwork inside the Fulham half, and measured his through ball for Feruz perfectly, allowing the diminutive forward to control with one touch, pause, and fire low into the far bottom corner to double his side’s deserved lead.
Before the break there was time for a third, and it was another display of excellence. This time it was a team move, as Chelsea kept possession, showing patience and control before an incisive pass found Baker down the right, and when he crossed low into the box Phillip was on hand to slide home the goal he had been threatening for much of this first half.
Fulham’s Josh Pritchard and Phillip, who had earlier been warned, were both cautioned for fouls early in the second period.
Feruz, perhaps with Saturday’s FA Youth Cup game at Colchester United in mind, was replaced up front on 57 minutes by Reece Mitchell, and the sub was quickly into the action, denied one-on-one by Jorosen within moments of his introduction.
To their credit Fulham improved in the second period, but never did they look likely to reduce the deficit, let alone find a way back into the game. Chelsea, unlike last week’s opponents Liverpool, who had entered the break with a 3-0 lead against us, had stuck to the task well and not allowed the visitors an inch, marshalled well by Alex Davey and Ince at the back.
Saville bent wide and sub Lamisha Musonda, on for Phillip, shot over as the minutes ticked away. Into the final 10, Jamal Blackman made his only save of note for Chelsea, palming away a shot struck from inside the area.
Five minutes from time Baker should have found Saville in space bearing down on goal but his passing let him down, though nobody from Chelsea will be complaining after a job well done that sees a good run below first-team level continue.
It sets the club up perfectly for the Youth Cup game at Colchester this weekend, while the Under-21s are next in action a week tonight when they travel to Middlesbrough.
If the first team can be as dominant against our west London neighbours on Wednesday, we are in for a treat at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Jamal Blackman; Tika Musonda, Alex Davey, Rohan Ince, Adam Nditi (sub Sam Bangura 80); Billy Clifford, Nathan AKe, George Saville (c); Lewis Baker, Isam Feruz (sub Reece Mitchell 57), Adam Phillip (sub Lamisha Musonda 74) .
Unused subs: Mitchell Beeney, James Ashton.