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UEFA Youth League report: Chelsea 1 Valencia 1 (5-3 on pens)

Chelsea Under-19s booked themselves a place in the UEFA Youth League quarter-finals after a penalty shootout victory over Valencia.

The Blues took the lead through Jay Dasilva (pictured top being congratulated) but a lively end to the first half saw the Spaniards level from the penalty spot in added time. Valencia then missed a second penalty in the 83rd minute as the tie required a shootout to determine a winner.

The visitors complained strongly when their first spot-kick was ruled as a miss despite having clearly crossed the line and rebounded back off the stanchion. However, we were flawless from 12 yards as we booked a home tie against either Lyon or Ajax in the last eight.

Adi Viveash made five changes from his side’s last outing in this competition back in December, a 0-0 home draw against Porto that came once qualification from the group stage had been confirmed. Ola Aina, Fikayo Tomori, Kyle Scott, Jacob Maddox and Tammy Abraham all returned to the starting team as the manager reverted to a 4-2-3-1 shape.

Aina and Tomori joined Jake Clarke-Salter and Trevoh Chalobah in a back four protecting Bradley Collins in goal, while Scott partnered Mukhtar Ali at the base of central midfield. Tammy Abraham, the competition’s joint-second highest goalscorer this season with seven goals, led the line up front supported by Maddox and Dasilva from the right and left respectively. Kasey Palmer operated in the number 10 role.

Valencia had finished as runners-up in the group stage before defeating Celtic on penalties in the playoff round and they started brightly in the Cobham sunshine. The hosts defended a few early corners strongly before striker Antonio Martinez fired the game’s first clear-cut chance over the crossbar on the volley.

The young Blues contained their Spanish counterparts well for the opening period before growing into the encounter. They seemed keen to exploit the high line of Valencia’s defence, with the visitors pressing routinely and with intensity.

Ola Aina on the ball

Abraham looked to spring the offside trap but was caught out by the linesman’s flag on two occasions, before turning provider after 25 minutes as he flicked the ball on for Palmer to chase. The midfielder raced clear and composed himself before placing his finish to the left of goalkeeper Antonio Sivera, though the effort bounced back off the post with the stopper beaten.

Valencia’s game plan continued to restrict the holders of possession and they went close before the break as Fran Villalba’s rising strike flew marginally over Collins’s bar. Marcos Ferris defended well on the cover from full-back to thwart Abraham’s progress towards goal before Rafael Mir carved out the best opportunity of the half moments before the interval. He found space down the right and fizzed in a low cross that Antonio Martinez could only prod wide as he stretched.

That spurned opportunity was punished by the Blues down the other end as we took the lead with 44 minutes on the clock. Maddox found space after drifting infield from the right flank and advanced towards goal before firing straight at Sivera, though Dasilva was on hand following in and turned the rebound into an unguarded net.

Kasey Palmer takes a shot in the first half

It seemed Viveash’s side would take a slender lead into the break, however there was further drama before the half-time whistle as Valencia were awarded a penalty in added time. Chalobah’s sliced clearance flew high into the air and Collins’s punch clear was dangerous as he caught Mir across the head. The Swiss official pointed to the spot and Carlos Soler stepped up to level the scores with the final action of note of the half.

Mir shot wildly over but it was the hosts who came out for the second half the brighter as they began to dominate possession and control the game. Charlie Colkett’s introduction shortly after the hour mark was designed to exploit our ascendancy and we soon carved out a great opportunity to go back in front.

Abraham held the ball up strongly once more and this time found the brilliant supporting run of Maddox down the right channel. The 17-year-old had time to pick his spot but he drilled a low effort a foot wide of the far post.

Colkett then fashioned a chance for Abraham with a deep inswinging free-kick from the right but the striker’s finish on the volley at the back post flew agonisingly wide once again. Valencia remained a threat on the break and might have taken the lead after 70 minutes as substitute Ismael Martinez escaped unchecked through the middle, though his final effort lacked conviction and Collins was able to parry behind.

Maddox’s forward pass for Abraham carried slightly too much weight as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes and a penalty shootout. The referee did award another penalty before the tie reached that decisive stage, with the visitors benefiting once more with seven minutes remaining.

The foul was given, after much deliberation, against Clarke-Salter for contact on Antonio Martinez after the forward had fired wide. His namesake Ismael Martinez stepped up but blazed high over the bar in a huge let-off for the hosts.

The stakes were high in the final minutes with either goal sure to be the winner. Clarke-Salter headed over Palmer’s right-sided corner and then stretched for another deep Colkett free-kick but the sides could not be separated in regulation time and a shootout was required to determine the quarter-finalists.

The drama intensified as the battle resumed from 12 yards; Colkett fired into the back of the net with the first kick before controversy reigned as Alberto Gil’s effort was ruled as a miss despite having crossed the line and rebounded back off metal inside the goal. 

Regardless, the holders were flawless from the spot as Mount, Scott, Palmer and then Abraham netted to send us into the quarter-finals once again. We will host Lyon or Ajax in the next round, which is due to be played on 8/9 March.

The Chelsea v Valencia game can be seen in full on Chelsea TV at 11pm.

Tammy Abraham converts the decisive penalty

Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Bradley Collins; Ola Aina, Fikayo Tomori, Jake Clarke-Salter (c), Trevoh Chalobah (Charlie Colkett 63); Mukhtar Ali, Kyle Scott; Jacob Maddox (Mason Mount 83), Kasey Palmer, Jay Dasilva; Tammy Abraham
Unused subs Nathan Baxter, Josimar Quintero, Joseph Colley, Isaac Christie-Davies, Ruben Sammut
Scorer Dasilva 44
Booked Chalobah, Collins, Clarke-Salter, Palmer

Valencia (4-3-3) Antonio Sivera; Marcos Ferris, Mariano Konyk, Carlos Badal, Lato; Carlos Soler, Alvaro Gomez Martin (c), Fran Villalba (Gonzalo Villar 65); Rafael Mir, Antonio Martinez (Alberto Gil 83), Sito (Ismael Martinez 40)
Unused subs
Esteve Pena, Joaquin Reig, Luis Prados, Francisco Llamas
Scorer Soler (pen) 45+1
Booked Ferris, Badal, Lato

Referee Adrien Jaccottet (SUI)

Pictures courtesy of Mark Sandom

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