Chelsea's FA Youth Cup campaign came to a heartbreaking end as we were defeated on penalties after more than two hours of gruelling football at The Den failed to determine a winner.

A physical Millwall side made it difficult for Chelsea Under-18s to find our rhythm at The Den in this FA Youth Cup quarter-final.

We did manage to find the opening goal, when Harrison Murray-Campbell squeezed the ball in from a corner, but less than five minutes later it was level again, as a slip at the back allowed Jack Howland to pounce for the equaliser.

Both teams had chances to win it, with clearances off the line at either end and Tyrique George hitting the post in extra-time, but after going all the way the match was decided in a shootout. It was cruel on an exhausted bunch of players, but Millwall emerged the winners as Leo Cardoso's effort was saved and Michael Golding shot over the bar.

Tight tie from the off

Millwall showed their threat on the counter early, Travis Akomeah needing to make a strong block six yards out to prevent Kavalli Heywood from testing goalkeeper Max Merrick inside the first five minutes.

Our over-eagerness to get back on the ball quickly was giving Millwall opportunities to deliver set-pieces, although for a moment it looked like Chelsea had been awarded a penalty. The Millwall keeper couldn’t hold Reiss Denny’s low drive and brought down Jimmy-Jay Morgan in trying to gather the loose ball. The referee blew his whistle, but it was for the raised offside flag, not a spot-kick.

It remained a fairly even game, the home side packing out the middle of the pitch to stop us playing through. Merrick then had to produce a good save to keep out Adedapo Olugbodi’s powerful header at a corner. That heralded a strong period for the Lions, as we had some tough defending to do and struggled to carry possession into Millwall territory.

However, the Blues were unlucky not to go into the break with the lead. A nice move ended with Denny finding Tyrique George on the left and his low cross presented Harrison McMahon with a great opportunity. The captain got over the ball and beat the keeper, but defender Olugbodi was in position to clear off the line.

The second half continued to the pattern of the first, an even tie with very little time on the ball for either team. There were a couple of minor openings at either end, but none producing a clear chance, until Denny’s header was hacked away on the line from a George corner.

Goals arrive

Soon afterwards that route did pay off with the opening goal. Another corner was swung in towards the back post, where it was met by Harrison Murray-Campbell and sent towards goal. It took a ricochet off the goalkeeper as a bundle of bodies hit the deck on the line, but this time it bounced in.

Chelsea weren’t allowed to hold that lead for long, as Millwall hit back quickly. There was an even bigger slice of luck for the home side’s goal, as Somto Boniface slipped when intercepting a heavy touch by George Beaumont and the ball to broke perfectly for Jack Howland to score.

George’s quick feet gave him a sight of goal in the box, but the angle was against him and the keeper was able to turn it around the front post for a corner. It looked like that might be the last chance of the 90, and it was, but in the eighth added minute Merrick produced a piece of goalkeeping heroics to rush out and block Elidon O’Boyle’s shot one-on-one, and then Murray-Campbell headed a corner off the line with the last touch before the end.

On to extra time

That meant we were heading for another 30 minutes of extra time, in a gruelling match which had plenty of effort, but was lacking that moment of quality to swing things one way or the other, with several players starting to suffer from cramp.

Both teams came close to finding an extra-time winner, Murray-Campbell clearing off the line following a set-piece with Merrick beaten, before George struck the right-hand post with a lovely curling effort from just inside the box.

With the two sets of players looking exhausted there was to be no dramatic extra-time winner, although Chelsea went close when Ishe Samuels-Smith's deflected cross nearly crept in at the back post, meaning this quarter-final would be decided in a penalty shootout.

Unfortunately, it was Chelsea who lost the lottery from 12 yards, as Leo Cardoso saw his effort saved and Michael Golding fired just over the bar, while Millwall found the net with all four of their efforts.

The shootout

Howland – scores low to the left – 1-0
Harrison – hits the exact same spot of the net as Howland – 1-1
Maciocia – Scores in the top-right corner – 2-1
Cardoso – Saved low to the left – 2-1
Heywood – In off the crossbar – 3-1
George – Calmly sends to keeper the wrong way and scores to the right – 3-2
Stephenson – Scores to Merrick’s right – 4-2
Golding – Shoots over the bar – 4-2

What it means

With our Under-18s' FA Youth Cup and Premier League Cup campaigns coming to an end in the quarter-finals, all our attention will now turn to our league title challenge.

What is next

The Blues will need to recover quickly from tonight's exertions, with an Under-18 Premier League home game against Aston Villa to come on Saturday 24 February, with kick-off at midday.

The teams

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Max Merrick; Josh-Kofi Acheampong, Travis Akomeah, Harrison Murray-Campbell, Somto Boniface (Ishe Samuels-Smith 99); Ollie Harrison, Kiano Dyer (Leo Cardoso 76); Harrison McMahon (c), Reiss Denny (Frankie Runham 62), Tyrique George; Jimmy-Jay Morgan (Michael Golding 90+7)
Unused subs: Luke Campbell, Kaiden Wilson, Shaun Wade
Scorer: Murray-Campbell 66
Booked: Runham 105+2

Millwall (4-4-2): Albert Penney; Elias Mansor, Harvey Whiteman, Joshua Stephenson (c), Adedapo Olugbodi; Jack Howland, Alfie Massey (Sacha Vieira 107), Frankie Maciocia, George Beaumont (Sheldon Kendall 73); Elidon O’Boyle, Kavalli Heywood
Unused subs: Jakub Przewozny, Dean Forbes, Jaydon Thomas-Smith, Jayden Tektas, Oliver Whitby
Scorer: Howland 71
Booked: Olugbodi 39, Maciocia 90+6