YOUTH CUP REACTION: IN THE FINAL AND THRILLED
After a 2-0 victory up at Anfield last week had put them in a commanding position in their semi-final tie, our FA Youth Cup side completed the job last night at Stamford Bridge with a 2-1 win over their opponents from Liverpool, and secured a third Youth Cup final appearance in four years.
Kristoffer Peterson had put the visitors ahead early on to revive the two-legged contest, however goals from John Swift and Nathan Ake just before the interval extended the young Blues' advantage and earned them a place in the final, where Norwich City await.
Speaking after the game to the official Chelsea website, youth team manager Adi Viveash spoke of his pride in guiding the holders back to the final.
'It's a major achievement for the Academy to get to consecutive FA Youth Cup finals,' he said.
'It's a testament to the work going on throughout the Academy. All the staff under [Academy Manager] Neil Bath's guidance are working tremendously hard, we have a lot of gifted young footballers and they deserve their place in the final.
'It wasn't our best performance,' he added. 'For the young players there's a lot of nerves and the early goal gave Liverpool a lift. It was a good finish, but the two goals at the end of the first half for us were important.'
'If you come in 1-0 down it's very similar to last year against Man United [in the semi-final second leg]. We had some nerves in the first half, a bit too many nerves I thought. I said to them at half time just to calm down a bit but it's very difficult for younger players when you don't start the game in the ascendancy.'
One of those crucially timed goals at the end of the first half was from Aké, a player who has spent a lot of time in recent months switching between different age groups as he works with the first team squad, and only found out he was to be involved after the 3-0 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage on Wednesday night. He replaced the injured Andreas Christensen at centre back last night and popped up with a bullet header from Jeremie Boga's near-post corner just before the interval, to put the hosts ahead.
'In the training sessions before we worked on corners and free kicks so we thought about it and it was a good time to score right before half time to go 2-1 up, it lifted us,' said the Dutch defender.
'It was a difficult game, we thought it was going to be before. It was hard, they pressed us, we tried to play out from the back and I think it worked sometimes but we lost the ball too early other times. In the second half we had a lot of chances but didn't score so it was tight. It was difficult, not our best game but we're through to the next round.'
Viveash was full of praise for the two goals, particularly Swift's after the midfielder drove out from the back on the break before feeding Alex Kiwomya out on the right wing, and then sweeping home the wideman's centre from 12 yards.
'John Swift's was a great goal,' Viveash said. 'He started the move and it was a super finish, that was us at our flowing best. Then Nathan Ake scored with a great header from a corner that settled it a little bit.'
'We had numerous chances in the second half, though they had a couple as well to be fair. Mitchell [Beeney] has made a good save and they've hit the crossbar as well. All credit to Liverpool, they came and really had a go.
'They've got some really good players and they caused us a lot of problems but in the second half when the game started to open up we created a lot of spaces and a lot of chances. Alex Kiwomya was very lively in the second half and easily could have had a hat-trick but it just didn't quite fall for him. It wasn't our fluid best but I am thrilled for the boys to be in the final and I think they'll grace it.'
Norwich City stand between Viveash's Chelsea and a consecutive FA Youth Cup triumph, with the first leg of the final at Carrow Road on Monday 29 April. The date for the second leg is yet to be set.