UYL report: Roma 1 Chelsea 2

Our Under-19s took an important step towards qualification for the knockout stages of the UEFA Youth League with a fine win in Italy this afternoon.

First-half goals from Dujon Sterling and Martell Taylor-Crossdale did the damage at the Stadio Tre Fontane in the south of the capital, and our win coupled with a surprise defeat for Atletico Madrid against Qarabag leaves us in a strong position in Group C with two games to play. A victory in Azerbaijan in our next fixture will guarantee a place in the last 16.

This success owed much to an excellent team performance, and even though Roma got one back late on, the young Blues stayed solid at the back to close out the victory and avenge our defeat to the same opposition at Cobham in the previous matchday.

Unlike that day in Surrey, Joe Edwards was able to call on two of his England Under-17 World Cup winners, Callum Hudson-Odoi and George McEachran, who were back from India in time to feature in the Italian capital. There were three other changes from the reverse fixture a fortnight ago, including a return between the posts for Jamie Cumming. 

After an even opening quarter-of-an-hour, in which Chelsea settled quickly without creating anything of note, it was Roma’s Alessio Riccardi who had the first attempt of the afternoon, skewing well wide on the stretch. Barely a minute later Chelsea led.

From a deep Hudson-Odoi corner, Reece James cleverly steered a looping header back across goal. Andrea Romagnoli was forced into a stretching save, and the loose ball fell at Trevoh Chalobah’s feet, who quickly controlled and fired into the danger zone. Sterling was in the right place to take a touch and turn it in from a couple of yards out. 

We doubled our advantage five minutes later. A Roma attack broke down and we quickly took advantage of their lack of shape. Harvey St Clair released Taylor-Crossdale, the furthest man forward but inside our half. The no.9 raced clear and placed a confident finish past Romagnoli. 

It might have been three but Hudson-Odoi shot wide at the end of a typically mazy run through the hosts’ spine. Then Taylor-Crossdale delayed with a good sight of goal and was tackled before getting his shot away.

The hosts grew in confidence in the closing stages of the first half and might have reduced the deficit before the break, but Riccardi narrowly missed the target when well-placed 16 yards out.

Down the other end, Hudson-Odoi nearly caught Romagnoli out from a corner but the keeper recovered, and so it was with it a deserved two-goal lead that the Blues headed to the dressing rooms.

When play restarted there was a greater sense of urgency about Roma, and it required Chalobah to make an important defensive header from a dinked cross that had cleared Cumming. Riccardo Cappa then hit the side-netting after finding space in the box.

Not that the Blues didn’t remain a threat. St Clair rattled the underside of the bar at the end of another patient passing move involving the excellent McEachran (pictured below), and Grant’s follow-up header was blocked close to the goal-line. 

On the hour, Andrea Marcucci teed up a volley for himself and let fly. A slight deflection took it past the post.

Edwards withdrew McEachran and Hudson-Odoi for Billy Gilmour and Luke McCormick respectively after an excellent first outing back in Chelsea colours for the recent World Cup winners.

The result might have been sealed with 20 minutes to play when Sterling found Taylor-Crossdale who beat the defender but not Romagnoli, sprawling to his right to claw out the striker’s low effort. Soon after, a header from McCormick took Grant’s cross away from Taylor-Crossdale as we increasingly threatened on the break.

But our hosts did find the net with 10 minutes to play when sub Keres Masangu teed up Zan Celar and his first-time finish was emphatically struck into the bottom left-hand corner, giving Cumming no chance.

In response Sterling, a constant menace, burst past two defenders before squaring to Taylor-Crossdale, but he couldn’t guide his volley on target.

Roma threatened occasionally in the final minutes but Cumming was dominant when required and the outfielders in front of him restricted our hosts to no clear chances, securing a great three points in the Eternal City.

Chelsea (3-5-1-1) Jamie Cumming; Reece James, Ethan Ampadu, Josh Grant (c); Dujon Sterling, George McEachran (Billy Gilmour 64), Trevoh Chalobah, Jacob Maddox, Harvey St Clair; Callum Hudson-Odoi (Luke McCormick 69); Martell Taylor-Crossdale (Charlie Brown 86).
Unused subs Marcin Bulka, Joseph Colley, Cole Dasilva, Juan Castillo.
Scorers Sterling 16, Taylor-Crossdale 21
Booked Grant 43, McEachran 50, Gilmour 88, Sterling 90+2

Roma (4-3-3) Andrea Romagnoli; David Eugene Bouah, Riccardo Cargnelutti, Stefano Ciavattini (c), Francesco Semeraro (Alessandro Barbarossa 89); Alessio Riccardi, Andrea Marcucci, Lorenzo Valeau; Vicente Besuijen (Keres Masangu 66), Zan Celar, Riccardo Cappa (Luca Petrungaro 84).
Unused subs Stefano Greco, Lirim Kastrati, Andre Trusescu, Zakaria Sdaigui.
Scorer Celar 79
Booked Bouah 35, Ciavattini 80

Referee Srdjan Jovanovic (SRB)