BY PAUL LAGAN
Chelsea cruised into the semi-final of the Checkatrade Trophy with an emphatic 3-0 victory over League One side Oxford United at Stamford Bridge tonight.
Goals from the development squad’s Harvey St Clair, a thumper from Daishawn Redan and a beauty of a curler from Juan Castillo saw off the visitors as their attacking class was more than a match for the brute strength from the men from up the M40.
A subdued start to the match was punctuated by a yellow card for Oxford’s Ricardo Silva for deliberately handling the ball on five minutes.
With the first attack of the night from the home side on 10 minutes, they went ahead.
Callum Hudson-Odi’s powerful run saw the ball fed to Redan. His shot was parried by goalkeeper Simon Eastwood, but straight into the gleeful path of in-running Harvey St Clair who slotted cooly home into an empty net from eight yards out.
St Clair almost made it 2-0 two minutes later. This time Eastwood tipped his low drive away for a corner.
Number two did come, on 17 minutes, and in spectacular fashion from the left boot of Redan. This time, he picked the ball up from Hudson-Odoi and the wide man thumped an unstoppable short that zipped past Eastwood who had no chance.
St Clair then produced a fantastic right-footer that stung the palms of Eastwood, who, again did well to turn the ball away for a corner.
And again on 37 minutes, This time the striker should have squared the ball to a free Hudson-Odoi, on the left, but he elected to try and beat Eastwood, who, not for the first time, smothered the effort.
There were no changes at half-time.
Oxford’s Issac Buckley-Ricketts curled a beauty of a left-footer, past goalkeeper Marcin Bulka on 48 minutes as the visitors went in search of an early second half goal to get back into the tie. The ball bounced off Bulka’s right post and straight into his hands.
Bulka then grasped a daisy-cutter from Josh Ruffels.
Redan should have scored huis second on 65 minutes, when an inch-perfect left wing cross by Juan Castillo was met powerfully on the head by Redan but he failed to direct the close-range effort and it sailed over the Oxford crossbar.
After the surge from the visitors subsided, Chelsea gradually regained sufficient possession to mount attacks and were rewarded with a third goal.
Juan Castillo, powered forward on the left, on 61 minutes and left fly with a sublime right-footer that curled past Eastwood and nestled into the bottom left hand side corner of his net.
That was that as fair as the match was concerned.
The semi-final draw date has yet to be confirmed. It will be a one match affair with the winner handed a date at Wembley Stadium as the reward for getting to the final.
Team: Chelsea Marcin Bulka, Dujon Sterling, Reece James, Ethan Ampadu, Trevoh Chalobah, Juan Castillo, Kyle Scott, Ruben Sammut, Harvey ST Clair, Daishawn Redan, Callum Hudson-Odoi
Subs: Issac Christie-Davies, Jamie Cumming, Kylian Hazard, Joseph Colley, Jacob Maddox, Joshua Grant, Luke McCormick
Oxford United: Simon Eastwood, Dwight Tiandalli, Aaron Martin, Ryan Ledson, Josh Ruffels, Jon Obika, Ricardo Silva, Charlie Raglan, Jon Mourinho, Issac Buckley-Ricketts, Gino van Kessell
Subs: Mike Williamson, Scott Shearer, James bHenry Xemi Fernandez, Josh Ashby, Malachi Napa, Agon Mehmeti