Ollie O’Neill grabbed a dramatic late winner as Fulham’s under 18s beat Chelsea to triumph in the west London derby this morning.
The Irish youth international fired home from distance in the last minute of normal time to clinch a precious win for Steve Wigley’s side, who bounced back impressively from the disappointment of being knocked out of the FA Youth Cup at Ipswich in midweek.
Chelsea began the contest brightly with Ben Elliott’s acrobatic early effort flying off target and Fulham goalkeeper Alex Borto making a smart save to deny Joe Haigh. Haigh went even closer on the quarter hour mark, rattling the crossbar with a venomous long-range strike after good approach play from Jude Soonsup-Bell.
In reply, Oliver Sanderson sent a snapshot wide of goal and then beat a couple of defenders during a determined run that culminated with a shot that Chelsea goalkeeper Lucas Bergstrom did well to hold. The hosts went in front eight minutes before the interval when Chelsea failed to deal with an Adrion Pajaziti corner and the unfortunate Elliott headed into his own net as he attempted to clear the danger.
Chelsea nearly hit back before the break when Charlie Webster’s ambitious effort from long-range beat Borto and came back off the crossbar.
The second half was a little less open, at least initially. Ten minutes after half-time, Fulham fashioned a good opening through excellent work from Mika Biereth down the right but Bergstrom saved from O’Neill with his legs. The Chelsea keeper made a more routine stop to deny O’Neill, whose runs from deep were causing real problems for the visiting defence, five minutes later.
O’Neill created a glorious opening for Biereth on the hour mark, finding the Polish forward on the edge of the box, but he dragged a shot disappointingly wide. Chelsea, despite failing to break down a stubborn Fulham defence, kept pushing men forward in search of an equaliser and got their reward from a set play. Webster floated in a near post free-kick from out wide and Haigh’s glancing header gave Borto no chance.
The derby looked as though it would peter out to a draw, albeit with plenty of passion from both sides, until O’Neill stepped up to finally get his goal in the dying embers of the contest. Fulham move up to fourth in the table and can go top should they win both of their games in hand. The under 18s are next in action on Wednesday, when they travel to Reading.
Speaking to the club’s official website after the final whistle, O’Neill was delighted to grab the winner and felt Fulham were good value for their victory:
“It’s just great. There’s nothing better. It’s the storybook ending and there’s always more to the game when we face Chelsea. They’re neighbours and we’ve played them quite a lot. There are players on their team we’ve played against as we’ve come up through the age groups.”
“I thought we were the better team but there were spells of five or ten minutes where they got on top and it went a bit crazy. Overall, we created loads of chances and earned the win.”
CHELSEA UNDER 18s (3-4-1-2): Bergstrom; Humphreys, Wiggett, Brooking; Vale, Elliott (Tobin 86), Webster, Thomas; Haigh, Hall (Badley-Morgan 81); Soonsup-Bell. Subs (not used): Tlemcani, Kpakpe, Mothersille.
GOAL: Haigh (74).
FULHAM UNDER 18s (4-4-2): Borto; D’Auria-Henry, Bowat, Odutayo, Antonsson, Benjamin; O’Neill, Dibley-Dias, Pajaziti; Biereth, Sanderson. Subs (not used): Araujo, Parkes, Okkas, Olakigbe, Lanquedoc.
GOALS: Elliott (o.g. 37), O’Neill (89).