UYL report: Chelsea 0 Roma 2

Our Under-19s suffered their first UEFA Youth League defeat in 18 matches as Joe Edwards’s team were beaten by a goal either side of half-time at an overcast Cobham.

Schalke were the winners in Surrey on the last occasion we lost in Europe back in November 2014 but Roma matched that feat with a resilient and clinical performance. A penalty awarded at the end of an evenly-matched first half swung the balance of the game, with Andrea Marcucci converting from 12 yards, before Lorenzo Valeau doubled the damage with a drive from distance just before the hour mark.

Despite tinkering to the system and personnel, it just wasn’t our day as a string of chances were spurned in the final half hour, leaving three sides tied on the same number of points at the top of Group C.

Edwards made two changes from the side that recorded an impressive victory against Atletico in Madrid on the previous matchday, both enforced absences as George McEachran and Callum Hudson-Odoi remain away with England at the Under-17 World Cup.

Juan Castillo and Tariq Uwakwe came into the team as the hosts switched to a back three in front of unchanged goalkeeper Marcin Bulka. Reece James retained his place as the only man to have started every development squad and Under-19 game this term and was partnered by Ethan Ampadu (pictured top) and Josh Grant in defence.

Trevoh Chalobah moved forward to anchor in midfield, with Dujon Sterling and Castillo operating as wing-backs. Jacob Maddox, Luke McCormick and Uwakwe comprised the rest of the midfield and Charlie Brown, scorer in each of our previous European outings, led the line up front.

It was our number nine who fashioned the early opportunities inside the opening 10 minutes, his cutback from the left evading the supporting cast in the box before Sterling’s cross aimed at the frontman was cleared to safety.

Roma threatened for the first time after a quarter of an hour as their Slovakian striker Zan Celar, scorer of a brace against Qarabag three weeks previously, tested Bulka with a stinging drive from outside the box. The ball was hit sweetly and flew through the air but our Polish stopper got enough on it to parry the ball from danger.

Down the other end, Uwakwe’s low shot was well blocked before Ampadu headed James’s inswinging free-kick narrowly wide. The home side set up with a diamond in midfield, allowing space for Sterling and Castillo to exploit down the flanks. Sterling, in particular, was causing problems on the right wing and forced a crucial intervention from Stefano Ciavattini at the near post as his centre looked for Brown or McCormick in the middle.

Jacob Maddox is upended in midfield.

After stifling the Chelsea threat for much of the half, the Italians started to establish an attacking force of their own as the interval approached. Ampadu sliced a cross from the left just past Bulka’s upright before Chalobah made an exceptional sliding block to thwart Alessio Riccardi in the 18-yard box.

The visitors broke the deadlock with the final kick of the first period as the French referee awarded a penalty. A ball floated forward was controlled and juggled by Celar just inside the box before Ampadu’s hand came out to make contact, although the home side were left aggrieved as Celar appeared initially offside. Roma were unforgiving from 12 yards as Marcucci sent Bulka the wrong way to give his side the lead.

Edwards responded with a double substitution at half-time, introducing Martell Taylor-Crossdale and Harvey St Clair to his attack. However, a familiar provider fashioned the first chance after the restart, Sterling delivering and McCormick (pictured below) firing a left-footed shot high over the crossbar.

Picture courtesy of Mark Sandom.

Roma extended their advantage moments later in unlikely circumstances as Valeau’s drive from distance squirmed underneath Bulka and trickled towards goal. It seemed like the covering James would clear off the line but the defender was impeded by his goalkeeper’s desperate efforts to recover and the pair could only watch as their deficit doubled.

Bulka kept the score at 2-0 by saving with his feet from Mirko Antonucci as the forward raced clear down the right channel and the save provided the platform for the Blues to retain belief in a comeback. St Clair forced the first notable save of the afternoon from Romagnoli, who tipped the rising drive over the bar, before the wideman turned provider with a lovely delivery for McCormick to head off-target.

The Blues were off-colour and struggled to build a head of steam as they sought a way back into the game. James tested Romagnoli with a free-kick from nearly 30 yards out but it proved to be the first of a number of comfortable saves for the 19-year-old, who then gathered low from McCormick.

Harvey St Clair forces the most notable save of the game with a rising drive pushed over the bar.

James twice teed up inviting chances for McCormick in the dying minutes but our captain squandered a header at the back post and then could not stretch enough to make contact with a low cross as we drew a blank for the first time in the competition since a 0-0 group draw with Porto in December 2015.

The result, combined with Atletico’s win in Qarabag earlier in the day, leaves Edwards’s side tied with the Italians and the Spaniards on six points at the midway stage of the group campaign. Next up is a trip to Rome on Tuesday 31 October.  

 

Chelsea (3-5-1-1) Marcin Bulka; Reece James, Ethan Ampadu, Josh Grant; Dujon Sterling, Tariq Uwakwe (Billy Gilmour 66), Trevoh Chalobah, Jacob Maddox, Juan Castillo (Harvey St Clair h/t); Luke McCormick (c); Charlie Brown (Martell Taylor-Crossdale h/t)
Unused subs
Jamie Cumming, Joseph Colley, Cole Dasilva, Tino Anjorin
Booked Sterling 56; Chalobah 66

Roma (4-3-3) Andrea Romagnoli; David Eugene Bouah (Lirim Kastrati 80), Riccardo Cargnelutti, Stefano Ciavattini (c), Francesco Semeraro; Alessio Riccardi, Andrea Marcucci, Lorenzo Valeau; Riccardo Cappa (Keres Masangu 74), Zan Celar, Mirko Antonucci
Unused subs
Stefano Greco, Andrea Ciofi, Salvatore Pezzella, Luca Petrungaro, Zakaria Sdaigui
Scorers Marcucci (pen) 45+1; Valeau 58
Booked Ciavattini 19; Cargnelutti 27; Valeau 74

Referee Frank Schneider (FRA)