On another big night for the Academy a professional second-half saw our youth team secure victory in the quarter-final of the FA Youth Cup at Stamford Bridge.
Armando Broja's second-half goal was the difference between the sides at the Bridge on a night when Chelsea's professional display earned a place in the semi-final of the FA Youth Cup.
Broja latched on to the end of a Marcel Lewis free-kick and tapped home from close range to seal the opening goal and victory. That was after many chances for the Blues missed the target but provided hope and the forward himself finding the net in the first half but the goal was disallowed. That clearly didn't dampen his nerves as his 20th goal of the season was the one important moment fromt the youth team's night at the Bridge.
Ed Brand started with an unchanged 11 to the side that began in the 7-0 thrashing of Wolves in the previous round. Tino Anjorin captained the team as part of a front three who had 10 goals between them in the competition thus far.
A thousand supporters from south London made for a good atmosphere under the Stamford Bridge lights and Chelsea got off to a strong start kicking towards The Shed End.
The first scoring opportunity of the game came inside the opening 10 minutes and went Chelsea’s way. Tino Livramento’s deflected effort whistled wide for a corner-kick following Ian Maatsen’s over-hit cross which found his wing-back partner at the far post.
With plenty of possession Brand’s team looked in control. Levi Colwill made a rare venture forward and received the ball from Anjorin inside the box, his tame shot curled nicely into the hands of keeper Leighton Fanshawe.
In the 19th minute Chelsea supporters thought they had seen an impressive breakthrough when Broja’s overhead kick nestled in the corner of the net. However, referee Tom Reeves had other ideas and was quick to blow his whistle and award Millwall a free-kick for a foul on the defender.
Broja was next to take aim, this time from a much closer distance, poor connection from our number nine made the ball bounce wide following Marcel Lewis’ low centre into the danger area. Chelsea had stepped the pressure on the Millwall defence up a notch as the search for a goal continued.
Millwall were yet to trouble our defence but a searching cross by Sean O’Brien required quick thinking from Henry Lawrence to foil the first visiting attack after 34 minutes.
Broja’s mazy run with the ball allowed another opening for Livramento to let fly, the unthreatening attempt crashed into the side netting. The Blues were left frustrated and goalless at the half-time interval with work to do upon their return to the pitch.
The second half followed a similar start to the first, Xavier Simons and Broja fired wide of the target but the possession stats were still firmly in our favour.
We were dealt a blow on the hour mark, Levi Colwill was down injured and unable to continue. Dion Rankine was sent on as his replacement which meant a slight reshuffle in the defence. Ian Maatsen shifted inside to become part of the back three and Rankine was positioned at wing-back.
We scored straight after the substitution. Lewis swung a wide free-kick into the area where Broja waited. He had enough time and composure to take a touch before finding the net through Fanshawe’s legs. That goal was the Albanian’s fifth of the Youth Cup campaign, 1-0 Chelsea.
Our goal clearly gave confidence to the rest of the team. First, Anjorin forced Fanshawe into a low save to his left before a misplaced defensive header gave Dynel Simeu the chance to score at the Bridge. The defender’s header was low and in the corner but Fanshawe again pushed the ball away.
Chelsea managed the single-goal lead well in the latter stages, limiting Millwall to attacks only from set-pieces. Bate and Simons in particular had provided a brilliant layer of protection for our defensive unit, who had been equally as solid throughout the evening.
After a flatter period in the game, Brand made his second change with Thierno Ballo taking to the Stamford Bridge turf in place of goalscorer Armando Broja, who with his 20th goal of the season tonight, ensured passage into the semi-final was safe for Chelsea where the winner of Manchester United and Wigan wait.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1) Jake Askew; Henry Lawrence, Dynel Simeu, Levi Colwill (Dion Rankine 61); Valentino Livramento, Lewis Bate, Xavier Simons, Ian Maatsen; Faustino Anjorin (c), Marcel Lewis; Armando Broja (Thierno Ballo 90)
Unused subs Sam McClelland, Ethan Wady, Bashir Humphreys, Myles Peart-Harris, Bryan Fiabema
Booked Simons 10
Scorer Broja 62
Millwall Leighton Fanshawe, Ben Bennett (Ezekiel Miller 24), Chibuike Exennolim, Jacob Munting, Alex Mitchell, Hayden Muller, Jay Barton (Oliver Bate 85), Alfie Allen (Tyrese Briscoe 68), Abdul Abdulmalik, Sean O’Brien, Nana Boateng
Unused subs Jordan Gillmore, Arthur Penney, Harry Brooke, George Walker
Booked Mitchell 57
Referee Tom Reeves