Our youngsters collected their first silverware of the season at snow-covered Cobham as they were crowned winners of the inaugural Under-18 Premier League Cup following a comfortable victory over Tottenham.
The 2-0 scoreline did not reflect the control enjoyed by Jody Morris’s side, who scored twice in the first half, hit the post and saw a penalty saved. Charlie Brown’s brace ultimately proved the difference as two smart close-range finishes gave our youth team their 11th successive win and their first trophy of the campaign.
Morris made two changes from a hard-fought semi-final victory over Everton as Juan Castillo and Brown came into the side, the latter having scored three goals in five appearances in the cup competition this term. Castillo was joined by George McEachran and Tariq Uwakwe in providing support for sole striker Brown, with Billy Gilmour partnering Conor Gallagher in central midfield.
The back five were unchanged as Karlo Ziger retained his place in goal behind a defence of Tariq Lamptey, Marcel Lavinier, Marc Guehi and Clinton Mola. Meanwhile, Tottenham made three changes from their 4-1 win against Arsenal in the last round as Scott Parker’s side looked to avenge a fifth round defeat in the FA Youth Cup at the hands of the Blues.
Snow returned to Surrey this weekend, leaving a thick white carpet across our Cobham training ground on Sunday morning, though persistent work from the ground staff ensured this final remained on as scheduled. The freezing temperature forced a tentative and measured opening from both teams, with the hosts controlling possession and the visitors happy to settle into a compact defensive shape.
Uwakwe had the first shot inside two minutes, left-footed and low after cutting infield from the right, but it was a comfortable save for Jonathan de Bie, Spurs’ Belgian keeper. There was little goalmouth action in the opening quarter of an hour before a mistake at the back from Tottenham gifted us an opportunity.
It was Uwakwe who capitalised and advanced towards goal before stumbling over the challenge of the onrushing goalkeeper and earning his side a penalty. The captain Gallagher stepped up, confident after scoring two spot-kicks away at Spurs earlier in the campaign, and hit a sweet strike towards the bottom corner but Di Bie redeemed himself and made an excellent save down low.
Rather than disturb the growing momentum of Morris’s side, they used the disappointment to increase their threat and Gilmour fashioned a headed chance for Mola moments later, forcing the keeper to spring off his line and shovel the ball from danger.
Our dominance finally told with 18 minutes on the clock as Brown’s 17th goal of the season broke the deadlock. A corner from the right was kept alive and returned into the 18-yard box, where Guehi’s acrobatic effort failed to connect but the loose ball fell nicely for Brown to lash in a poacher’s finish from six yards out.
Ziger’s work down the other end remained limited and a corner from Phoenix Patterson failed to trouble the Croatian, who plucked the unclaimed dropping ball to safety. However, Tottenham’s need to be more ambitious having fallen behind opened up the options for Morris’s men to threaten on the counter-attack and Brown went close to doubling the advantage midway through the half.
A clearance from our box was picked up by McEachran and he threaded a perfect pass forward to find Brown’s brilliant run from halfway. The striker scampered towards goal and fired against the post before the rebound hit him and forced Di Bie to claw the ball behind with a smart reaction save.
The visitors suffered another blow after half an hour as Brooklyn Lyons-Foster, their centre-back, was forced to withdraw from the action with a knock. The change coincided with a brighter spell from Spurs as they looked to end the half in the ascendancy but their inability to fashion clear-cut chances in front of goal was in stark contrast to their London rivals.
McEachran’s inswinging free-kick was inches away from being poked towards goal by Brown at the near post before Lamptey’s energy down the right flank paid dividends, with the full-back flicking the ball over the head of Jamie Reynolds to move into the box before forcing another good save from De Bie with a fierce strike. The following corner was headed clear only as far as Gilmour and the Scotland Under-17 midfielder got plenty of force behind his effort from just outside the box, though it failed to pass through a crowded penalty area.
However, the Blues were celebrating a second goal before the break and it was Brown once again who justified his selection in the side by handing the hosts a healthy half-time advantage. Gilmour acted as creator, sliding the striker in with a lovely disguised pass, and Brown was clinical with a right-footed finish into the bottom corner.
Spurs needed a swift reply to reignite this final but it was the home side on the front foot from the restart. McEachran’s deflected effort flew just wide following good hold-up play from Brown, while Mola went close from the following corner as his header arrowed narrowly over the crossbar.
Parker’s side continued to play out from the back but continually suffered turnovers of possession in midfield, encouraging Chelsea to carve out frequent sights at goal. Brown threatened again down the left, pulling a cross back invitingly for Gilmour, though he was denied by another block. Lamptey then twice advanced in quick succession, dragging a shot beyond the far post from a promising position before Jonathan Dinzeyi’s well-timed tackle stopped him in his tracks moments later after he had powered past four defenders.
Brown’s hopes of a hat-trick in the final faded with his final involvement a poked effort just wide from Castillo’s cross, while his replacement Martell Taylor-Crossdale warmed the palms of De Bie within seconds of coming on, though it was a simple save for the Spurs keeper.
Tottenham’s potency in the final third was lacking though Ziger remained alert to protect his clean sheet as he denied Troy Parrot from a corner. The winning margin may have been greater after Taylor-Crossdale’s shot deflected wide following a tee-up from McEachran, while a brilliant touch behind from Timothy Eyoma denied substitute Tino Anjorin after more enterprising work down the right from Lamptey.
There was no doubt Morris’s men had earned this victory and their celebrations with the glistening new trophy were thoroughly deserved as our silverware success at Academy level extended into new territory.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Karlo Ziger; Tariq Lamptey, Marcel Lavinier, Marc Guehi, Clinton Mola; Conor Gallagher (c), Billy Gilmour; Tariq Uwakwe, George McEachran, Juan Castillo (Tino Anjorin 83); Charlie Brown (Martell Taylor-Crossdale 71)
Unused subs Jack Wakely, Nicolas Tie, Daishawn Redan
Scorer Brown 18, 45+1
Tottenham Jonathan de Bie (c), Tariq Hinds, Jamie Reynolds, Jamie Bowden (Paris Maghoma 59), Timothy Eyoma, Brooklyn Lyons-Foster (Jonathan Dinzeyi 30), Dilan Markanday, Oliver Skipp (Rodel Richards 76), Troy Parrot, Phoenix Patterson, J’Neil Bennett
Unused subs Joshua Oluwayemi, Armando Shashoua
Booked Hinds 38
Referee Daniel Austin