YOUTH CUP FINAL REPORT: BLACKBURN ROVERS 1 CHELSEA 0 (AGG 1-4)
A first-half goal consigned our Under 18s to defeat on the night but an emphatic first-leg victory means Chelsea have won the FA Youth Cup for the fourth time in our history.
It is also a second triumph in this competition in the space of three years. The silky attacking play of the first leg did not materialise on this occasion and Blackburn threatened to score more than the one goal they did in the opening 45 minutes, but a more organised and controlled second-half meant the outcome of the tie was never in doubt as the young Blues manufactured chances of their own.
There were two changes to the Chelsea team from the first leg. Nathan Ake is away on international duty for the Dutch Under 17s so Archange Nkumu (pictured below) came in at centre-back. Alistair Gordon replaced Adam Nditi at left-back.
There were four changes for Blackburn including two up front with Osayamen Osawe out injured and Curtis Haley, who hadn't played since the first leg due to a groin strain, on the bench.
Apparently there had been a dry day in this part of Lancashire between tonight's game and Rovers' saturated relegation match on Monday but the damp weather was back with a vengeance for this game.
Although the rain had eased at kick-off compared with the warm-up, the ball was holding up when played along the grass, as witnessed when John Swift passed forward and Feruz beat the keeper to it, getting the ball beyond him but Jack O'Connell was back to clear.
Piazon and Feruz worked together to advance into the Blackburn area but without manufacturing an attempt on goal so it was the home side who were first to test the opposing keeper, Jamal Blackman saving low down from John O'Sullivan's shot from distance. Quarter of an hour of the game had passed.
Midway through the opening period, Adi Viveash was forced to make a change after Amin Affane required treatment for a second time in quick succession. Alex Kiwomya was his replacement on the right wing. Kiwomya touched the ball once before Blackburn opened the scoring.
Nkumu was unlucky to slip on the wet turf, shades of John Terry 24 hours earlier, leaving space for Blackburn to exploit. The low cross was dummied by Hugo Fernandez before Tim Payne found the net from 10 yards out.
Piazon (pictured below) tried to make something happen up front for Chelsea and when the ball eventually broke to John Swift on the edge of the area, he balanced himself well for a shot that Matthew Urwin leapt to save hurriedly.
Blackburn had carried a threat in the early stages of the first leg but didn't take their chances that night and there was a vulnerability about Chelsea in this first half. They were opened up through the middle for Robbie Cotton to beat Blackman but Todd Kane was the saviour, sliding on the turf to make a goal-line clearance.
The right-back showed another side of his game with six minutes to go before the interval, making an overlapping run which was found by Piazon after a gliding and positive advance down the centre of the park. Kane's typically powerful shot was saved at the near-post.
He had another effort fly just wide in stoppage time but before that, Kiwomya cut in from the same flank to collect a well-measured Swift pass but Ryan Edwards tackled well at the expense of a painful collision.
Blackman was forced to make a save only seconds after the half-time interval during which Viveash swapped Adam Nditi for Gordon at left-back.
His side could have equalised not much further into the half as Piazon played Kiwomya in but although the schoolboy striker succeed in lifting the ball over the keeper, he also put it wide.
Blackburn midfielder Raheem Hanley then tamely shot wide with plenty of goal to aim at after poor Chelsea defending, and his evening didn't improve when he was booked soon after.
Just before an hour was played a second Chelsea player succumbed to injury as Nkumu came off with what appeared a hamstring problem. Nathaniel Chalobah dropped back into defence with Ruben Loftus-Cheek, a schoolboy who has had a bad time with injury this season, introduced into midfield.
Still three goals down in the tie, time was running out for Blackburn as the hour mark was reached. Centre-back Ryan Edwards would have scored had he made any sort of contact at the far post after Blackman failed to collect a corner.
Feruz up front for Chelsea hadn't enjoyed the service that had led to his two goals in the first leg but he did win a corner with 20 minutes to go. That was met by an unmarked Swift but his far-post header was blocked.
The young Blues were attacking as much as at any time in the game with Feruz judged offside as he tried to meet a Kiwomya cross, Kane slicing a shot wide and Nditi smashing a ball across the six-yard box.
Davey (pictured above in front of John Swift) was booked with 10 minutes to go but the resulting free-kick was palmed away by Blackman before Chelsea went close again, Loftus-Cheek volleying only inches wide from a Swift delivery.
Loftus-Cheek picked up a booking in the closing stages when he went down but didn't get the free-kick and there were two late scares as the ball pinged around the Chelsea box, but the necessary blocks were made before the final whistle blew and the celebrations began.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Jamal Blackman; Todd Kane, Alex Davey, Archange Nkumu (Ruben Loftus-Cheek 59), Alistair Gordon (Adam Nditi h-t); John Swift, Nathaniel Chalobah (c), Lewis Baker; Amin Affane (Alex Kiwomya 23), Islam Feruz , Lucas Piazon.
Unused substitutes: Mitchell Beeney, Nortei Nortey.
Blackburn (4-3-3): Matthew Urwin; Kellen Daly, Ryan Edwards (c), Jack O'Connell, Peter Wylie; Bradley Mason (Daniel Laverty 82), Robbie Cotton (Antonie Boland 61), Raheem Hanley; Hugo Fernandez, Tim Payne (Curtis Haley 70), John O'Sullivan.
Unused subs: Christopher Dilo, Will Beesley.