U18s give Chelsea the blues

West Ham United’s youngsters set the stage for a fine weekend by scoring their first Barclays U18 Premier League victory of the season on Saturday – a 2-0 win over Chelsea.

Former Chelsea schoolboy Declan Rice put the Hammers ahead midway through the first half with a composed finish, before winger Joe Powell spurned a chance from the penalty spot to double the lead minutes later.

However, Powell’s miss was not costly as the Hammers did double their lead just before half-time when striker Idris Kanu cut inside the final Chelsea defender and curled a fantastic effort past Blues goalkeeper Nathan Baxter.

The home side made four changes to the starting XI that narrowly lost 1-0 away to Arsenal a week previous. Goalkeeper Tim Brown, defender Tunji Akinola and midfielders George Dobson and Marcus Browne all made way for Jake Eggleton, Sam Howes, Josh Pask and Vashon Neufville. 

Straight from kick-off, the Hammers were buzzing. After full-back Eggleton got a tackle in, Kanu showed fantastic speed to find space on the right wing, before crossing for Grady Diangana to volley straight at Baxter.

The hosts continued to press and Chelsea were lucky to keep eleven men on the pitch when Oscar Borg latched onto a Howes’ goal kick behind the visitors backline, before Joseph Colley brought the tricky winger down. The referee awarded a free-kick but failed to punish the Chelsea man, with Blues keeper Baxter just turning Matty Carter’s effort around the post.

On 24 minutes, West Ham took the lead. After Chelsea conceded another free-kick in Carter territory, the midfielder’s shot deflected off the wall and was poked towards goal by Kanu. Luckily for the Hammers, Baxter’s reaction save fell straight to the feet of Rice, who calmly dispatched the ball into the back of the net.

It took until the half-hour mark for Chelsea to have a meaningful effort on target and it came through West Ham right-back Eggleton. As the visitors swung a cross into the box, Eggleton’s defensive header flew off the top of his head towards the top corner, but Howes acrobatically kept the ball out of his net.

Just three minutes later, West Ham were awarded a penalty. After Borg won back possession deep inside the Chelsea half, Kanu attempted to force his way into the penalty box and was taken down between the two visiting centre-halves. Fortunately for Chelsea, Baxter made a fantastic save from Powell’s spot-kick.

It did not take long for the hosts to double their lead, though. On 37 minutes, from a Borg clearance, Kanu found himself through on goal with just one Chelsea defender to beat. He expertly cut inside on his stronger right foot and curled his shot into the top right-hand corner of the net.

Into the second half and the Hammers continued to look the more likely scorers. With just 20 minutes left, West Ham broke forward on a counter attack and almost secured the points with Kanu’s second of the game. However, the young striker’s low shot trickled wide of the far post.

Jody Morris’ Chelsea side never gave up on the game and striker Miro Muheim had his head in his hands when he narrowly headed wide of the target with just eight minutes left on the clock.

It was then Morris’ turn to have his head in his hands as he watched from the dugout when St Clair’s deep cross was headed straight at Howes by the unmarked Ruben Summut.

West Ham closed the game strongly, though. On two occasions, Powell fired over from close range, before the speedy winger saw a curling effort from 20 yards tipped over the crossbar by Baxter.

West Ham will look to build on their fine win over the Blues when they head to Southampton on Saturday 26 September.

U18s: Howes, Eggleton (Dobson 73), Neufville, Sylvestre (c), Pask, Rice, Powell, Carter, Kanu, Diangana, Borg
Subs not used: Johnson, Boness, Browne