FA Youth Cup: 2012

Chelsea beat Blackburn Rovers 4-1 on aggregate in the 2012 FA Youth Cup final, all of the damage done in the first leg at Stamford Bridge.

Our youngsters lifted the trophy for the fourth time in our history - and for the second time in three years - after a 1-0 second-leg loss at Ewood Park that was rendered immaterial by an emphatic 4-0 victory in the first game.

The young Blues were in control once captain Nathaniel Chalobah gave them the lead midway through the first half, although Jamal Blackman in goal had to continue the excellent form he had shown throughout the cup run to keep out Rovers, who also missed with some good early opportunities.

However, once Lewis Baker had doubled the advantage to take into the break there was no way back into this leg for the visitors and if the 2-0 score of the first half had flattered Chelsea a little, there was no question about the second-half domination.

Amongst many good individual performances it was Islam Feruz who added the end product, netting twice after the interval. A second-leg comeback from Blackburn always seemed unlikely despite them taking the lead through an own goal, and in the end it was Adi Viveash’s side that finished the stronger in the North-West drizzle.

Our run to the final could scarcely have been more dramatic, beginning with a come-from-behind win against Doncaster Rovers in our first youth game played at Staines Town. John Swift and Lucas Piazon provided the goals in a 2-1 win to avoid a shock third-round exit.

The young Blues then needed penalties to progress in rounds four and five after matches that contained differing degrees of drama.

At Carrow Road, a goalless stalemate preceded the spot-kicks, where Blackman saved one and another Norwich penalty struck the bar giving the Blues a 4-2 shoot-out success.

Then came a London cracker. West Ham were our visitors and twice cancelled out Chelsea leads (Baker and Feruz our scorers) before snatching what looked like the winner in the second minute of added time. Remarkably, however, almost straight from kick-off, Chelsea went down the other end and Chalobah stroked the ball into the net to send a thrilling cup tie into extra-time.

No goals were added to the six that had already been scored and so as in the round before, penalties were required. This time they went to sudden death and after Blackman had stopped two, Todd Kane confidently stepped up to dispatch the winner after a pulsating London derby.  

You would have got good odds on that excitement being topped, but that’s exactly what happened in the quarter-final away to Nottingham Forest.

Trailing 3-0 at half-time, Viveash’s side roared back into contention with goals from Piazon and two more from Feruz. With three minutes remaining, substitute Alex Kiwomya pounced on a rebound to fire home the winner and seal an astonishing comeback at the City Ground.

Manchester United had ended our hopes at the semi-final stage in 2011, so revenge felt sweet when we met again in the last four the following year.

Like in the final a first-leg victory proved crucial, as United were beaten 2-1 at Old Trafford courtesy of goals from Amin Affane and Feruz. The striker’s winner was a brilliant 25-yard effort.

Back at the Bridge, Jack Barmby put the visitors ahead but Piazon struck a second-half equaliser to deservedly send us into the final, 3-2 on aggregate.

And it was there that an already memorable Youth Cup campaign ended in the best possible fashion. Our youngsters and the Academy’s staff could celebrate once more.