FA YOUTH CUP: THE ROAD TO THE FINAL
On Monday evening Stamford Bridge hosts the deciding game in this season's FA Youth Cup, the second time our Under-18s have played in the stadium in what has been a high-scoring and eventful campaign in the competition. The official Chelsea website takes a look at the story so far…
Norwich City are the opponents in the second leg of the final, Chelsea having suffered a late defeat at Carrow Road at the end of last month. A stoppage-time penalty was converted by Cameron McGeehan to give Monday's visitors a slender advantage heading into the crucial second meeting. It means Adi Viveash's boys will have to battle back from behind to secure a consecutive Youth Cup triumph, though fighting against the odds is something this side have become accustomed to along their road to this year's final.
Third Round - Colchester 2-3 Chelsea
An entertaining match at the Weston Homes Community Stadium kicked off the young Blues' defence of the Youth Cup at the start of December, with over 1000 in attendance as the holders progressed with a 3-2 win, thanks to goals from Islam Feruz and a double from captain Lewis Baker.
Feruz finished confidently past home goalkeeper Connor Cable in the third minute, before Jack Simmons benefited from a flurry of ricochets in the Blues box after a Colchester corner to level the scores just two minutes later. However, the frenetic start didn't end there and Chelsea went on the attack straight from the kick-off. Ruben Loftus-Cheek fed Baker down the left and the midfield man squeezed in a tidy finish past Cable into the bottom far corner.
Baker then extended the visitors' advantage before the half-hour mark, finishing emphatically into the bottom corner from the penalty spot after Feruz had been upended on the byline. The hosts pulled a goal back with over an hour to play as Sam Szmodics swept home Macauley Bonne's right-wing delivery to beat Mitchell Beeney and halve Chelsea's lead.
Beeney was called into further action to keep the holders on course for the fourth round, saving from Bonne and then down low from substitute Nnamdi Nwachuku in the final minute of normal time, as Chelsea held on to book a trip to Charlton in Round Four.
Fourth Round - Charlton 2-3 Chelsea
It was a gutsy comeback at the Valley that ensured the young Blues kept their dreams of back-to-back Youth Cup triumphs alive, as second-half goals from defender Andreas Christensen and striker Alex Kiwomya cancelled out the hosts' 2-0 half-time lead and forced extra-time. Substitute Connor Hunte's goal 19 minutes into the additional play was enough to send Chelsea through to Round Five.
The hosts had taken the lead inside 13 minutes as loose possession at the back gifted Harry Lennon the opportunity to deliver from the left flank, and his curling back-post cross was nodded beyond the despairing Beeney by Tom Derry.
Charlton then doubled their lead 10 minutes later, at the end of a super move involving their skipper Diego Poyet, son of former Chelsea midfielder Gus. The eventual chance fell to Ollie Muldoon and the midfield man made no mistake from the edge of the box, sweeping the ball past Beeney to leave Viveash's holders clinging on to their place in the competition.
Hope was restored for the visitors on the hour mark. Christensen surged forwards from right-back and prodded the ball home from practically on the line after Feruz's effort had hit the post and evaded Dillon Phillips, the Charlton goalkeeper, before Kiwomya grabbed a crucial leveller eight minutes before the end. Loftus-Cheek fed the speedy frontman in behind and down the middle and Kiwomya did the rest, finishing expertly into the bottom corner to force another half hour of play.
Schoolboy Hunte then finished the job in the second period of extra-time, taking down an excellent ball out from Alex Davey before bursting towards goal and slotting it low past the onrushing goalkeeper to send the young Blues into a fifth-round meeting with Barnsley.
Fifth Round - Chelsea 3-0 Barnsley
An impressive display and three first-half goals put Barnsley to the sword early on at Staines in this mid-February clash. Baker fired a free-kick won by Kiwomya into the far bottom corner after half an hour before Kiwomya doubled the hosts' advantage with a neat finish from inside the penalty area six minutes later.
Another six minutes later and it was 3-0, with Kiwomya once again the man in the spotlight, curling an effort from the edge of the box past the clasping dive of Elliot Chadderton, the Barnsley goalkeeper. A fairly routine second-half played out as the Blues eased themselves into a quarter-final trip to Pride Park to face Derby County.
Sixth Round - Derby 1-2 Chelsea
A battling performance in the Midlands saw Chelsea rewarded with progress to the last four as strikes from familiar campaign goalscorers Baker and Kiwomya saw off the combative challenge of the young Rams. Baker converted a penalty within the opening 20 minutes, after Reece Mitchell had been scythed down inside the area, to grab his fourth goal of the Cup run before an unfortunate Davey own goal early in the second period gave the hosts a shot in the arm.
However the visitors held off the Derby rally, buoyed by a passionate home crowd, and were duly rewarded for their efforts with another late winner as Kiwomya raced clear to finish a move instigated by Charlie Colkett. The win sent the holders into a two-legged meeting with Liverpool in the semi-finals. Unfortunately Mitchell suffered a broken leg in the penalty incident and his season was at an end.
Semi-final - Chelsea 4-1 Liverpool (on aggregate)
Viveash's side were handed a first-leg trip to Anfield at the semi-final stage and played out an even encounter before two late Kiwomya strikes ensured they took a healthy advantage back to Stamford Bridge for the return leg.
A closely-fought battle looked to be heading for a goalless draw, a result that would have left the second leg finely balanced, yet Kiwomya clearly had other ideas. First he volleyed past Liverpool keeper Ryan Fulton with just seconds of normal time remaining, before adding a killer second goal in added time after good work from Boga on the break.
The return a week later in West London was similarly competitive, though Chelsea's advantage meant the onus was firmly on the visitors, who grabbed one goal back within the opening quarter of an hour, Kristoffer Peterson finishing smartly after cutting inside from the left wing.
However the young Blues fought back admirably and restored their two-goal aggregate lead 25 minutes later as John Swift rounded off a counter-attacking move he had started with a composed sweeping finish from just inside the penalty area. Nathan Aké then dealt the killer blow as the Dutch defender powered home a front-post header from Boga's corner on the stroke of half-time to put the Blues ahead on the night.
The timing of that goal was crucial and, despite the best efforts of the Merseyside youngsters, it was Chelsea who prevailed and went marching into their third Youth Cup final appearance in four years, with Norwich City the opponents.
Final first leg - Norwich 1-0 Chelsea
In front of an impressive 21,995 crowd at Carrow Road, a hard-working and resilient Norwich City earned themselves a slender first-leg advantage after a stoppage-time penalty winner. A competitive 90 minutes was finally settled after Davey was adjudged to have bundled over winger Joshua Murphy in added time, and captain Cameron McGeehan stepped up to wallop the spot-kick home past Beeney.
It wasn't the first time McGeehan had netted from 12 yards in this season's Cup run for Norwich. He was one of five successful kick-takers from the semi-final victory over Nottingham Forest, after a 1-1 draw over two legs had taken that encounter to a shootout. Other scalps the young Canaries have claimed on their road to the final include an impressive Everton side in the quarter-finals as well as Birmingham City, Millwall and QPR.
The 1-0 final first-leg result leaves Monday's return intriguingly poised as Viveash's boys look to secure a second Youth Cup success in as many years.
- Tickets are on general sale (maximum of 10 per person) priced at £5 for adults and £3 for juniors/seniors.
- They are being sold in person at the box office until 4pm on Monday 13 May. Disabled supporters should contact the disability department to purchase tickets.
- The game, which kicks-off at 7.45pm, will be shown live on Chelsea TV.