Our Under-18s were crowned FA Youth Cup champions for the fourth year in a row when they beat Manchester City 5-1 at Stamford Bridge this evening (Wednesday).
The Chelsea Academy have made this trophy their own in recent history, this success their fifth in six years, with City the beaten opponents in each of the previous three finals. The result was rarely in doubt from the moment Trevoh Chalobah headed us in front after seven minutes. Ike Ugbo made it 2-0 with an acrobatic finish before the visitors briefly rallied and pulled a goal back through Lukas Nmecha early in the second half.
However, further strikes from Callum Hudson-Odoi, Dujon Sterling and Cole Dasilva put the seal on another emphatic display on the big stage from our youngsters, who continue their chase for a domestic Treble.
Manager Jody Morris made one change from the first leg and it was a switch between the sticks as Jamie Cumming came into the side.
City were unchanged from the 1-1 draw in Manchester but it was the hosts who started with the familiarity of the big occasion. Hudson-Odoi, the schoolboy forward so influential in league and cup in recent weeks, was chief instigator of the early warning signs as his sweeping pass to the right found Sterling. The wing-back advanced into the box but saw his left-footed effort palmed behind by Arijanet Muric, the visiting keeper then saving again from Jacob Maddox as the Blues played a short corner to the edge of the box.
It was from the following corner that Morris’s men struck the first blow. Mason Mount swung the ball in from the right and Chalobah sprung highest from a standing start, thumping an emphatic header into the top corner.
Muric continued to act the busier of the two keepers as he fell down to smother Mount’s curling strike from the edge of the 18-yard box after the Chelsea captain had cleverly escaped the attention of a few defenders. The Swiss teenager then raced off his line to steal the ball away from Ugbo after the striker had been set clear by an excellent pass down the right channel from Reece James.
City started to settle and enjoy more possession but the home side remained the team carrying the greater threat. Hudson-Odoi’s dribbling potency caused headaches for the defenders after a quarter of an hour as he accelerated towards goal from halfway but his advances were eventually snuffed out.
Yet the Blues were soon 2-0 up on the night, 3-1 ahead on aggregate, as Sterling utilised all his pace and power to burst past Tyreke Wilson down the right touchline before delivering an inviting cross towards Ugbo. The pass was perhaps slightly behind the striker but he improvised expertly to acrobatically guide the ball beyond Muric with his back to goal. It was an accomplished finish from a forward in form, his sixth goal in four games and a 10th in this Cup run.
The visitors had been beaten on this ground at this stage in each of the past two seasons and the two-goal deficit seemed to deflate their hopes of changing that sequence. Muric clawed the ball desperately away from Ugbo in the air as Morris urged his young charges not to ease off with the interval approaching and with City finally starting to threaten.
They fired their first strike at goal moments before the break but Cumming was equal to Nmecha’s curling effort and sprung to his left to push the attempt away from danger. Marc Guehi then thwarted the striker in the box as City ended the half with a timely reminder that the contest could still be recovered.
The second period started with a bang and openings at both ends. Phil Foden, goalscorer in the first leg, fashioned some space for himself but shanked his shot wide before Muric saved from Hudson-Odoi, who placed his shot too close to the goalkeeper after City had surrendered possession cheaply in their own half.
The owner, directors and manager Antonio Conte were onlookers from the stand. John Terry and Frank Lampard also watched on.
There was a let-off for the Blues as City immediately broke forward on the break and Nmecha bore down on goal from the left but his effort was uncharacteristically awry and flew wide of the near post. Level with Ugbo on 10 goals in the competition, Nmecha would not be so forgiving with his next sight at goal as City reduced the deficit after 52 minutes. Smith clipped a pass forward and the striker controlled on his chest before side-footing into the corner.
It was the first serious question asked of the holders on the night and their response was typical of a side that have dominated in this competition in recent years. The two-goal lead was restored within eight minutes and Hudson-Odoi was the man celebrating a deserved goal in the final. He picked up possession in between City’s midfield and defence, an area he had caused problems in all evening, and skipped past a defender before firing into the back of the net off the far post for his third Youth Cup goal of the season.
If that didn’t take the winds out of the visitors’ sails, then Sterling’s goal moments later certainly did. The 18-year-old retrieved the ball on the right touchline and made his way directly towards goal, advancing unchallenged before picking his spot and placing a finish inside the near post. It was a goal that even brought a celebratory embrace in the stands from the onlooking owner and first team manager.
Morris’s boys were 25 minutes away from another SW6 trophy presentation. Cumming gathered routinely from Foden, while Hudson-Odoi went close to a second as he poked the ball narrowly wide on the stretch following Mount’s tee-up. Ugbo’s rising strike flew narrowly over before substitute Dasilva put the icing on the trophy-winning cake late on, tucking in the rebound after George McEachran’s shot had been spilled.
It marked another five-star display from our talented Academy boys, who can claim to be England’s finest for another year.
Chelsea (3-4-3) Jamie Cumming; Reece James, Trevoh Chalobah, Marc Guehi; Dujon Sterling, Jacob Maddox, Tariq Uwakwe (George McEachran 81), Juan Castillo; Mason Mount (c), Ike Ugbo (Martell Taylor-Crossdale 78), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Cole Dasilva 84)
Unused subs Marcin Bulka, Conor Gallagher
Scorers Chalobah 7; Ugbo 24; Hudson-Odoi 60; Sterling 66; Dasilva 87
Manchester City (4-3-3) Arijanet Muric; Demeaco Duhaney, Sadou Diallo, Ed Francis (c), Tyreke Wilson; Jacob Davenport (Luke Bolton h/t), Matt Smith, Phil Foden; Brahim Diaz (Tom Dele-Bashiru 81), Lukas Nmecha, Jadon Sancho (Lorenzo Gonzalez 78)
Unused subs Jeremie Frimpong, Pawel Sokol
Scorer Nmecha 52
Referee Oliver Langford