A match winning performance from Moussa Dembele secured Fulham the Barclays U18 Premier League title as his hat-trick harshly condemned the Royals Academy to defeat at Craven Cottage.
Reading’s under-18s deserved much more from this climax of the 2012/13 Academy season but a three clinical goals from Dembele – the namesake of Tottenham’s Belgian midfielder – cruelly denied David Dodd’s youngsters on their big day.
But it’s been a hugely positive season from our next generation – they romped to the Phase 1 title and only missed out on another league acclaim in Phase 2 as Fulham, of all clubs, denied the Royals on goal difference.
The Royals arrived at Craven Cottage, which included a smattering of Royals supporters, with their heads held high on the back of an 11-game winning streak, and were unchanged from their emphatic 4-0 semi-final win over Everton in midweek.
In an even start to the game, it was the Cottagers who made the vital breakthrough after just 15 minutes. Finding space, Dembele cut inside and unleashed a fabulous curling strike into the top corner of the net – with the in-form Dan Lincoln helpless as Fulham went 1-0 up.
Reading heads didn’t drop though as, despite Fulham’s ability to break, Tariqe Fosu found space in the middle of the hosts’ half and let fly from range – but Marek Rodak was equal to it.
But, hugely against the run of play, Dembele added a second as he latched onto a hopeful long ball and calmly slotted past Lincoln.
The Royals came out with a positive attitude after the break and were undoubtedly the better side – hitting the woodwork three or four times.
But it wasn’t to be our day as the French international completed his hat-trick to confirm Fulham at Barclays U18 Premier League champions.
: Rodak, Passley, Richards, Donnelly, Arthurworrey, Sambou, Roberts, Hyndam, Woodrow (C), Tankovic, Dembele (Evans 90)
Subs: Oberschmidt, Burgess, Baba, Verde, Evans
: Lincoln, Long, Griffin, Hyam, Cooper; Kuhl (C), Stacey, Kelly, Fosu, Tanner, Ikpeazu
Subs: Ward, Murombedzi, Taylor-Crossdale, Jefford, Owusu