FA YOUTH CUP REPORT: CHARLTON 2 CHELSEA 3 (AET)
The youth side completed an impressive comeback at The Valley on Wednesday night, coming from two goals down to book a place in the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup.
Chelsea had fallen two goals behind in a poor first-half display where the home side were the better team, first taking advantage of our sloppiness in possession and then working a smart goal from a quick counter-attack, leaving our defence of this title hanging by a thread.
Stern words at half-time clearly did the trick though and Chelsea showed an increased desire and urgency in the second half, pulling a goal back through defender Andreas Christensen before substitute Alex Kiwomya raced through to level eight minutes from time.
After looking down and out, the reigning champions were not going to let this lifeline go, and sure enough, three minutes into the second half of extra-time, sub Connor Hunte slotted into the bottom corner to complete the turnaround and send Chelsea through to the last 16.
The early stages saw either side struggling to get to grips with the conditions on a hard and bobbly Valley playing surface.There was little of the fluid passing Adi Viveash and his staff have worked hard to cultivate in the Chelsea squad, but there were still opportunities.
First Nathan Ake drove over from outside the area and then striker Islam Feruz saw his shot blocked, either side of a Diego Poyet effort that flew off target for the home side.
The Blues were orchestrators off our own downfall when Charlton took the lead 12 minutes in, as John Swift surrendered possession inside his own half, and Harry Gerard was allowed to cross, picking out Tom Derry whose close-range header back across Mitchell Beeney was too much for the goalkeeper.
Only a foul on Beeney by striker Tobi Sho-Silva prevented Charlton going two to the good shortly afterwards, but at the other end Chelsea threatened once more through captain Lewis Baker, whose left-footed drive was beaten away by Charlton goalkeeper Dillon Phillips.
Dominant in possession, Chelsea were caught cold again when Charlton launched a quick counter-attack before a tidy interchange on the edge of the box brought the ball to the feet of Oliver Muldoon, and the midfielder made no mistake in placing his finish and doubling his side's advantage.
Baker slipped in Feruz almost immediately as Chelsea looked to hit back quickly, but the striker was just off target as he shot across goal, and then Ake drove off target again after patient build-up from Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Baker.
Charlton almost put the game beyond reach just after the half-hour following more good work from Muldoon, whose cross found Sho-Silva, and when he unselfishly headed down, Derry forced a superb reflex stop from Beeney to keep Chelsea in the game. Sho-Silva smashed the follow-up into the side netting, another let-off that would leave Chelsea believing we could find a way back into the game after the break.
Viveash made an attacking change at the break, with Kiwomya replacing right-back Fankaty Dabo. That shifted Ake back into central defence, Christensen to the right and Kiwomya onto the right flank as Jeremie Boga tucked inside, and Loftus-Cheek dropped into the midfield anchor role.
It took 11 second-half minutes for the Blues to find a chance, when Baker's low drive brought a decent stop from Phillips. This punctuated moments of frustration where first Baker's clever free-kick was not anticipated by Boga, and then when his headed through ball was accidentally handled by Feruz, who would otherwise have been in on goal.
With the ball at his feet Feruz always looks dangerous, and he danced around his man brilliantly on the left, picking out Swift could who steered his shot just wide.
Baker saw his header cleared off the line after a Boga corner as the Blues began to exert more and more pressure, and a goal would not be far off.
It came from Christensen, who gambled in possession and advanced from his right-back slot, skipping round tackle after tackle before playing in Feruz. The Scotsman's low shot was partially dealt with by the goalkeeper, allowing the Dane to continue his run and knock the loose ball home.
Twenty-five minutes remained in which to force an equaliser, but for a while it looked like it wouldn't come, as Feruz shot wildly over and then miskicked, but a Chelsea second finally arrived inside the final 10 minutes through Kiwomya, who was released down the middle and showed his electric pace to burst pass the Charlton defence and finish confidently from just inside the box.
Three minutes later Alex Davey must have thought he had put us in front when he headed another Baker corner towards the top corner, but Phillips was just able to get across his goal-line and tip over.
That was the last chance of the 90 minutes, and so the game moved into 30 minutes of extra-time. After such a poor start, Chelsea had done well to force the extra period. Now, they would want to ensure they finished the job.
The opening 15 minutes brought no clear-cut chances with both sides visibly tiring after a hard night's graft in freezing conditions.
Phillips in the Charlton net had to pad down a fierce Ake drive to make the half's only save, but three minutes after the restart he would be beaten once more.
Substitute and schoolboy Connor Hunte broke through down the left and into the Charlton box was able to guide the ball past the goalkeeper and into the far corner, putting his side in front for the first time in the game.
Beeney had to save from Gerard low to his left as Charlton desperately sought a way back in, but having gained control, Chelsea would not let it slip, and held on to secure a home draw in the fifth round.
Coach Adi Viveash was pleased with his side's response after the break.
'At half-time I asked a question of them,' he said. We were going out with a bit of a whimper and that wasn't us. I asked how much belief they had, because it means a lot to everybody and they weren't displaying that. We had a lot of possession in the first half but it never looked as though we were going to hurt them.
'In the end I was disappointed we didn't win it in 90 minutes because we were dominant after getting one goal, and showed more quality on the ball. Players who had struggled started to have good games. Lewis Baker has the ability to dictate the pace of the game, and did that well tonight with a captain's performance.
'It was nice for the two substitutes to score, we've a lot of good players and the character they all showed is what I know about them. They fought and scrapped and scored three goals. Now we're in the next round with a home tie against Barnsley or Stevenage, which we'll look forward to with momentum building.'
Chelsea team: Mitchell Beeney; Fankaty Dabo (sub Alex Kiwomya h-t), Alex Davey, Andreas Christensen, Adam Nditi (sub Charlie Colkett 81); John Swift (Connor Hunte 68), Nathan Ake, Ruben Loftus-Cheek; Jeremie Boga, Islam Feruz, Lewis Baker (c).
Unused subs: Ben Killip, Dion Conroy.
The full 90 minutes is available from 10pm on Chelsea TV.