As our youngsters prepare to fly out to Switzerland for the UEFA Youth League semi-finals, the official Chelsea website takes a look at their journey to the last four of this sixth edition of the Under-19 European competition.
For the first time in five years of involvement, our campaign began in the pathway running parallel to the UEFA Champions League-mirrored group stage. Introduced in 2015, the Domestic Champions path allows the domestic youth champions of the 32 best-ranked UEFA associations to take part in the competition, if they are not already involved courtesy of their senior team’s Champions League qualification. The young Blues met the criteria after winning the Under-18 Premier League national final last term.
Chelsea 14 Molde 1
After suffering heartbreak in the previous campaign’s final at the hands of Barcelona, Joe Edwards’s side sent a strong message right from the start of this two-legged contest, racing into a 7-0 half-time lead at Cobham.
Hat-tricks from Daishawn Redan and Billy Gilmour helped us on the way to recording our biggest-ever Academy win in European competition, ensuring a straight-forward second leg in Scandinavia. Charlie Brown hit a hat-trick three weeks later as a much-changed team won 4-0 in Norway to secure a comprehensive aggregate victory.
Chelsea 9 Elfsborg 0
An away trip up first presented different challenges in the second knockout round, with Edwards’s boys requiring patience and professionalism in the chilly Swedish climes. An early goal from Brown, the competition’s leading scorer, broke the deadlock but the visitors were unable to build on that early advantage until two further strikes in the last five minutes.
The victory was more routine back at Cobham as the youngsters netted six in the space of 42 minutes either side of the interval.
Chelsea 3 Monaco 1
A successful navigation through the Domestic Champions path took the Blues into a play-off tie against a group stage runner-up. Monaco had finished two points behind Atletico Madrid before Christmas and arrived in England with plenty of pedigree.
It took a mature and measured performance from the hosts to advance, demonstrating defensive resilience in the face of a quick start from the Frenchmen before finding final-third quality with three excellent goals scored by Conor Gallagher, a brilliant free-kick, and another Brown brace.
Chelsea 2 Montpellier 1
Further French resistance stood in our way at the last-16 stage as Montpellier, conquerors of Benfica in the play-off round, frustrated Edwards’s side for three-quarters of the contest before Juan Castillo broke the deadlock with 18 minutes remaining.
However, Montpellier restored parity quickly as a free-kick floated all the way through our 18-yard-box and into the back of the net. With penalties looming, captain Luke McCormick stepped up to fire us through, volleying in a brilliant left-footed strike.
Chelsea 2 Dinamo Zagreb 2 (4-2 on pens)
By far our most nervy game en route to the finals weekend came in the quarter-final at the start of April, with Dinamo establishing a 2-0 lead at Cobham. Yet McCormick came to our rescue with two goals in the final 13 minutes to take the tie to penalties.
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The nerves of a shootout were barely evident as the Blues stepped up to convert in increasingly extravagant fashion, with Gallagher finding the back of the net with a panenka and then Marc Guehi beating the keeper with an effort that didn’t even require a run-up.
A 4-2 lead gave Karlo Ziger the chance to turn hero and our Croatian spurned his countrymen with two terrific saves to send us back to Nyon, the Swiss town in which UEFA headquarters are based, for the semi-finals.
It’s Londoners against Catalans in Friday’s second semi-final at the Colovray Stadium, a rematch of the 2018 final and a meeting between the UEFA Youth League’s two most successful participants.
Both Chelsea and Barcelona have lifted the trophy on two occasions each since the competition was created six years ago, the latter most recently 12 months ago after beating Edwards’s side 3-0. Will the Blues avenge that painful defeat this time around and progress to their fourth final? Kick-off on Friday is 5pm (UK time) and live on BT Sport 1.
2018/19 UYL Goalscorers
Brown 11, Gilmour 4 (1 pen), Redan 4, McCormick 3, Castillo 2, McEachran 2, Anjorin 1, Gallagher 1, Uwakwe 1, OG 1
2018/19 UYL Appearances
Brown 7, Colley 7, Maatsen 7, Castillo 6, Gallagher 6, Lamptey 6, McEachran 5+1, Redan 5+1, Gilmour 5, Guehi 5, Lavinier 1+3, Wakely 2+1, Mola 0+3, Nunn 0+3, Russell 0+3, Anjorin 2, McCormick 2, Uwakwe 2, Ballo 1+1, Lewis 0+2, Livramento 1, Lawrence 0+1, Simeu 0+1