They had to wait a year and three days for payback but Chelsea Under-19s fought bravely and played brilliantly in defeating Barcelona in the UEFA Youth League semi-finals, avenging last season’s defeat to the Catalans in the competition final.
Equalisers from Luke McCormick and Charlie Brown earned a 2-2 draw after 90 minutes and Joe Edwards’s side triumphed on penalties again, just like in the quarter-final at the start of the month and in the semis a year ago. Brown, Joseph Colley, Billy Gilmour, Ian Maatsen and Tino Anjorin all converted from 12 yards before Karlo Ziger provided the heroics again, saving from Juan Miranda to send the Blues into Monday’s final against Porto.
After the game, Colley admitted it had been a long wait for revenge but praised the resilience of the team. The Swedish defender was an unused substitute when Barca beat us 3-0 in the 2018 final.
‘We’ve been waiting for this moment for a very long time so to win the way we did feels really good,’ he stated. ‘I remember last year when we played them in the final and we didn’t enjoy that day. When we knew we were going to play them again, everyone was ready and we were ready for everything.
‘We’re a real team. We all believe in each other and we know that, even if we go behind, we will come back again. They scored one, we came back, they scored again and we came back again. We knew that we were going to have opportunities and that we were going to score them.’
Gilmour was not involved in last year’s final but the Scottish midfielder has featured throughout this campaign and stepped up with a big performance in the heart of the team. It was the 17-year-old’s cross, perfectly weighted into the six-yard box, that set up the chance eventually rifled into the roof of the net by Brown with five minutes remaining, before he stepped up to coolly convert from the spot.
‘What a feeling it is, to come here and beat Barcelona,’ the teenager reflected afterwards with a grin on his face. ‘You can’t write us off, you have to wait right until that final whistle goes because we always come back. You saw it against Dinamo Zagreb and now you’ve seen it against Barcelona, which is what teams worry about against us.
‘There were a few nerves in the first half but after half-time we were brilliant and we had chances at the end to win it even before penalties. We’re all confident in shoot-outs now and Karlo was amazing with the save again.
‘You have to give him credit because he takes a lot of time watching the little things like the stance and the run-ups of players. It’s full credit to all the boys because we showed a lot of confidence in such a big game.’
The Blues go for a record third Under-19 title in Monday’s UEFA Youth League final against Porto. Kick-off is at 5pm UK time and the game is live on BT Sport.