Our Under-19s kicked off their UEFA Youth League campaign with three points and an impressive performance at Cobham this afternoon (Wednesday).
An eventful first half saw the Blues take the lead inside 10 minutes as Izzy Brown (pictured above) finished from close range, before Maurice Multhaup levelled for the visitors five minutes later.
The hosts were back in front after half an hour as Dominic Solanke opened his European account, before Brown and defender Ola Aina added further goals after the break to give the youngsters a home victory in their first group stage game.
Only four of the side that started last season’s quarter-final defeat to the Germans were involved from the start for manager Adi Viveash’s first game in European competition. Ruben Loftus-Cheek continued in midfield alongside Charlie Colkett, while Charly Musonda, Jeremie Boga and Dominic Solanke supported captain Izzy Brown in attack.
At the back, there were first starts in the competition for Fikayo Tomori and Jay Dasilva, with Andreas Christensen and Ola Aina comprising the remainder of the defence, protecting Bradley Collins in goal.
The visitors also had four of last season’s quarter-final starting 11 beginning once again, including goalscorer Multhaup, while Germany Under-19 international Leroy Sane led the line up front.
Both sides began at a high intensity and Brown had an opportunity inside four minutes as he escaped in behind, though his attempted high finish over the onrushing Janik Schilder in the Schalke goal floated over the bar. Marius Schley fired wide for the Germans before the Blues broke the deadlock after nine minutes.
Brown lurked dangerously on the shoulder of the last defender and Solanke found him with a great pass over the top. The striker took the ball confidently on his chest, fashioning himself a great chance, and poked the ball past Schilder for the opener.
The game’s frenetic start didn’t abate with that goal and Schalke were quickly level. The hosts were caught in possession deep in their own half and last year’s semi-finalists capitalised as Multhaup picked up the ball and advanced towards goal. Aina was quick across the ground and looked to have dealt with the danger, though his clearance rebounded off the fortunate Multhaup and flew beyond Collins into the back of the net.
Chelsea didn’t lose confidence having conceded and stuck to their game plan, moving the ball forward quickly and looking to exploit spaces in behind. Colkett’s low free-kick was saved well by Schilder and the midfielder shot narrowly wide following a nice move forward before the hosts regained the lead.
Loftus-Cheek battled to win the ball back in his own penalty area before driving forward 60 yards and shifting it on to Musonda. The Belgian flighted a delightful diagonal ball forward to Solanke and the forward finished with confidence from close range to put his side back in front.
The Blues worked hard to keep their shape in the remainder of the half and defended strongly, with Aina in particular making some impressive challenges and interceptions, while Boga fired narrowly wide of the far post at the end of a typically mazy run as the half came to a close.
The first chance of the second period fell to Boga as he picked the ball up from Loftus-Cheek and beat three defenders as he cut infield from the left, though his final effort flew narrowly over the bar. However, the Schalke net was soon rippling again as the hosts grabbed a crucial third goal. Loftus-Cheek was the architect again, firstly winning possession and then advancing forward before releasing Brown to the left and the striker’s low left-foot effort was driven into the far corner.
Felix Schroter had a good chance to reduce the deficit but flashed his shot just wide from 10 yards, though Viveash’s side were having no such troubles in front of goal and had grabbed a fourth goal midway through the half. Colkett’s inswinging free-kick found Brown at the back post and only the base of the post denied the striker his hat-trick, though Aina (pictured below) was on hand to slam home the rebound.
The visitors were reduced to 10 men shortly afterwards as substitute Hendrik Lohmar picked up two bookings in quick succession, though the victory had long been secured by the Blues. Substitute Alex Kiwomya brought a routine save from Schilder shortly after his introduction, while Brown was denied a third goal by some good defending in the later stages as the hosts saw out the game with intelligence.
Next up for the Academy is an Under-18 league match against West Brom this Saturday 20 September, while the Under-21s are next in action the following Saturday 27 September as they continue their domestic league campaign at Leicester City. Our Under-19s face a trip to Sporting Lisbon in their second group stage encounter on Tuesday 30 September.
Viveash expressed pleasure at the victory and performance of his young players, highlighting their work off the ball as particularly impressive. Talking to the official Chelsea website afterwards, he said: ‘We spoke about Schalke's diamond midfield before the game and we worked on our shape yesterday with a 4-2-3-1 and a narrow three in midfield.
‘It was a challenge but I was pleased with the defensive side of our game and you could see at the end how hard the players had worked off the ball. We’re always going to be good in possession and create chances and some of the goals were of fantastic quality. On the few occasions they did break our block I thought Andreas and Ola were exceptional in dealing with one-on-ones and they got it right every single time.
‘I really enjoyed the tactical confrontation because I think they have an outstanding coach and he showed that last season so for me and the staff it was a great tactical challenge.’
With the game coming so soon after a physical encounter in the Under-21 league at Everton on Sunday, Viveash also paid tribute to the fitness levels of his players and praised the work of the medical department.
‘Ruben has played two 90 minutes on a Sunday and a Wednesday for the first time in a long while and that’s very encouraging. He was competing for a place with two of the best midfielders in the Under-21 league last season in Lewis Baker and John Swift and he had a difficult job getting in at times but this year he’s a main player. His run for the second goal was at a vital time for us; it was a brilliant burst forward and a fantastic goal.
‘Izzy Brown has played 60 minutes and 90 minutes and that’s a testament to his fitness and the work our medical team have done with him. I’m sure he’d like to dedicate those goals to them. I looked at him at Everton and thought he was talking really well so we gave him the captaincy today and he produced a real captain’s performance with two goals and leading the line superbly.
‘We’ve had two young full-backs involved who have stepped up another level and both were super so we’re pleased with them and this is a great competition for these boys. I expect to see a lot of Joe Edwards’ youth group involved before the end of the group stage because it’s about getting them experience on this stage, but firstly it’s about getting out of a very tough group so this is a good start for us.’
Chelsea Bradley Collins; Fikayo Tomori (Jake Clarke-Salter 71), Ola Aina, Andreas Christensen, Jay Dasilva; Charlie Colkett (Kasey Palmer 80), Ruben Loftus-Cheek; Charly Musonda (Alex Kiwomya 58), Dominic Solanke, Jeremie Boga; Izzy Brown (c).
Unused subs Jared Thompson, Ruben Sammut, Tammy Abraham, Ike Ugbo
Scorers Brown 9, 56; Solanke 30; Aina 68
Schalke Janik Schilder, Maurice Neubauer, John Malanga, Paul Stieber, Thilo Kehrer (c), Sven Kohler, Marius Schley (Hendrik Lohmar 46), Maurice Multhaup (Hari Coric 58), Leroy Sane, Felix Schroter (Oktawian Skrzecz 58) Felix Platte
Unused subs Leon Bruggemeier, Joshua Bittler, Michael Olczyk, Joseph Boyamba
Scorer Multhaup 14
Sent off Lohmar
Booked Neubauer, Lohmar
By Sam Poplett
- There are highlights of the game and post-match reaction avaialble now on Video on Demand.