Match Report

FA Youth Cup 2018

Chelsea Under-18s celebrated a fantastic five FA Youth Cup titles in a row after adding to their first-leg advantage to triumph 7-1 on aggregate against Arsenal in the final.

No side has achieved such relentless dominance in the 65-year history of English football’s premier youth tournament, with Chelsea winners in seven of the past nine years. Our latest silverware success has come with only one goal conceded throughout the entire cup run and it was that solitary strike for the Gunners at Stamford Bridge that gave the hosts some hope ahead of this second leg.

However, Billy Gilmour’s superb chest-and-finish on the half-volley early on at the Emirates effectively ended the final as a serious contest. Three further goals in a 20-minute spell placed a shiny gloss on another dominant display from our youngsters as Callum Hudson-Odoi bagged a brace either side of a neat finish from Tino Anjorin.

It meant the Blues of London were left celebrating at the home of their big capital rivals, a comprehensive victory over two legs crowning us Youth Cup champions once again.

Morris made three changes from the first leg victory 72 hours previously as all three substitutes used on Friday came in to start. Daishawn Redan led the line up front following a second-half brace to help us to a two-goal aggregate advantage, while Juan Castillo and Dujon Sterling returned in the wing-back positions as the holders tweaked from a back four to a three.

Captain Reece James, Marc Guehi and Jon Panzo comprised the central defensive unit in front of goalkeeper Jamie Cumming, while Conor Gallagher and Gilmour paired up in central midfield. George McEachran kept his place to complete a record of starting in every game this campaign and the England Under-17 man lined up alongside his international colleague Callum Hudson-Odoi in support of Redan.

The Gunners swapped two players in their starting line-up as they were forced to be bolder in search of a route back into the final but their only opportunity of the opening stages was a strike from Bukayo Saka, lacking a decent connection and comfortable for Cumming to collect down low.

Only in 2012 had our youngsters come into the second leg of a recent final with a greater lead than our 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge and we were soon celebrating extending that margin with 11 minutes on the clock. Much of our early promise was directed down the flanks and it was from the left wing that we advanced for the opener, Castillo’s cross headed clear only as far as Gilmour and the Glaswegian taking a touch on his chest before firing a finish beyond the dive of Joao Virginia.

The healthy and vocal supporters grouped into the usual away end celebrated with gusto as our quest to match Manchester United’s famous ‘Busby Babes’ by lifting the Youth Cup five years in a row appeared very much on course.

Virginia prevented more damage being done to the hosts with a smart save to keep out Castillo’s fierce low drive after the Dutchman had been teed up by his compatriot Redan, whose pace and direct running down the right channel had created the opportunity.

Arsenal had understandably been rocked by the concession of an early goal but they grew stronger as their confidence returned and began to pose a serious attacking threat for the first time on the night. Danny Ballard, the captain, saw a headed chance bounce just wide before an intricate move released Xavier Amaechi in the box and required an expertly-timed challenge from Castillo to extinguish the danger.

Hudson-Odoi was searching for one more goal in the competition that would see him claim the top scorer title outright and the 18-year-old’s influence grew in the final stages of the first period. He was first denied by Virginia after a neat combination with Sterling down the right, while a block from Dominic Thompson kept the forward out again moments later. Just before that chance, the Gunners had threatened again as Saka advanced into the box but could only shoot straight at Cumming under important pressure from the covering Sterling.

The holders ended the half in the ascendancy and with one hand on the silverware. A narrow angle proved too much for Hudson-Odoi after a quick counter-attack had set him running forward with menace, while Guehi headed straight at the keeper and Panzo’s drive was blocked before the referee signalled for the break.

Arsenal restarted with purpose and a series of set-pieces sent into the six-yard box forced Cumming into work. The goalkeeper may have been concerned after failing to claim one high ball that eventually dropped at the feet of Saka but his effort failed to hit the target.

It was perhaps the story of the tie when Morris’s men went down the other end and made it 2-0 on the night, the Blues punishing our London rivals just when they appeared to be building a head of steam.

Hudson-Odoi was the goalscorer, claiming his ninth in seven Youth Cup games this season, but this was a team move crafted with great technical skill and sharp movement. Redan sprung the offside trap to attack from the right and although his cross evaded McEachran in the middle, there was no reprieve for Arsenal as Hudson-Odoi picked up the loose ball, glided past two defenders and picked his spot.

Morris commented in between these two ties that this second leg was not the only big game of the week for his youngsters, with a national final against Manchester United slated for Saturday lunchtime, and the manager made changes to keep his options as fresh as possible.

Clinton Mola and Tino Anjorin replaced Gallagher and McEachran, with the latter adding to the goal tally six minutes after his introduction. Hudson-Odoi this time turned creator, squaring the ball for our schoolboy midfielder to turn past Virginia with a crisp, first-time strike.

The only question in the final 15 minutes was how big the margin of victory would be. James sliced a shot wide but Hudson-Odoi was in a less forgiving mood and added his second of the night and 10th in the cup run with another finish that typified coolness. Arsenal had given the ball away cheaply at the back and the Blues punished them to the maximum, with our recent first team debutant cutting inside from the left before rolling the ball into the bottom corner.

Only an impressive double stop from Virginia prevented further goals as Hudson-Odoi was denied a hat-trick and then Mola’s header was tipped over the crossbar by the Portuguese keeper. It meant the final score was 4-0 on the night, 7-1 on aggregate, our biggest ever victory in a Youth Cup final and our third trophy of the Under-18s season safely secured.

Chelsea (3-4-2-1) Jamie Cumming; Reece James (c), Marc Guehi, Jon Panzo; Dujon Sterling, Conor Gallagher (Clinton Mola 61), Billy Gimour, Juan Castillo; George McEachran (Tino Anjorin 61), Callum Hudson-Odoi; Daishawn Redan (Charlie Brown 71)
Unused subs Tariq Lamptey, Jake Askew
Scorers Gilmour 11; Hudson-Odoi 57, 78; Anjorin 67
Booked Gallagher 43; James 84

Arsenal Joao Virginia, Vontae Daley-Campbell, Dominic Thompson, Robbie Burton, Danny Ballard (c) (Zech Medley 77), Joseph Olowu, Bukayo Saka, James Olayinka, Tyreece John-Jules (Trae Coyle 71), Emile Smith-Rowe, Xavier Amaechi (Folarin Balogun 62)
Unused subs Daniel Barden, Matthew Smith
Booked Burton 84

Referee Tim Robinson
Crowd 3,877

The holders ended the half in the ascendancy and with one hand on the silverware. A narrow angle proved too much for Hudson-Odoi after a quick counter-attack had set him running forward with menace, while Guehi headed straight at the keeper and Panzo’s drive was blocked before the referee signalled for the break.

Arsenal restarted with purpose and a series of set-pieces sent into the six-yard box forced Cumming into work. The goalkeeper may have been concerned after failing to claim one high ball that eventually dropped at the feet of Saka but his effort failed to hit the target.

It was perhaps the story of the tie when Morris’s men went down the other end and made it 2-0 on the night, the Blues punishing our London rivals just when they appeared to be building a head of steam.

Hudson-Odoi was the goalscorer, claiming his ninth in seven Youth Cup games this season, but this was a team move crafted with great technical skill and sharp movement. Redan sprung the offside trap to attack from the right and although his cross evaded McEachran in the middle, there was no reprieve for Arsenal as Hudson-Odoi picked up the loose ball, glided past two defenders and picked his spot.

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