Our defence of the FA Youth Cup continues to the last-four after our Under-18s edged a tight contest at the King Power Stadium.
The holders were frustrated for long periods but found the tie’s solitary goal midway through the second half when Ike Ugbo (pictured top) powered in a header from Reece James’s cross. Still having not conceded in the competition, Jody Morris’s side progress to make an eighth consecutive semi-final appearance.
Morris made two changes from our 4-0 win against Sheffield Wednesday in round five as Josh Grant and George McEachran replaced Luke McCormick and Joseph Colley in the side, with the Blues retaining their 4-3-3 shape.
The two sides had met just four days previously in the Under-18 Premier League but only 10 of the starters from that encounter, a 3-0 Chelsea win, started at the King Power, three for the visitors and seven for the hosts. Layton Ndukwu was one of the Leicester quartet drafted into the side and he fired the first shot at goal after five minutes, a speculative strike from over 40 yards out that sailed narrowly wide of Jared Thompson’s right post.
A first Chelsea effort was fashioned a few moments later as Mason Mount, our skipper and scorer in each of the previous three rounds, received a pass from Jacob Maddox before firing inches beyond the far post. Mount then turned supplier as he delivered an inviting cross for Ugbo, though the striker’s header was comfortable for Leicester keeper Cameron Yates.
Morris’s men were far from their flowing best in the early stages but continued to fashion opportunities. George McEachran, operating in the number 10 midfield role behind Ugbo, shot wide with his weaker right foot before Sterling headed straight at Yates following Grant’s centre from the left flank.
Much of the holders’ inventiveness came from Mount and he produced a lovely piece of skill to work some space on the edge of the box before seeing his shot charged down. It was such defensive resilience that typified Leicester’s first-half display as they rose highest to win headers in the 18-yard box and got bodies constantly in the way of any Chelsea progress.
The Blues had not conceded in the competition coming into the tie but were sufficiently concerned on the half-hour mark as Leicester advanced with Kairo Arlott-Edwards through the middle. The forward moved threateningly towards goal but was marshalled well by Chalobah, whose block took the sting out of the shot and allowed Thompson to routinely gather.
It was the final sight at goal for either team in the first period as we struggled to build up a head of steam or settle into our usual pattern of play. Leicester restarted brighter following the restart and hit the woodwork four minutes into the second half as Arlott-Edwards’s deflected shot on the turn bounced back off the near post.
Chalobah then had to thwart the advances of the striker down the right channel as he latched on to Ndukwu’s forward pass, before Alex Pascanu’s header from the resulting corner was cleared to safety.
Morris felt compelled to make a change and introduced Tariq Uwakwe for McEachran, with Maddox moving further forward. Yet it was in wide areas that the Blues began to threaten as Hudson-Odoi skipped away from two defenders down the left before standing up a cross to the back post, where a stretching Ugbo could only head into the side netting.
Two minutes later, the supply came from the right wing and Ugbo this time made no mistake in the air. James supplied the delivery, a clipped cross placed perfectly for the striker to run on to and power a header into the bottom corner (pictured below). It was his 13th goal of the campaign, his fourth in the Youth Cup run so far.
Despite breaking the deadlock, the visitors were well aware their evening’s work was far from over. Thompson did well to read the danger and punch clear a dangerous looping cross and those in front of him marshalled the Foxes well as the clock ticked down.
Down the other end, Maddox almost made it 2-0 as a short corner was worked out to him 25 yards out, though the midfielder’s deflected effort towards the far corner was pushed expertly behind by Yates. From the following corner, Ugbo found space but could not threaten the goalkeeper with his header.
Experienced at seeing such knockout games through the final stages, we did well to keep the ball away from our goal in the latter minutes, with the running of substitute Martell Taylor-Crossdale down the left useful in relieving pressure and gaining ground.
The referee’s whistle after five minutes of added time signalled the end of our toughest test on this Youth Cup run, albeit one successfully navigated by our youngsters, who will now face a two-legged semi-final as they bid to win the competition for the fourth year in a row.
Chelsea (4-3-3) Jared Thompson; Reece James, Marc Guehi, Trevoh Chalobah, Josh Grant; Jacob Maddox, Mason Mount (c), George McEachran (Tariq Uwakwe 58); Dujon Sterling (Martell Taylor-Crossdale 81), Ike Ugbo, Callum Hudson-Odoi (Conor Gallagher 90+2)
Unused subs Richard Nartey, Jamie Cumming
Scorer Ugbo 66
Leicester City Cameron Yates (c); Simran Thandi, Alex Pascanu, Darnell Johnson, Calvin Ughelumba; Morgan Brown, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Lamine Sherif; Layton Ndukwu, Kairo Arlott-Edwards, Kanya Leshabela (Harrison Myring 76)
Unused subs George Heaven, Adam Harrison, Cal Templeton, Conor Tee
Referee Mark Haywood