Fulham claimed the Barclays Under-18 Premier League Elite Group title on Saturday after a 2-0 win over Everton at Motspur Park.
The Whites went into their final league game ahead of second-place Reading on goal difference, with both sides taking 28 points from 13 matches.
Reading defeated Chelsea 3-0 in their final game, but it mattered little as Fulham’s 2-0 win over the Toffees secured the title for the Whites thanks to second-half goals from Lyle Della Verde and Emerson Hyndman, while Muamer Tankovic saw a penalty hit the post.
After a scrappy opening, Fulham created the first chance of the game on four minutes, with Jordan Evans’ delivery from the left being met by Della Verde. From a few yards out, the midfielder’s volley was on target but Russell Griffiths did well to turn his shot around the post.
At the other end, Harry Charsley hit the side-netting with a near-post shot after meeting Gethin Jones’ pull-back. In the 14th minute, Marek Rodak took a blow to the face after colliding with Courtney Duffus as the goalkeeper beat the Everton man to a Jones cross. Fortunately, both players were okay to play on after treatment.
Fulham upped the tempo and a long period of possession almost ended with Tom Richards getting on the end of a cross from Della Verde in the 27th minute.
The best chance of the game so far came on the 34-minute mark. A cross from Jones wasn’t properly cleared by Fulham and the ball fell to Ryan Ledson, but the Toffees man fired over from 12 yards when he should really have tested Rodak.
There were no changes by either side at the break and Fulham went in front in the 50th minute. As the rain fell down, Moussa Dembele won a free-kick 30 yards out. Della Verde took it and went for goal. His shot should have been comfortable for Griffiths but the Everton youngster saw the wet ball slip through his hands and into the net.
Shortly afterwards, Dembele nearly got on the end of a ball over the top from Evans, while, at the other end, a shot from Matthew Pennington was comfortably held by Rodak. Everton substitute George Green then dragged a shot wide, before Patrick Roberts entered the fray to replace Evans.
The Whites should have made it 2-0 on 81 minutes when they were awarded a penalty for a handball against Pennington after Hyndman had attempted to flick a pass over the Everton right-back’s head and onto his left foot. Tankovic stepped up to take the spot-kick but saw his effort strike Griffiths' left-hand post and bounce off the keeper and out of play.
Fulham, though, made the game safe with five minutes to go. Good work down the left by Tankovic saw him play a pass to Roberts who then flicked the ball into the path of Hyndman. The American took one touch to control it before poking a left-footed shot beyond Griffiths and into the far corner of the net. It sealed a deserved win for the Whites and a third straight Under-18 title.
Fulham’s place in the National Semi-Final was already assured before the game, with the top three clubs from the Elite Group all progressing. The winning clubs from Group 1 and 2 will now face each other in a Play-Off before meeting Fulham in the first Semi-Final. The second and third-placed teams from the Elite Group will go head-to-head in the second Semi-Final.
Fulham U18s: Rodak, Baba (Burgess 66), Richards, Donnelly, Arthurworrey, Sambou, Della Verde, Hyndman, Dembele, Tankovic, Evans (Roberts 76). Subs (not used): Oberschmidt, O’Reilly, Sheckleford.