A clinical Chelsea side came away with the three points after winning an entertaining U21 derby 4-2 at Motspur Park this afternoon.
An early strike from Cesare Casadei was followed by a counter-attacking second scored by Mason Burstow before Basir Humphreys headed in a third. Fulham never stopped pushing forward and, to their great credit, made a game of it in the closing stages. Substitute Callum McFarlane headed in before Olly Sanderson scored from close range to set up a grandstand finish but Malik Mothersille clinched Chelsea’s victory in the last minute of normal time.
Steve Wigley made two changes for the derby with Sanderson and Terry Ablade replacing Martial Godo and McFarlane. It was Chelsea who made the more purposeful start and went in front inside four minutes. Casadei was given far too much room to drive forward after a patient period of probing passing from the visitors, although Alex Borto might have been disappointed to see the low shot beat his dive and nestle in the bottom corner.
The Whites almost found an instant riposte with Finnish international goalkeeper Lucas Bergstrom juggled with Sonny Hilton’s corner, but the away side were creating the clearing chances. Burstow went close with an overhead kick before Charlie Robinson was forced to make a brave block to deny Omari Hutchinson a second. Fulham struggled to get their fluent football going in a frustrating first half but their best move saw Luke Harris link up with Adrion Pajaziti, but Bergstrom was alive to the danger and raced off his line to smother the Kosovan midfielder’s shot.
Wigley introduced McFarlane for the anonymous Ablade at the start of the second half and Fulham immediately appeared more dangerous. After Harvey Araujo had almost caught out the Chelsea goalkeeper with a floated cross from the left, Harris was desperately unlucky not to equalise after a superb individual run culminated in a low shot that came back off the near post.
Chelsea went straight down the other end and scored a second. McFarlane looked as if he was being held back by Alfie Gilchrist but the referee waved play on and the visitors took full advantage. Hutchinson surged through an exposed Fulham defence, slipping a pass through for Burstow who drove a low finish beyond Borto. Matt Dibley-Dias almost delivered an immediate reply, dribbling defiantly into Chelsea territory but his shot whistled agonisingly wide of the far post. Araujo probably should have scored at the far post when connecting with Sonny Hilton’s cross but he tried a difficult volley rather than going with his head and the ball flew over the bar.
Mark Robinson’s side then made it three when Basir Humphreys found all sorts of space in the box to head home a teasing cross from Mothersille. Fulham might have thrown in the towel at this point, but Wigley’s side showed their character to come back. McFarlane, who made a real difference in the second half, guided an excellent header into the far corner from an excellent Araujo cross and the home side’s belief soared when Hilton’s free-kick was nodded across goal by Conor McAvoy and turned home by Sanderson.
But Chelsea still carried a serious threat of their own, and with Fulham sending numbers forward as they tried to complete an incredible comeback, Mothersille made sure the three points headed to Cobham in the last minute when he placed a low shot past Borto after being played in by Hutchinson.
FULHAM UNDER 21s (4-2-3-1): Borto; D’Auria-Henry, Araujo, McAvoy, C. Robinson; Dibley-Dias, Pajaziti (Tanton 82); Hilton, Sanderson, Harris; Ablade (McFarlane 45). Subs (not used): Allen, Williams, Okkas.
BOOKED: C. Robinson, McAvoy, Harris.
GOALS: McFarlane (73), Sanderson (82).
CHELSEA UNDER 21s (5-3-2): Bergström; Rankine, Williams (Hughes 90), Brooking (Sturge 90), Humphreys, Gilchrist; Webster, Casadei, Hutchinson; Burstow (Vale 66), Mothersille. Subs (not used): Curd, Abu.
BOOKED: Hutchison, Humphreys.
GOALS: Casadei (4), Burstow (56), Humphreys (66), Mothersille (89).
REFEREE: James Durkin.