The returning Luke Harris scored another sensational hat-trick as Fulham’s under 21s beat Chelsea 3-0 last night, sealing a second successive victory since returning to the PL2 top flight.
The Welsh under-19 captain, who missed the win over West Ham last Friday because he was in the first team squad taking on Liverpool, was back at his clinical best to settle the SW6 derby at Kingsmeadow. The seventeen year-old attacking midfielder, who scored thirteen goals in 21 games for the under 23s last season, put an experienced Chelsea side – featuring Ben Chilwell, Carney Chukwuemeka, Ethan Ampadu and Trevoh Chalobah – to the sword with another display of devastating finishing as Steve Wigley’s side eased to victory.
Fulham quickly established dominance in midfielder after a quiet start that saw Omari Hutchinson shoot wide after a purposeful run and Harris gave them the lead midway through the first half, punishing a poor clearance from Ampadu. He drove forward and left Blues goalkeeper Ted Sharman-Lowe beaten by a characteristically ice-cool finish. The teenager soon turned provider with a devastating ball in that flashed across the face of goal – requiring only the slightest of touches to double the lead.
Chelsea didn’t heed the warning and were caught out trying to play football in their own defensive third. Good pressure from a ferocious Fulham front line forced Ben Chilwell to play a pass back to his goalkeeper and Sharman-Lowe’s weak clearance fell straight to Harris. The midfielder drove a shot between the beleaguered custodian and his near post to give Fulham a healthy lead heading into half-time.
The Whites were in the ascendancy and almost extended their advantage after the interval. Captain Ollie O’Neill found Terry Ablade but the Finnish forward’s shot from an acute angle was smartly saved by Sharman-Lowe. The hosts did have chances of their own, most notably when Chukwumeka went round George Wickens only to lose his footing as he attempted to finish, and Ben Elliott’s deflected shot flew wide. But Fulham always looked in control and Harris made sure that the points would head back to Motspur Park by completing his hat-trick on 69 minutes.
Ablade turned his marker magnificently and strode into the penalty area. His shot was parried out by Sharman-Lowe, but the predatory Harris – regularly in the right place at the right time – was on hand to fire home a third from close range. The visitors might have made it four as Charlie Robinson stole in at a corner, but were happy to kept their first clean sheet of the campaign – despite a late glaring miss from Lewis Hall.
Wigley’s side sit second in the table with two wins from two, behind Crystal Palace on goal difference. The Whites welcome the Eagles to Motspur Park on Friday afternoon in another London derby in what already looks like a mouthwatering encounter.
CHELSEA UNDER 21s (3-4-3): Sharman-Lowe; T. Chalobah, Ampadu, Humphreys; Rankine, Chilwell, Simons, Elliott; Chukwumenka (Hall 66), Hutchinson (Haigh 79), Wareham (Burstow 66). Subs (not used): Mbuyamba, Beach.
FULHAM UNDER 21s (4-2-3-1): Wickens; D’Auria-Henry, Odutayo, McAvoy, C. Robinson; Pajaziti, Dibley-Dias; O’Neill, Jasper (Šekularac 84), Harris; Ablade (McFarlane 79). Subs (not used): McNally, Bowat, Williams.
BOOKED: D’Auria-Henry, O’Neill.
GOALS: Harris (22, 40, 69).