Our Under-21s ran out comfortable winners in their final league game of 2013, courtesy of an Isaiah Brown hat-trick sandwiched between two thunderbolts from Lewis Baker and John Swift.
It is unlikely that Dermot Drummy’s boys have produced many better performances this calendar year. The Blues were on top from first to last and thoroughly merited their five goals, all of which were worthy of a higher setting.
Baker got things underway with a stunning long-range effort, while Brown added a second on the half hour with a powerful finish. He added two more clinical strikers soon after the break, with the icing on the cake supplied by the mercurial John Swift in injury time.
The Blues are now unbeaten since September and will head into the new year full of confidence after this devastating display of attacking football, though the defence also deserve credit for dealing with everything that was thrown their way.
Manager Dermot Drummy changed four players from the side that defeated Cardiff 4-0 in the Under-21 Premier League Cup 10 days ago. In defence, only Alex Davey kept his place from that victory, so in came Fankaty Dabo, Andreas Christensen and Kevin Wright, while there was also a return to the side for Jeremie Boga, who supported Islam Feruz and Isaiah Brown in the front three. Jamal Blackman kept goal while the midfield trio consisted of captain Nathan Ake, Baker and Swift.
For the hosts, former Liverpool striker David Ngog started up front, while there was plenty of experience in midfield in the form of Mark Davies, who came on in Bolton’s first team defeat at Wigan yesterday and has appeared for the Trotters over 100 times.
It was Chelsea who started the brighter, dominating possession and capably keeping hold of the ball in tight spaces, but the Blues were initially restricted to long-range strikes on Aaran Lee-Barrett’s goal. Baker was the first to try his luck from distance, his swirling effort from the left apex of the 18-yard box producing a flying save from the Bolton stopper, before Feruz dragged a more central effort wide.
Ngog broke clear of our backline with 16 minutes played, as Bolton threatened our goal for the first time, but Christensen recovered superbly to produce a perfectly-timed sliding tackle to deny the lone striker.
The next meaningful action was down the other end, and it produced the game’s first goal. Baker’s corner was half-cleared, with the ball eventually worked back to him. He shuffled his way towards the box, and decided to take aim when he reached the edge of it, arrowing a swerving strike across Lee-Barrett and into the top right-hand corner.
Feruz had a chance to double our advantage soon after but crashed his shot into the side netting. We did add a second goal with 31 minutes played, though. Swift was at the heart of the move, wriggling his way into the box, evading challenges as he went but retaining possession with some immaculate close control. Seeing Brown better placed, he laid the ball back, and it was a good decision, the striker crashing home from 12 yards out via the underside of the bar.
Bolton almost reduced the deficit immediately but Davies’s volley, on the run, went just wide, before Boga brought the best out of Lee-Barrett with a dangerous low drive.
There were a couple of scares before the interval. First, Christensen headed backwards and beyond Blackman from a corner, but Kevin Wright was on hand to clear off the line. Davey was the next to save the day as Zach Clough ran clear, timing his sliding tackle perfectly to divert the Bolton midfielder’s goalbound effort.
The Blues were quickly out of the blocks, as they had been at the beginning of the game. Baker was again close from distance, while Swift couldn’t quite fashion a clear shooting opportunity as he manoeuvred himself into the six-yard box moments later.
There was a reward of substance for our fast start, though. Swift knocked a simple ball through to Brown, cutting in from the left channel, and he held off a challenge with ease to slip the ball under the onrushing Lee-Barrett. 49 minutes had been played, and the Blues were in complete control now.
Another finish of the highest quality followed five minutes later, with Brown, this time on the right-hand side, latching on to Baker’s pass. With his confidence clearly high, he shot early, across Lee-Barrett, and the ball fizzed into the far corner. It was a fitting way for Brown to complete his first hat-trick in Chelsea blue, and he received a deserved ovation from those fans that had braved the cold in the North-West when he was replaced by Charley Musonda with 70 minutes gone.
Ola Aina and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were introduced in the interim, as Drummy sought to utilise his whole squad in our final league game of 2013.
Feruz had a flurry of chances to get the goal his hard-work deserved, with one strike particularly unfortunate to hit the inside of the post and run clear.
Bolton briefly threatened a late consolation, but Blackman was well-placed to deny Ngog, and it was Chelsea who deservedly had the final word. Swift twisted and turned just inside the box before bending a right-footed shot beyond Lee-Barrett and into the top-corner. It summed up the Blues’ quality and, on a night of brilliant goals, could well have been the pick of the bunch.
Dermot Drummy was understandably thrilled with his side’s performance, as their combination of hard work and skill overwhelmed our hosts.
‘It was a pleasure to watch, not only the football attacking-wise but the desire to run and track and do all parts of the game,’ Drummy said.
‘Both teams could have scored goals in the first half but as we kept the ball they tired and we controlled it after the break. The goals were fantastic but it’s another clean sheet as well. We defended as a team from front to back and that’s great to see.
‘We’ve had a great half of the season and days like this are a pleasure to come away from. We have got to push on and try and win things, so let’s see where we go.’
Chelsea (4-3-3): Jamal Blackman; Fankaty Dabo (Ola Aina 60), Alex Davey (Ruben Loftus-Cheek 64), Andreas Christensen, Kevin Wright; John Swift, Nathan Ake (c), Lewis Baker; Isaiah Brown (Charley Musonda 70), Islam Feruz, Jeremie Boga.
Unused substitutes: Mitchell Beeney, Adam Nditi.
Scorers Baker 17, Brown 31, 49, 54, Swift 90.
Bolton Wanderers (4-2-3-1): Aaran Lee-Barrett; Hayden White, Rob Holding, Glenn Matthews, Cian Bolger; Josh Vela, Mark Davies (Jan Gregus 60); Rob Hall, Zach Clough (Conor Wilkinson 68), Tom Youngs; David Ngog.
Unused substitutes: Jonny Sutherland, Luke Woodland, Chris Lester.
Booked Vela 68