UEFA Youth League: 2015
Our Under-19s were crowned European champions in their age group when they won the UEFA Youth League in Switzerland.
Over a long April weekend in Nyon, Adi Viveash’s side first crushed Roma 4-0 in the semi-finals, then saw off Shakhtar Donetsk by three goals to two in the final.
Our youngsters reached the last four after winning five of their six group stage games – many in spectacular fashion – before defeating Zenit St Petersburg and then Atletico Madrid in home single-legged knockout ties.
With the group stage mirroring that of the first team, the campaign began at home to Schalke in mid-September, and in some style, too. The team that had knocked us out in the quarter-finals the season before were beaten 4-1 at Cobham, with two from captain Izzy Brown and a goal apiece for Dominic Solanke and Ola Aina putting the Germans to the sword.
The goals continued to flow in the next game, when Sporting Lisbon were despatched 5-0 in the Portuguese capital, before a pair of comfortable home (2-0) and away (7-0) victories against Maribor.
Defeat to Schalke in Germany meant the Blues needed to win their final group game, at home to Sporting, to guarantee top spot and a home tie in the last 16. That conclusion was never in doubt as Chelsea racked up six goals to the visitors’ none, including a hat-trick for Solanke and a brace for Jeremie Boga. We averaged four goals a game in the group stage.
Zenit took the lead at Aldershot as the knockout action got underway, but the Blues response was impressive, embodying the never-say-die attitude that has for so long been a hallmark of our Academy teams.
Solanke equalised and then after half-time midfielders Kasey Palmer and Charlie Colkett secured a hard-fought victory against good Russian opposition.
Atletico provided the next challenge at Cobham in the last eight having beaten Arsenal the round before. Goals late in each half - from Brown and Solanke - sealed a fine 2-0 win; better was to follow in the semi-final on neutral ground in Switzerland.
Roma had shown their credentials by beating Manchester City in the Italian capital in the quarters, but Viveash’s side blew them away with a dominant second-half showing. Goalless at the break, the Blues struck three times in nine minutes – through Colkett and Solanke (twice) – after the interval. Tammy Abraham turned in a close-range effort late on to complete the scoring.
Seventy-two hours later, we were back in action at UEFA headquarters for the right to be crowned the second-ever UEFA Youth League winners.
The Blues took an early lead when Brown finished from close range, although Shakhtar levelled half an hour later as Andreas Christensen turned Denys Arendaruk’s cross into his own net.
Chelsea upped the tempo at the start of the second half and netted twice in the opening 10 minutes to take charge of the game. The tournament’s top goalscorer Dominic Solanke nodded in Jeremie Boga’s left-sided cross (for goal number 12 of the campaign), before captain Brown added his second and our third with a super left-footed finish from 20 yards.
Chances continued to be created at both ends in the final 30 minutes, and though Shakhtar added a stoppage-time consolation, Viveash and his players stood strong to claim the well-deserved trophy-winning victory.