Chelsea FC: Youth Cup Champions
A truly remarkable game of football took place at Stamford Bridge last night. The occasion was th...
A truly remarkable game of football took place at Stamford Bridge last night. The occasion was the second leg of the FA Youth Cup final. Chelsea were 3 - 2 down from the first leg with it all to do. Regular followers of Chelsea's academy side will tell you that overcoming that was certainly not beyond the team and there have been some incredible performances in this competition over the years and some stunning comebacks but I think this game really topped the lot for the drama and action.
There were four changes to the team at the start of the game from the first leg, Mitchell Beeney returned in goal to replace Bradley Collins, Isak Ssewankambo and Ola Aina dropped to the bench which meant a start for Fankaty Dabo at right back and Jay DaSilva dropping from left wing to left back, Andreas Christensen and Jake Clarke-Salter returned as the centre pairing. The midfield remained the same with Jordan Houghton and Ruben Loftus-Cheek behind Charlie Colkett. Out wide there were more changes with the lively pairing of Kasey Palmer and Charly Musonda replacing Isaiah Brown and Jay DaSilva the former dropping to the bench, Domonic Solanke retained his starting place as the lone striker.
Chelsea had to do the chasing and they started brightly looking to create some early chances and managed to fashion a few half chances but it would be Fulham that would take the early lead and give Chelsea a mountain to climb. A driving run through Chelsea's midfield saw the ball eventually worked out wide right and a lovely teasing ball was sent in to the far post over the head of Beeney, the Fulham forward Dembele was more alert than Dabo and got behind the full back to connect with a header from a very tight angle and the ball went through the legs of Beeney who had taken up a good position at the near post. That gave fulham a 0 - 1 lead on the night (2 - 4 agg).
Chelsea now had to react and fast, there was so many chances at either end in this game that it is impossible to cover all the real action in the game but there were chances for either team before Chelsea got one back and it was from the lively Musonda. Picking up the ball on the right he cut inside and ran towards the box, playing a cute little one-two with Solanke Musonda was through only to be brought down in the box and penalty awarded. Charlie Colkett stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way to bring the game on the day level (3 - 4 agg). With a few minutes Chelsea would double their goal tally for the night. Charlie Colkett picked up the ball and saw Houghton in space who passed to Solanke and drove towards the box, another one-two from Solanke put it perfectly into Houghton's path who shot from 20 yards out perfectly into the bottom corner past the diving Fulham keeper, Chelsea now had a 2 - 1 lead (4 - 4 agg) and all was squared in the tie, just where Chelsea wanted to be.
The game now, already open to begin with just became a flurry of end to end football and chances falling to both sides but it would be Fulham that would again take the initiative in the tie. Some well worked play from the right and a run toward's the box and the Fulham player spotting the run and picking it out with a lovely scoop over the top of the Chelsea defenders and Roberts was through with only Beeney to beat from a tight angle but he hit an absolute bullet of a shot high into the far corner and Beeney could do nothing to stop it, it was a terrific finish from the young man and gave Fulham again the aggregate lead 2 - 2 on the night (4 - 5 agg).
That would not be the last of the goals in this first half as once again some good inter play through the midfield getting past too easily the Chelsea players, Loftus-Cheek in particular was struggling with the game, and found space 25 yards out to compose and take a shot which was very well placed into the bottom left hand corner of the goal and gave no chance to Beeney. Things now looked very desperate for Chelsea as they went into half time 3 - 2 down on the night (4 - 6 agg) and struggling to control the midfield and allowing Fulham too much space to play whilst trying to grab a goal themselves.
Manager Viveash looked to address the midfield problem and the team balance in general at half time by making 3 substitutions. Off came Loftus-Cheek, Clarke-Salter, who looked to have picked up an injury after a nasty challenge just before half time and Kasey Palmer. On came Ola Aina who slotted in alongside Christensen, Ssewankambo who joined the midfield with Houghton and Isaiah Brown who swapped with Palmer on the left and the team looked better for the changes.
The pattern of the game however was still wide open although Chelsea were now having much more of the ball and better chances although Fulham were playing very compact and deep and trying to frustrate Chelsea and despite Chelsea's best efforts particularly of Brown that looked to be happening. Then with 20 minutes to go and things looking very desperate for Chelsea up popped Isak Ssewankambo, found in space by Brown about 30 yards out he works some more space from himself and then unleashes an absolute bullet of a shot into the bottom corner and all of a sudden the mood changed, the Chelsea fans and supporters immediately felt it was game on and Fulham would start to feel a bit nervous but with the score at 3 - 3 (5 - 6 agg) things were still very much in Fulham hands and time running out.
Chelsea were no right up for it and starting to push and push against Fulham to get the goal that would level things up and take the game to extra time which for a long while never looked like happening. That did eventually come, Charlie Colkett picking the ball up floated a delightful ball into the box which Dom Solanke frustrated up until now in this tie got the perfect flick on to nod past the keeper, it was one of those moves that as soon as it leaves Colkett's boot you can see that it will go in and then the game was really on, Chelsea now lead again on the night 4 - 3 (6 - 6 agg) and have the momentum going into the last minutes of the game. Was there enough time for one team to grab the winner before extra time loomed?
For a moment it looked like it would be Fulham who would get that goal, a great run through the defense from Fulham's wide man and a great shot that hit the post and bounced back into the play straight to the feet of Dembele with an open goal and for all the world he had to score but he got the ball caught under his feet and when he did get it under control Beeney was there to block the shot. Dembele was rue that chance as Chelsea went down the other end and with Brown doing excellent to keep hold of the ball and be patient to work some space saw the pass into the box for Colkett who had the great vision to take a touch and back heel to Solanke who himself took a touch, composed himself and hit the ball hard and high into the net to give Chelsea the most unlikely 5 - 3 (7 - 6 agg) lead.
The scenes at full time were as you would expect amazing, not just the victory but the manner of the victory was just so incredible that it took the celebrations to a whole new level. 13 goals were scored during the two legs and it could have gone anyway at different times but it was Chelsea who dug deep and found what they needed to win the tie and deservedly so in my humble opinion. 3 cup wins and 1 final defeat in 5 seasons is the stuff that just does not happen and Chelsea have done it, they celebrate being Youth Cup champions once again and as always the ride has been just brilliant.
It is games like this which makes following Chelsea's academy sides magic and why I would recommend any Chelsea fan to do the same.