Chelsea’s Under-18 team retained the FA Youth Cup with a comfortable 5-2 aggregate victory over Manchester City in the final.
The young Blues produced an impressive first-leg performance at City’s new academy stadium, winning 3-1 in the North-West, before returning to the Bridge a week later to finish the job, recovering from conceding an early goal to prevail 2-1. The victory sealed a fourth FA Youth Cup win in six years, in manager Joe Edwards’s first season at the helm.
The run to the final began at Elland Road. A penalty from Izzy Brown and one late on from Dominic Solanke were enough to see off a battling Leeds team who couldn’t take advantage of goalkeeper Bradley Collins’s red card just after half-time.
Huddersfield (6-1) and Swansea (6-0) were swatted aside in emphatic style at Aldershot in rounds four and five. Solanke and Tammy Abraham netted five goals each in those two games; their proficiency up front throughout will be one of the enduring memories of a goal-laden 2015 Youth Cup campaign.
For the second season in a row, the Blues defeated Newcastle at St James’ Park in the quarter-finals. Extra-time goals from Brown, Solanke and Abraham sealed an ultimately comfortable 3-0 success.
Spurs awaited in the semis. Things were not looking good when Spurs built on their 2-0 first-leg win at White Hart Lane by taking the lead early on in the second game at Stamford Bridge, but Chelsea’s youngsters displayed character and quality in abundance, netting five goals in 31 minutes.
Tottenham did get one back but it proved a consolation as the Blues progressed to their fifth final in six seasons 5-4 on aggregate. Solanke with two, Brown and Charlie Colkett - with a set-piece brace - provided the goals.
In the first leg of the final in Manchester, Tammy Abraham scored twice before the break, either side of a City equaliser. His opener was particularly special, thumped in on the run from a tight angle.
Good Chelsea defending was required after the interval as our hosts sought a second leveller, with Jake Clarke-Salter particularly impressive at the back. We were a threat throughout though and after good work from Charly Musonda in midfield, Solanke kept up his run of scoring in every round with a typically cool one-on-one finish. It was his 10th goal of the tournament, adding to the eight he scored in the similarly victorious 2014 campaign.
More than 10,000 people came through the Stamford Bridge turnstiles to see if the Under-18s could lift the FA Youth Cup yet again, and they were not to leave disappointed.
It was actually City who struck first when Kelechi Iheanacho poked past Collins after seven minutes, but our two-goal lead in the tie was restored when Izzy Brown headed home a corner soon after.
Chances came and went at both ends but the tie was all but over a minute into the second period when Abraham finished coolly after Solanke had played him in. That was goal number nine in the FA Youth Cup and goal 39 of the season for first-year professional Abraham.
There were no more goals as the Blues closed out a 5-2 aggregate victory to maintain our extraordinary recent run in the country’s most prestigious youth competition.