By Joe Ellis

14th Apr, 2022 | 3:26pm

Southampton: Luke Pearce can be Armando Broja replacement after brace yesterday

Southampton Under-18s ran out 3-0 winners away at Chelsea yesterday and there was one Saint who stood out above the rest with a match-winning performance.

Luke Pearce scored the opening and final goals for the young Southampton side as they dismantled one of the country’s most prolific academies with ease.

The 17-year-old led the line like a seasoned professional and took his chances with aplomb to impress once again while in an epic season of his own.

The Republic of Ireland youth international has eight goals in 13 games in the Premier League Under-18s league this season along with four Under-23 goals in Premier League 2 in seven matches as well as three assists.

He signed his first professional deal with the Saints at the start of the season and he has repaid the club’s faith in him with a sensational year in front of goal in red and white stripes.

Ralph Hasenhuttl might not need a striker right now with Armando Broja, Che Adams and Adam Armstrong his first-team options but there could be an opening for Pearce soon.

Broja is set to return to Chelsea at the end of the season after proving to be one of the Premier League’s most pleasantly surprising players this season with nine goals in all competitions while on loan with the Saints.

Although Chelsea are still under sanctions from the UK Government until Roman Abramovich sells the club, meaning Broja can’t yet sign a new deal, he is expected to return to Stamford Bridge which would open the door for a new talisman in Hasenhuttl’s squad.

Pearce can be the man who steps up to the plate and helps Southampton keep their Premier League status and maybe even push on towards challenging higher up the table if he can recreate his youth team form on the big stage.

In other Southampton news, the Saints are one of three Premier League sides keen on signing Blues defender Levi Colwill.