Under-18s head coach Hassan Sulaiman admits his team weren’t always at their best in the FA Youth Cup tie at Crystal Palace, but was pleased with the way the players were able to improve in the second half to secure the victory with two top-quality goals.

Just as in our previous two matches of this season’s FA Youth Cup, Chelsea faced a tricky away tie in the fifth round, but triumphed 2-1 at Crystal Palace to set up another tough trip to Millwall in the quarter-finals.

The win was secured with a pair of fine second-half goals – Jimmy-Jay Morgan finishing well following Reiss Denny’s strong run, before Tyrique George took full advantage of Denny’s quickly taken free-kick to smash in from distance.

It was game which left Under-18s head coach Hassan Sulaiman with mixed feelings, though, as his joy at the win was tempered by a below-par start and a nervy finish after Crystal Palace pulled a goal back with five minutes left.

‘First of all I was delighted to get the result and sometimes in a cup game the result is more important than the performance,’ said Sulaiman. ‘So looking at it that way, in the end it is obviously pleasing to come away with a 2-1 win.

‘There are games like that in cup competitions where you don’t play well and you lose. On this occasion we didn’t play the way we wanted but we won, so you have to take the positive.

‘But the game certainly didn’t start in the way that we wanted it to. We had a couple of moments in the first half, but the game plan didn’t go the way we wanted, we didn’t have as much control as we would have liked.

‘It was a bit scrappy in the first half but the pleasing thing was that we had to adapt, we had to stay resilient, stay focused and defend our box when Palace were able to build attacks. We were able to do that to go in at half-time with it 0-0.’

Sulaiman also knows there were extenuating circumstances to that first-half performance, as the pressure that comes with an away trip to play in front of a crowd at a first-team stadium in youth football’s most prestigious competition seemed to affect the players.

‘It was a good result at half-time considering we were playing away from home at Selhurst Park. There were almost 2,000 people at the game with a lot of excitement from their fans.

‘I think you could tell from the performance that some of the boys were nervous, which was natural with the excitement of the game and it being the first time many of them had played in a Premier League stadium. We weren’t brave on the ball, we weren’t our usual selves, which probably disappointed me the most as a coach.

‘I think they felt the pressure and they looked nervous. We addressed that at half-time. Feeling pressure is okay, it’s just that you have to use the pressure to your advantage. Soak it up, put the nerves to one side and display the confidence you need to go and perform at your best.’

However, the Blues were able to overcome those difficulties to up our game in the second half, with two moments which demonstrated the talent present in this Under-18s side ultimately deciding the match in our favour.

‘At half-time we said we needed to compete more, we needed to win 50-50 challenges, we needed to pick up more second balls, we needed to be brave in possession and play our way, impose our style on the game.

‘In the second half it was definitely better and we saw an improvement in the performance. That’s arguably why we managed to find a bit of quality and composure to score two goals. That was really pleasing because we took the goals quite well, with two assists by Reiss, a good finish by Jimmy-Jay and another cracking goal from 25 yards by Tyrique.’

Sulaiman finished by sharing his gratitude for the large number of staff members from across all our Academy age groups who added to the crowd at Selhurst Park to cheer on Chelsea Under-18s in the FA Youth Cup, believing they made an important contribution on the night.

‘You can see how prestigious a competition it is and what it means to everyone from the support of the Academy. It was brilliant having everyone there and I think that’s also one thing that spurred the boys on and gave them that extra bit of motivation they needed.

‘I think that real togetherness in the Academy helped to galvanise the boys when they lacked a little bit of confidence and were finding it tough.’

No doubt that support will be felt again when we make another short trip to south London to face Milwall in the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals.