U18's Beat Arsenal To Make Final - Again
Last night Chelsea's U18's side were looking to book their place in their third consecutive FA Youth Cup final, which by any stan...
Last night Chelsea's U18's side were looking to book their place in their third consecutive FA Youth Cup final, which by any standards is a remarkable achievement but on top of that it was also represent a fifth final in seven years which just goes to highlights Chelsea's recent dominance in this competition. Standing in their way was Arsenal in the second leg at the Emirates and Chelsea would go into it with a 2 - 1 lead from the first leg.
There would be one change to the team selection from the first leg with Isaiah Brown dropping down to the bench and 15 year old Jay DaSilva starting in the left wing position. Which meant a team of Mitchell Beeney in goal, the back four of Ola Aina, Andreas Christensen, Jake Clarke-Salter and Fankaty Dabo. The midfield duo was captain Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Jordan Houghton with the attacking midfield trio of Charlie Colkett, Jay DaSilva and Alex Kiwomya with Domonic Solanke as the striker.
The early exchanges saw a relatively even game with both teams looking to gain the upper hand and create chances but it would be Chelsea that would quickly get a hold of the ball and start to dominate possession which would lead to the first chance on target for Chelsea when Ola Aina making a run forward from his left back position found himself on the edge of the box and hit the ball towards goal which turned out to be comfortable save for the Arsenal keeper. Very quickly after there was be a really big chance for Chelsea for Solanke who did brilliantly to beat a defender in the box and even though he was tripped he stayed on his feet and moved towards goal where he hit his shot on target which was saved well by the keeper and the follow up was also saved well, that type of finish would typify Dom Solanke's frustration over the 2 legs to score a goal.
But Chelsea's dominance would soon pay off when Chelsea's lovely interplay worked perfectly, a delightful 1 - 2 between Houghton and Colkett saw Colkett played in to box and showing very nice strength for a slight player held off 2 defenders trying to squeeze him out and got the ball on the byline, his ball towards goal was more likely a pass across goal but it hit the inside of the keepers leg and crossed the line before Solanke could bundle the ball in. It was all Chelsea deserved for their dominance in possession just not in this game but across both games.
On half an hour Arsenal would finally breach Chelsea's defence, a defence splitting pass saw the Arsenal left winger bursting through on goal which an excellent chance to equalise, his shot on goal beat Beeney but it was far too soft and Aina was able to come in and collect the ball before it got to goal. The last 15 minutes of the first half saw the game opening up with chances for both sides but the better of the chances were for Chelsea and there would be big chances for Houghton, Solanke and Kiwomya before half time to extend the lead but none of them were able to convert their chances.
With a place in the final at stake it was expected that Arsenal would come out of the blocks in the second half putting Chelsea under pressure but it was Chelsea that would come out with the game plan to squeeze Arsenal in their own half not letting them out and Arsenal were struggling to get out of their own half. Eventually though Arsenal would get going and get some good possession in the Chelsea half and create a few decent openings without testing Beeney in the Chelsea goal.
With half an hour to go Chelsea were starting to reassert pressure but the good few breaks that Chelsea had would come to nothing, Alex Kiwomya on the receiving end of booing from the Arsenal fans for some reason looked to be letting that get to him and his early constant roasting of the left back ceased to be and he was giving the ball away more often than normal. Then an injury to 15 year old center back Clarke-Salter meant a change around in the back 4 with Isaiah Brown coming on and DaSilva moving in the left back spot, Aina switching flanks to right back where he would prove to be much more effective and Ssewankambo who had come on for Dabo moving to the middle alongside Christensen.
Those changes however did not affect Chelsea and they were still managing to keep Arsenal from creating any chances and at the same time get down the other end to try and get the goal that would completely finish this tie. With 10 minutes to go there was a huge chance from a corner which Ssewankambo met well to make brilliant header which was destined for the top corner but the Arsenal keeper pulled a brilliant save to get to it and tip it onto the bar.
There would be no more goals unfortunately but Chelsea would win both the game and the tie and deservedly go through to the FA Youth Cup final and face Fulham over 2 legs. It was another very good performance from the team with the back 4 working together superbly, Houghton and in particular Loftus-Cheek dominating the midfield area and the usual deadly Solanke working hard up front. Fulham will be a difficult prospect as they have a very good academy but Chelsea should not be afraid of playing anyone.