Fulham’s under 18s set up a Premier League Cup final against local rivals Chelsea after producing a professional away performance to beat Leicester City 2-0 at Seagrave this evening.
Ali Melloul’s side, who had beaten Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City to reach the last four of this competition for the first time, dominated possession in the early stages and took the lead just after the quarter of an hour mark. Sixteen year-old Luke Harris, who has enjoyed a sensational season with Steve Wigley’s under 23 side, continued his terrific goalscoring form by following up a shot from Imani Lanquedoc to fire the visitors ahead from ten yards out. The Londoners weathered a strong Leicester response before Charlie Robinson headed Delano McCoy-Splatt’s corner home five minutes after half time to give the young Whites a crucial second goal.
Melloul’s side had been bolstered by the return of skipper Stefan Parkes and Ollie Sanderson, who had both missed the 5-0 thrashing of Reading last weekend. The away side started the stronger with Parkes getting into a promising crossing position down the left and Sanderson climbing highest but heading a corner over. Devan Tanton shot wide after being played into space along the right by the hard-working Harris before the Foxes’ first chance saw Harvey Godsmark-Ford head fractionally wide from a corner.
Harris hammered Fulham in front with his twelfth goal of a superb season and Lanquedoc nearly doubled the advantage immediately afterwards but the midfielder headed just wide. Leicester responded well to going behind with Will Alves forcing a fine save from Michael Allen with a clever curler and Chris Popov and Henry Cartwright shooting well off target with long-range efforts. Fulham still came closest to extending their lead before the break with McCoy-Splatt’s low drive from distance bouncing away to safety off the base of the far post.
It didn’t take long for Melloul’s youngsters to double their lead after the break. A terrific corner from McCoy-Splatt tempted Kelechi Chibueze off his line and, after the Leicester goalkeeper was left grasping at air, Robinson rose majestically to head in at the near post. They could easily have put the tie to bed after that as Sanderson’s smart cut back was scrambled away before Michael Olakigbe’s deflected effort was cleared off the line.
Leicester penned Fulham back for the final twenty minutes as they searched in vain for a route back into the semi-final but they struggled to create clear-cut chances. Alves wasted a free-kick from just outside the box in a central area by shooting over before forcing a good low save from Allen deep into five minutes of stoppage time. The young Whites are fully deserving of their place in the final – and won’t lack motivation in another SW6 derby.
LEICESTER CITY UNDER 18s (3-4-3): Chibueze; Braybrooke, Godsmark-Ford, Wilson-Brown; Lindsay (Butterfill 56), Grist, Cartwright (Briggs 75); Wormleighton; Alves, Cover, Popov. Subs (not used): Doherty, Javid, Briggs, Kutshienza.
FULHAM UNDER 18s (4-2-3-1): Allen; Tanton, Parkes, C. Robinson, Araujo; Okkas (de Fougerolles 80), McCoy-Splatt; Olakigbe (Works 75), Lanquedoc (Dibley-Dias 64), Harris; Sanderson. Subs (not used): McNally, Gordon, Works.
BOOKED: Araujo, Olakigbe, Okkas, Harris.
GOALS: Harris (17), C. Robinson (50).
REFEREE: Ashley Clarke.