The Blues won to go second in the Under-21 Premier League and strengthen their chances of making the end-of-season play-offs that determine the league winners.
John Swift (pictured) put the team ahead after just five minutes before Daniel Johnson equalised for Villa midway through the opening period. Swift grabbed a second after half an hour and Lewis Baker sent Chelsea in 3-1 ahead at half-time with an exquisite dinked finish. Calum Robinson pulled a goal back after an hour but Dermot Drummy’s side defended well and Baker fired in a fourth goal from the penalty spot in added time.
Drummy made two changes from the side that were beaten by league leaders Liverpool last week as Nathan Ake and Marco van Ginkel returned to the starting 11. Ake was partnered by Alex Davey in central defence, with Adam Nditi and Isak Ssewankambo at left-back and right-back respectively. Jamal Blackman continued in goal.
Lewis Baker and John Swift comprised the midfield trio alongside Van Ginkel, with Islam Feruz leading the line up front. Izzy Brown and Charly Musonda provided the attacking support from out wide.
Villa’s striker Calum Robinson had the game’s opening couple of sights at goal, once having been played through neatly by Graham Burke, though fired wide on both occasions and so it was the visitors who took an early lead. Ake stepped out of defence purposefully and supplied for the advanced Swift, who finished neatly underneath Craig Hill for his 13th goal of the campaign.
The young Blues could have doubled their advantage a few minutes later as Feruz found himself played clean through in behind the Villa defence, but the Scotland youth international’s low drive was stopped by Hill.
Isaac Nehemie delivered dangerously from the left but his centre narrowly evaded the lurking Robinson before the hosts did get the ball in the back of the net, albeit illegitimately as the linesman adjudged Robinson narrowly offside. However, the scores were level midway through the half and it was the young Villans’ captain striking the equaliser.
A foul throw from Nditi was penalised as Villa turned over possession deep in the Blues half and Daniel Johnson was allowed time and space to pick his spot from 20 yards into the bottom corner. It was a goal that followed Villa’s best spell yet and Blackman had to remain alert to watch Robinson’s effort from the edge of the box as it bounced dangerously in front of him.
The scores were also soon level on the disallowed goals front as Feruz had a strike chalked off at the end of a brilliant flowing break forward from the Blues, who were resuming their early pressure and exposing spaces in behind Villa’s high defensive line.
That frailty from the hosts was their undoing once again after 30 minutes as Van Ginkel found his passing range to great effect. The Dutch international dropped an excellent ball over the top to meet Swift’s run from deep and the 18-year-old kept his composure to finish confidently once again.
The visitors were in the ascendancy and Baker tested Hill with a left-footed strike from the edge of the box, before Feruz’s surprise shot from 25 yards needed pushing behind by the home goalkeeper as it sailed towards the far corner of the goal. Hill kept out Baker once again before the Chelsea midfielder could be thwarted no longer in the final few minutes of the half.
Swift delivered a perfect ball through and the Blues’ no. 10 produced a delightful dink over the onrushing Hill to notch his 13th goal of the season. That was the final action of an impressive half from Drummy’s side, who took a two-goal advantage into the interval.
Villa were looking to haul themselves back into the match in the early stages after the restart and Davey had to mop up on the line to deny Burke as the midfielder looked to have beaten Blackman and pulled a goal back for his side. The visiting goalkeeper then saved well from Robinson at close range after good work to advance down the right from Khalid Abdo.
Baker hit a rasping effort from 20 yards that Hill was able to get his body behind and stop before Villa managed to reduce the deficit after an hour. Jordan Graham supplied a dangerous free-kick delivery from the right and the lively Robinson turned the ball past Blackman from five yards.
The game settled after that strike as Chelsea looked to hold on to all three league points. Blackman saved from Burke and then, down the other end, Baker’s free kick missed the target by inches after Musonda was felled 25 yards out. Johnson fired over and Graham bent a curling effort narrowly wide as Villa pushed for a leveller, before Davey had to block strongly from Robinson as the striker threatened coming inside.
Yet it was Chelsea on the front foot in the final minutes as Van Ginkel rattled the crossbar with a left-footed strike before Swift was upended in the box and won a penalty in stoppage time. After some brief dialogue over who would step up it was Baker who took charge and sent Hill the wrong way to seal the points.
Next up for the Academy is the FA Youth Cup semi-final second leg against Arsenal this Thursday, 17 April. The game is being played at the Emirates and will be screened live on Chelsea TV. Adi Viveash’s side take a 2-1 advantage to north London after goals from Charlie Colkett and Alex Kiwomya at Stamford Bridge last week.
Drummy was pleased with his side’s resilience in defending strongly during Villa’s best spells in the second half, holding on to the away victory. Speaking to the official Chelsea website after the game, he said: ‘It was a really tough game.
‘We played a good tactical game in the first half where they pressed us but we got John Swift on the forward runs and tried to find him in behind. In the second half we were poor playing out from the back and they sussed that out so I brought Izzy Brown on just to give us a bit more aerial threat, and we rode the storm in the second half.’
The manager was also eager to praise the efforts of Swift, involved in all four goals, and indicated he had responded well to some recent coaching.
‘I’ve been on to John recently because he set a really high standard in the early part of the season, and he responded fantastically today. He took both his goals with forward runs well, a la Frank Lampard if you like, and when you have a dip you need to respond brilliantly and he did today.
‘Some of these lads have had long seasons and there are minds on both tournaments [the Under-21 league and FA Youth Cup] but you have to be pleased to come to Villa and win 4-2.’
Chelsea Jamal Blackman; Isak Ssewankambo, Alex Davey, Nathan Ake, Adam Nditi (Andreas Christensen 66); Marco van Ginkel, John Swift, Lewis Baker; Reece Mitchell (Izzy Brown 54), Charly Musonda (Ola Aina 79), Islam Feruz
Unused subs Bradley Collins, Tika Musonda
Scorers Swift 5, 30, Baker 42, 90 (pen)
Aston Villa Craig Hill, Tom Leggett, Issac Nehemie, Andras Stieber, Janoi Donacien, Joshua Webb, Khalid Abdo (Jordan Lyden 75), Graham Burke, Calum Robinson, Daniel Johnson (c), Jordan Graham
Unused subs Courtney Wildin, Charlie Bannister, Harry McKirdy, Ryan Strain
Scorers Johnson 24, Robinson 60
By Sam Poplett
–Highlights of the game are available now via Chelsea TV’s online access.