U18's Behind In Youth Cup Final

Last night was the first leg of the FA Youth which saw Chelsea making their third final appearance in a row, losing out last season to N...

Last night was the first leg of the FA Youth which saw Chelsea making their third final appearance in a row, losing out last season to Norwich in a tie they really should have won but did not. They would be looking to put that right and finish what has been another very successful Academy campaign with at least one trophy.

The team that manager Adi Viveash was able to put out was not what he would consider his best 11 with Goalkeeper shortages at first team level and an U21's play off semi final on Thursday Youth Cup keeper Mitchell Beeney was held back and regular U18's league keeper Brad Collins started in goal. Still missing through injury was Dion Conroy and Jeremie Boga and Alex Kiwomya was a late omission through illness.

so with Collins in goal the back four was Ssewankambo ahead of Dabo at right back, Aina at left back and Andreas Christensen and schoolboy Jake Clarke-Salter at centre back. In midfield Jordan Houghton and captain Ruben Loftus-Cheek would play behind Charlie Colkett in the "10" role and Isaiah Brown and another schoolboy in Jay DaSilva playing the wide roles with final schoolboy Dom Solanke leading the line.

The game started very well for Chelsea and they very quickly took control of the game with Loftus-Cheek controlling proceedings from the midfield and using the width offered by DaSilva and Brown to put the Fulham defence under pressure. Chelsea would profit from that pressure with some good early chances for first Charlie Colkett and then Brown, Houghton and Loftus-Cheek all had good chances to score and early goal but none of them could convert their opportunities into goals.

Fulham would start getting into some rhythm pretty quickly and looking to fashion chances of their own but strong defending mainly from Andreas Christen and good covering work from his partner Jake Clarke-Salter were keeping them at bay. Fulham were looking to use their pacey wide men to get at Aina and Ssewankambo but the full backs were working hard to thwart any danger. However full did eventually break down their right hand side and their number 10 beat Clarke-Salter who had come across to cover for Aina and then ran into the box and with Aina running back to goal he clipped the heels of Fulham man and a penalty was awarded. Up stepped the much hyped Moussa Dembele who would try an audacious chip straight down the middle which the diving Collins could not save but he did not have to as Dembele's chip went over the bar.

The rest of the first half would follow a similar pattern with Chelsea controlling the game and fashioning the best chances and Fulham looking to be dangerous down the other end but the Chelsea defence holding firm. Dom Solanke was twice denied first after beating the keeper and having his tame shot cleared off the line and then again by the keeper himself who was proving to be difficult to beat.

The second half started brightly for the blues and young Jay DaSilva was proving the biggest threat down the left hand side, very early on he worked space well and beat his man to slot the ball to the open Loftus-Cheek who unfortunately as he tends to do with long range efforts blasted the ball over the bar. But the little left winger would soon get Chelsea their opening goal. Excellent work by Brown running from the half way line at 4 Fulham defenders ran across the 18 yard box without a challenge and found DaSilva in the box wide left who controlled the pass and fired a perfect shot right to the inside of the far post, a goal which game Chelsea a thoroughly deserved lead.

The game opened up more after that and Fulham were pushing Chelsea and Chelsea were pushing right back, on the hour mark Viveash made a change with Houghton going off and Kasey Palmer coming on. It was a change in style as Houghton is very much more physical that the tricky Palmer and we lost something in the aerial duels with Houghton off also and that proved costly as Fulham would very quickly turn the game on it's head.

Shortly after that substitution Fulham would equalise from a corner, a wonderful ball was sent in by Fulham's own substitute and was met by Dembele who had got away from Christensen, the Chelsea man getting under the ball and it went over him straight to Dembele who made no mistake in powering the header home. Minutes after that saw Chelsea really hit some bad luck, Brown slipped in midfield and the ball fell to the Fulham Midfielder who was able to run into the space towards the Chelsea goal and have a shot which in the normal course of action would have been a comfortable save for Collins but it came of the backside of Christensen and there was nothing Collins could do as he watched it go in off the post. Chelsea were feeling hard done by but now they had to get themselves back into the game.

Vievash then made two more substitutions with Clarke-Salter going off with a limp replaced by Dabo which meant Ssewankambo moving into the middle and Dabo taking up position on the right and Solanke coming off to be replaced by Charlie Musonda. Musonda took up the right wing position and Izzy Brown moved in the striker role. But as Chelsea looked to respond they got hit with another sucker punch and then had a mountain to climb. The corner routine that Fulham had been causing problems with all night finally paid off for Fulham, a deep corner to their centre back who made the run to the far post was headed back across goal to their other centre back who was able to head home again relatively unchallenged as Aina made no effort to challenge the ball and only stood and watched as the ball went in. Given the danger they had been causing all night it was very sloppy from Chelsea to let it happen again.

Now all the pressure was on Chelsea to try and get back into this tie and it was all Chelsea from that point on. A second Chelsea goal did eventually come after Charlie Musonda wove a bit of his magic on the left hand side of the box jinking and twisting to work space he hit a great shot again across the keeper and in which really gave the blues something to push for and hope for an equaliser but with time running out they would have to be quick. Substitutes Palmer and Musonda were causing problems for Fulham and it would be the former who would have the best chance to level things up late on which a corner fell to him 25 yards out and he flicked the ball up and hit a lovely volley that looked destined for the bottom corner but saved with the fingertips of the keeper and Chelsea would be denied their equaliser.

So with the game at 3 - 2 to Fulham Chelsea have it all to do in the home leg but in truth they should have put this game to bed very early on and got punished for not finishing their chances and being sloppy at the back. They will be desperate to win the second leg having lost the final last year as well as well as the NextGen final in disappointing circumstances and also crashing out of the U21's cup and UEFA Youth league this season with disappointing performances when they should have really won. So it will be a massive game next Monday at Stamford Bridge and hopefully the boys can turn it around.

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