YOUTH CUP FINAL REPORT: CHELSEA 4 BLACKBURN ROVERS 0
Goals from Nathaniel Chalobah, Lewis Baker and a second-half double strike by Islam Feruz put the Under 18s in a strong position at the halfway stage of the tie.
In a match played at Stamford Bridge, the young Blues were in control once captain Chalobhah gave them the lead midway through the first half, although Jamal Blackman in goal had to continue the excellent form shown throughout this cup run to keep out Blackburn, who also missed with some good early opportunities.
However once Baker had doubled the advantage to take into the break there was no way back into this leg for the visitors and if the 2-0 score of the first half had flattered Chelsea a little, there was no question about the second-half domination.
Amongst many good individual performances it was Feruz who added the end product, the schoolboy celebrating his call up to the Scotland Under 21 squad earlier in the week.
Blackman had to make further saves in the second-half but it was Chelsea who continued to carry the greater goal threat against a team of generally older opponents, who will be faced again on Wednesday 9 May at Ewood Park for the second leg.
In tonight's first match it was Todd Kane who was first to draw a save from the opposing keeper - the Chelsea right-back's low shot, typically from outside the area, pushed wide of the post. It was a good stop by Matthew Urwin for the visitors but not half as good as the one Blackman made eight minutes into the game.
Nathan Ake had been drawn out of central defence and lost out to John O'Sullivan who lofted a pass over the Blues backline to Osayamen Osawe. The Blackburn winger chested down and looked certain to score but Blackman is a big object to beat and the shot on this occasion didn't do so.
Rovers, briefly in command, then had two heading chances, the second of which was the better opportunity after Blackman had palmed out a header. It was Osawe again not taking advantage as he nodded over the bar.
It was an unchanged Chelsea side named by Adi Viveash from the semi-final defeat of Manchester United but there was a tension to the performance in these early stages.
But then Ake made a good tackle in the Chelsea area to herald a better passage of play that led to Chalobah's 19th minute opener. Lucas Piazon had probed away on the edge of the area before the ball was worked wide to Amin Affane.
The little Swede showed good close control to work space to cross and dipped a ball into the area that was perfect for the captain (pictured top right) to head down into the far bottom corner.
Now Chelsea clicked into gear. A pass from Piazon (pictured below) almost put in Islam Feruz but the keeper won that race, but as the ball bounced out Affane shot goalwards, only for Rovers captain Ryan Edwards to clear off the line.
With the next attack our Under 18s went 2-0 ahead. Kane found a yard beyond his opponent and from near the corner flag pulled the ball across. Piazon played it back to the edge of the area and Baker (pictured top left) smashed it past Urwin with a first-time shot. It was a fine goal in every way and the midfielder's seventh of the season for the youth team. There were 27 minutes played.
The scoreline was a little harsh on Rovers and it was Blackman who once again kept them out just past the half hour. This time it was a quick reaction save from a header by Edwards.
The remainder of the first half passed without major incident or chances for either side but the visitors did create one well just three minutes after the interval. A diagonal ball found John O'Sullivan but Blackman saved a far-post volley.
Viveash made his first switch of personnel on 52 minutes and it was a regular one - Alex Kiwomya a fresh pair of legs on the right flank with Affane making way.
Kiwomya soon had a good shout for a penalty turned down when he appeared to be pushed over by Will Beesley after chesting down a long pass by the influential Baker. Kane ran out of space trying to go for goal himself in the aftermath and from the corner that followed, Swift headed a good chance over.
The Blues didn't have to wait long to find the third goal. A peach of a pass from Chalobah gave centre-forward Feruz exactly the service he thrives upon and the 16-year-old's first-time finish with just under an hour played was unerring.
Feruz's second goal 10 minutes later was similar although this time it was a faint touch that took the ball past the keeper after Piazon had played a measured pass forward, the Brazilian's second assist of the night.
Piazon had been booked shortly before that goal and Feruz was also carded after it for an over-enthusiastic chasing down of a defender. He was subbed soon after in what might have been a precautionary move with the team so well-placed in the tie. Reece Mitchell came on.
Kane came closest to adding a fifth with time running out after a penetrating run by the leather-lunged full-back but his shot was blocked.
There was one more save by Blackman in stoppage time.The away-goals rule does not apply in the Youth Cup but anyway he deserved to finish the night with a clean sheet.
Viveash was understandably delighted at such an emphatic scoreline, and while he praised his players for some terrific football, particularly in the second half, he insisted our goalkeeper had been the outstanding performer of the night.
'It's a positive result and it was nice at times to show some outstanding flowing football,' he said.
'Three of the goals were top drawer and Chalobah's was a great header, it gave us a good start but Jamal Blackman was outstanding tonight.
'We're delighted with the scoreline but we're only halfway there. Blackburn gave us a real tough game, the boys are really tired and it was a big physical effort as we knew it would be.
'The third goal was the interesting one, I said at the break a third goal would give them a decision to make in terms of whether they settle for that score or look to get one back and risk conceding again.
'They were two great finishes from Feruz from two great passes, but Jamal made another great save in the last few seconds and that could prove to be defining. If they make it 4-1 it gives them impetus, and the players will learn as they go on through their careers how to see the game out from a winning position.'
Chelsea (4-3-3): Jamal Blackman; Todd Kane, Alex Davey, Nathan Ake, Adam Nditi; John Swift, Nathaniel Chalobah (c), Lewis Baker; Amin Affane (Alex Kiwomya 52), Islam Feruz (Reece Mitchell 76), Lucas Piazon.
Unused substitutes: Mitchell Beeney, Alistair Gordon, Archange Nkumu.
Blackburn (4-3-3): Matthew Urwin; Peter Wylie (Darragh Lenihan 60), Ryan Edwards (c) , Jack O'Connell, Will Beesley; John O'Sullivan, Reece Hands (Robbie Cotton 60), Raheem Hanley; Hugo Fernandez, Curtis Haley (Timothy Payne 81), Osayamen Osawe.
Unused substitutes: Christopher Dilo, Kellen Daly.