Chelsea U18s 1-2 West Ham United U18s
U18 Premier League South
Kevin Keen’s West Ham United U18s side produced an outstanding collective performance to defeat Chelsea U18s at Cobham Training Ground on Saturday morning.
The Academy team went into the game off the back of back-to-back disappointing London derby defeats against Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur in U18 Premier League South, but fought their way to three points with impressive resilience and fortitude amidst blustery conditions in south west London.
A scrappy contest saw both sides trade efforts from range early on, England U17 squad member Oliver Scarles striking directly at Chelsea goalkeeper Teddy Curd before Blues forward Leo Castledine responded in kind with an effort which flew over the bar.
Whenever the ball was in the air, however, the Hammers looked dominant, and from their third corner of the game on 22 minutes, Asher Falase’s far-post delivery was powered home by the onrushing Kaelan Casey – the centre-back’s first Academy goal as a scholar.
Seven minutes later, their lead was doubled. England U16 international Divin Mubama was pushed in the back by Chelsea captain Alfie Gilchrist. First-year scholar Mubama stepped up to take the resulting penalty, sending Curd the wrong way from the spot for his second goal in three games this season.
Chelsea began to dominate the ball but came up against a resolute West Ham team in determined form.
The Blues did, however, get a goal back before half-time when Castledine’s cut-back was met on the bounce by Charlie Webster. The midfielder’s volleyed finish took a deflection off Falase and wrong-footed Jacob Knightbridge, making the score 2-1.
In the second half, West Ham’s first goal provider almost turned scorer as Falase drilled a right-footed effort narrowly wide of the post, before the full-back’s free-kick reached Casey once more, the centre-back missing the mark with his header when well-placed.
Chelsea went on to dominate the second period territorially but West Ham held firm, with the Blues’ Ronnie Stutter hitting the post and the same player blazing over from just inside the penalty area.
The final chance of the match fell to the Blues, a loose ball from a corner kick falling to centre-back Luke Badley-Morgan in the area. As he volleyed goalwards, West Ham stopper Knightbridge produced an outstanding, match-winning save in the dying seconds.
There was even time for West Ham to introduce young forward Blaise Uwandji – three days short of his 16th birthday – from the bench for his youth team debut in the closing stages.
“It was a super result – a real boost for the U18s squad,” lead coach Kevin Keen told whufc.com.
“It was a fantastic response to last week. We’ve had a really good week as a squad. We’ve had quite a few meetings and discussions – they’re very mature young men.
“We’ve probably not had the results that we’ve deserved so far this season, but yesterday made up for it a little bit. The lads, as a team, were extremely organised, worked really well together and restricted Chelsea to just a few chances.
“We played some really good football, especially in the first half. It looked like we would go in 2-0 up but their goal just before half-time put a little bit of a different focus on the game.
“We worked very hard and still created chances in the second half. Jacob [Knightbridge] made a fantastic save in the very last minute to make sure we won the game, but I thought we deserved to win it for our work rate and our intensity.
“We were very brave with our press, pressing them very high which is quite unusual in Academy football, so it was a good win and a nice boost for the lads, especially with the international break coming up.”
Keen saw fit to praise the collective performance of his players, whose cogency and togetherness saw through the victory in testing conditions.
“I think for me it was a collective victory,” Keen noted. “You can’t go to Chelsea and win at any level, certainly not at youth team level, without everyone playing their part.
“Even the substitutes coming on played their part well and did their roles, whether it was Lewis Orford for 20 minutes or Blaise [Uwandji] for ten minutes or even Isaac [Evans] coming on for the last five minutes, everyone in the squad really put a shift in, concentrated really well and worked really hard.
“We deserved the result and I’m really pleased for the boys, because they’ve worked so hard this season.”
West Ham United U18s: Knightbridge, Falase, Tarima, Casey, Forbes (c), Clayton, Woods, Earthy, Scarles (Evans 90+2), Mubama (Orford 76), Kodua (Uwandji 86)
Goals: Casey 22, Mubama 29 (pen)
Booked: Woods, Knightbridge, Falase