Southampton's youngsters made a winning start to their U18 Premier League Cup campaign, comfortably beating visitors Chelsea 3-0 to go top of Group B.
The first half proved a fruitful one for Saints, who raced into a two-goal advantage courtesy of Sonnie Davis’s stunning free-kick in the 20th minute and Jimmy-Jay Morgan’s cool finish three minutes later.
Chelsea showed more attacking intent in the second 45 but unlike their opposition, couldn’t convert their chances, as Morgan struck once more in the 88th minute to seal Southampton’s deserved victory.
Having played host to Saints’ 2-2 draw in the league against the same opposition just one week ago, both sides came into this cup encounter at Staplewood well-versed on their opposition and keen to get off to a winning start in Group B.
Following their positive start it was the hosts who enjoyed the first opportunity of the match in the third minute, Cameron Bragg lifting a beautifully weighted ball from just outside the box into the path of Dom Ballard, but the striker failed to make clean contact with his subsequent volley.
Having survived an early scare down one end, visitors Chelsea quickly went up the other in search of an early lead and nearly found it through the head of Nathaniel Boot, the tall defender powering his way onto Frankie Runham’s corner before seeing his bullet header crash off the crossbar.
With Chelsea continuing to threaten, Runham would see his own effort saved shortly after in the 13th minute, the skilful attacker feinting left inside the box before firing a low, left-footed effort toward Mohamed Adli's bottom corner, which the goalkeeper did well turn away.
After an enthralling start to proceedings, arguably the only thing missing from the game was a goal. Step up, Davis.
Lining up a free-kick from 25-yards, the right-back’s effort was an accurate and powerful one that dipped viciously in-flight before finding its way into Max Merrick’s left corner, the goalkeeper given absolutely no chance.
A truly stunning effort to give Saints the lead on 20 minutes, and one which they swiftly doubled just three minutes later.
Unlike the first, the second was totally avoidable from a Chelsea perspective, the ball stolen off Merrick’s toes through the hard work of Ballard initially, presenting Morgan with the chance to steer his effort high into the roof of the gaping net.
With a mountain to climb, the visitors continued to search for a response late into the half, but found their attempts thwarted by the on-song Adli, who was clearly driven to preserve his clean sheet.
In fact, it would be Saints who went closest once again before referee Iain Parsons sounded his whistle, Morgan’s low effort denied smartly by the boot of Joshua Acheampong, who cleared off the goal line to deny the attacker his second of the afternoon in the final seconds of the first half.
Heading into the second, the Blues were unsurprisingly the first to attack in search of a much-needed goal, substitute Brodi Hughes’s driven effort well saved by Adli down to his left.
Shortly after, the visitors would shake the woodwork for a second time in the game, Sam Rak-Saki’s curling effort from range rooting the goalkeeper and smashing his upright with 50 minutes played.
Taking inspiration from the Chelsea midfielder, Ballard would see his own effort rebound off the post on the hour mark, the striker doing well to meet Davis’s looping free-kick and generate power with his glancing header, going within inches of all but ensuring victory.
With the Blues continuing to launch wave upon wave of attacks, fatigue naturally began to set in as the minutes ticked beyond 70, allowing the hosts to keep crucial possession of the ball for longer periods.
As such, goalscoring opportunities for the London outfit became ever rarer, Harrison Murray-Campbell spurning a golden one in the 77th minute, dragging his right-footed effort from inside the box harmlessly wide after some good play by Donnell McNeilly.
That would prove to be the final chance of note for the visitors, but not for Saints, who grabbed a deserved third in the 88th minute after Morgan combined effectively with Brandon Charles in the box, blasting his subsequent right-footed half-volley beyond Merrick from a difficult angle.
The cheery on top of a dominant display, and one which sets Southampton in good stead ahead of their next U18 Premier League fixture away to Crystal Palace in two weeks’ time.