The Chelsea Under-19s booked a place in Monday’s UEFA Youth League final with a dominant victory in Switzerland on Friday afternoon.
Roma defended strongly in the first half but three goals in nine minutes after the restart ensured Adi Viveash’s side progressed.
Charlie Colkett’s deflected shot opened the scoring in the 47th minute before a brace from Dominic Solanke put the young Blues in control of the tie. Substitute Tammy Abraham added a late fourth to reward a performance in which we had created plenty and controlled throughout.
The young Blues will now face Shakhtar Donetsk in Monday’s final after the Ukrainians beat Anderlecht 3-1 in the day’s earlier semi-final. That game will again held at the Colvoray Stadium in Nyon opposite UEFA headquarters, with kick-off at 3pm UK time.
There were two changes from the side that started the quarter-final win over Atletico Madrid a month previously, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Charly Musonda coming into the team. Christensen, who started in midfield that day, partnered Jake Clarke-Salter in central defence, with Ola Aina and Jay Dasilva at right-back and left-back respectively.
Loftus-Cheek was joined in midfield by Charlie Colkett and Musonda, the latter operating in the no.10 role. Dominic Solanke led the line up front supported from out wide by Jeremie Boga and captain Izzy Brown.
Roma’s team featured two starters with first team experience in striker Toni Sanabria and wideman Daniele Verde.
The tie started in a cagey fashion although the Blues made much of the early progress, with Brown’s low effort winning a third-minute corner that was defended well by the Italians. Then Colkett’s drive from distance tested the handling of Gabriele Marchegiani in the Roma goal.
Sanabria’s header following Francesco Di Mariano’s corner might have caused a problem were it directed either side of Collins, and the Chelsea keeper was needed once more to punch away an in-swinging free-kick from Verde.
Brown (pictured below) then forced two low saves in quick succession as Viveash’s side continued to probe for the breakthrough. In the 35th minute, a move inspired by Boga ought to have resulted in a Chelsea penalty. The Frenchman burst into the box and exchanged passes with Brown before beating Marchegiani to the return and being felled by the goalkeeper. The Spanish referee, however, waved away the appeals.
Loftus-Cheek’s deflected shot flew over and Musonda’s arrowing free-kick was well held by Marchegiani before Colkett’s strike whistled past the far post. Roma gave a reminder of their threat as skipper Lorenzo Pellegrini struck a low effort just wide and Clarke-Salter (pictured below) executed a perfectly-timed sliding challenge in the box in the late moments of the half.
The young Blues had shown patience with much of their attacking play in the opening half and their efforts were rewarded with two goals within four minutes of the restart. The first was fashioned by persistent work from Brown, the ball falling to Colkett after the captain’s run into the box, and the midfielder’s low strike deflected off a defender to wrong-foot the goalkeeper.
The lead was swiftly doubled as Chelsea grabbed a stranglehold on the semi-final tie. Christensen’s long ball forward had Solanke chasing and the striker beat Marchegiani to the bouncing ball before rolling it confidently into the empty net.
Viveash’s men had added a more ruthless final product to their play in the second half and they soon grabbed a third goal. Colkett found space in the box and his header from Boga’s left-sided centre was spilled by the goalkeeper, who was punished as Solanke prodded in the loose ball. It was an 11th UEFA Youth League goal of the season for the 17-year-old, the competition’s leading goalscorer.
Roma’s threat was largely restricted to set-pieces and Verde forced a good save from Collins with a stinging free-kick from the edge of the box after 66 minutes. Chelsea had generally controlled the game though and continued to look dangerous, with Musonda’s left-footed drive whistling inches wide and Loftus-Cheek’s rising effort flying over the bar.
Substitutes Abraham and Kasey Palmer combined to fashion a chance for the latter, whose shot into the ground was pushed away by Marchegiani and narrowly evaded the alert Solanke in the six-yard box. The two did craft a goal moments later as Abraham (pictured below) turned in the midfielder’s cross from the left at the near post. It rounded off an emphatic performance and sends them into Monday’s final full of confidence.
A 90-minute re-run of today’s game will be shown on Chelsea TV tonight at 11pm, with exclusive reaction from the Blues camp.
Chelsea Bradley Collins; Ola Aina (Fikayo Tomori 89), Andreas Christensen, Jake Clarke-Salter, Jay Dasilva; Charlie Colkett, Ruben Loftus-Cheek; Izzy Brown (c), Charly Musonda (Tammy Abraham 75), Jeremie Boga (Kasey Palmer 71), Dominic Solanke.
Unused subs Jared Thompson, Ali Suljic, Kyle Scott, Ike Ugbo
Scorers Colkett 47; Solanke 49, 56; Abraham 83
Roma Gabriele Marchegiani, Silvio Anocic (Stefano Ciavattini 89), Arturo Calabresi, Daniele Verde, Lorenzo Pellegrini (c), Toni Sanabria (Tomas Vestenicky h/t), Francesco Di Mariano (Emanuele Ndoj 77), Andrea Paolelli, Riccardo Marchizza, Christian D’Urso, Jose Machin
Unused subs Ionut Pop, Eros De Santis, Matteo Adamo, Stefano Ciavattini, Edoardo Soleri
Booked Pellegrini, Di Mariano, Anocic
By Sam Poplett