With Paul Clement back in charge, Chelsea lined up in a 4-2-1-3 formation, with Jacob Mellis playing in an unfamiliar centre-back role. Kakuta was given the number 10 role, and schoolboys Frank Nouble and Jacopo Sala flanked reserve team striker Morten Nielsen. Charlton lined up 4-4-2 without top scorer Danny Uchechi, but with recent England Under 16 standout Jonjo Shelvey in midfield.
This game a year ago was a tough battle between two fairly equal teams, but from the off today Chelsea were a different class. Ben Gordon and Nouble linked very well down the left, as did Sala and captain Nana Ofori down the right. The first chance of the game was created by Sala, who played Nielsen in just inside the box. The Dane opened his body and shot but saw the effort hit the crossbar and run away to safety.
The Blues didn’t have long to wait for their first goal though, finding the net just before 20 minutes. Kakuta swung a deep inswinging corner and Jeffrey Bruma stole in unmarked at the far post to nod in his third goal of the season, all from similar situations, adding another valuable asset to a very versatile game. His goal sent Chelsea’s confidence through the roof, and they came forward looking for more. With Kakuta pulling the strings, they got more.
Four minutes later, the Frenchman picked up the ball just inside his own half on the left wing. Facing his own goal he pulled out a sublime trick to nutmeg Ruairi Harkin and took off, running inside to the edge of the box. As Charlton closed him down, he simply nudged the ball through the gap for Morten Nielsen, who had ample time to size up his chance and chip the ball over the diving Joe Woolley for 2-0. Another four minutes later and it was 3-0 with Kakuta at the heart of things again. A lovely shift into space 30 yards out gave him space just left of centre, into which he advanced before pulling the trigger from 25 yards with a powerful dipping shot into Woolley’s left hand bottom corner.
An all-action first half continued with a Charlton penalty five minutes before the break. An attempted chipped pass from Shelvey hit Ofori on the upper arm. Referee Mr Jaye didn’t initially give the penalty but after a delay to see if Charlton gained an advantage, pointed to the spot. Ivorian forward Richmond Kissi took responsibility but a poor penalty allowed Niclas Heimann to make a routine save down to his left to take a 3-0 lead into the break.
Chelsea’s second half performances this season have tended to be poorer than their first halves, and this game appeared to be no different as Charlton pulled one back within a minute of the restart. Mellis was caught in possession on the edge of his own box and their sub scored with his first touch. For the next ten minutes Charlton came back into things and were very much the better team, pressing high up the pitch and attempting to get back into the game further. Still, Nielsen had a chance from 8 yards out which drew the save of the match (and possibly the youth season so far) from Woolley, who showed fantastic reactions to tip the shot away.
The hosts got their act together though, and added a fourth goal just shy of the hour. Mellis broke from defence into attack, not for the first time, and after a one-two with Kakuta he slotted the ball home with aplomb, giving Kakuta his third assist and an involvement in every goal. With the three goal lead restored, Chelsea played with the confidence of the first half and started to rest some legs, giving Borini, Hibbert, and late on Jack Saville some playing time.
Charlton had their turn to hit the woodwork, as Shelvey rifled a lovely left-footed effort onto the crossbar from just outside of the area, but shy of that, Heimann was only half-tested with tame efforts or shots straight at him.
The fifth goal came from a Charlton corner. Taiwo cleared the ball upfield with Sala and Borini chasing down on the last Charlton defender, who had a decent five yard advantage. Sala ate that up easily with surprising pace and played Borini in with a lovely deft flick. He advanced unchallenged and despite Woolley saving his first effort, was on hand to tuck in the rebound.
For the last five minutes Chelsea kept the ball very well, an improvement on similar situations throughout the season. Marshalled by the ever-confident Ofori, they popped the ball around with the confidence and arrogance of a team deserving their 5-1 lead with their best performance of the season. Nouble and Hibbert both had late half-chances but no more goals were to be found.
Mellis, playing in defence, played well for an inexperienced role for the lad. Helped by Bruma and Gordon, he showed good reading of the game and added another dimension in bringing the ball out from the back confidently into his midfield domain. Jacopo Sala had an outstanding game on the right wing, displaying endless energy, and a combination of deftness and strength. For what was a somewhat experimental team, this has to go down as Chelsea’s best day of the season so far.
Team: Heimann, Ofori ©, Bruma, Mellis, Gordon, Taiwo (Saville 80), Philliskirk (Hibbert 60), Kakuta, Nouble, Sala, Nielsen (Borini 60)
Goals: Bruma 19, Nielsen 23, Kakuta 27, Mellis 58, Borini 70