Fulham’s under 18s secured back-to-back Premier League south titles with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Chelsea this morning. Steve Wigley’s youngsters ended a thrilling battle with Crystal Palace by claiming the championship on goal difference after goals from Jay Stansfield, Mika Biereth and Luke Harris saw the young Whites claim the local bragging rights in fine style.
Young striker Stansfield, who has seen his season interrupted by a troublesome ankle injury, settled any nerves at Cobham by firing into the roof of the net from an acute angle after Biereth had helped on Adrion Pajaziti’s header. The visitors then soaked up a spell of prolonged Chelsea pressure before strikes from distance by the impressive Ollie O’Neill and Pajaziti ensured that Fulham ended the half on the front foot.
Joe Haigh came close to levelling matters just after the break but Fulham responded with some fluent football of their own and Pajaziti hammered an effort against the woodwork from twelve yards out after excellent work from Biereth. Kieron Bowie’s near post drive was kept out by Lucas Bergstrom, before Chelsea ramped up the pressure again and Alex Borto produced an excellent save from Haigh to preserve Fulham’s lead.
Biereth almost fashioned a second for the away side after some more silky skills took him away from a couple of Chelsea tacklers. His cross was smuggled away from the onrushing Pajaziti but the clearance fell kindly from Stansfield, who was disappointed not to hit the target. Fortunately, that miss was not to prove too costly. Biereth breezed through the middle of the Chelsea defence and kept his cool as he went through on goal, rolling home his 21st league goal of the campaign to give the young Whites real breathing space.
Any doubt about the destination of the title was extinguished when Biereth burst away on the break again and supplied a low cross for substitute Luke Harris to drive home at the near post. Winning back-to-back league titles in such an impressive manner speaks volumes about the quality of Fulham’s academy under Huw Jennings and several of these young starlets should stand a great chance of progressing into the senior set-up when the Championship campaign gets underway in August.
FULHAM UNDER 18s (4-3-3): Borto; D’Auria-Henry, Parkes (Williams 83), Bowat, Odutayo; Dibley-Dias, O’Neill, Pajaziti; Bowie (Harris 62), Biereth, Stansfield (Lanquedoc 76). Subs (not used): Trialist, Sanderson.
GOALS: Stansfield (21), Biereth (66), Harris (73).