Chelsea’s Under-18s fell short of their 10th FA Youth Cup triumph in a dramatic delayed final at St George’s Park on Monday night.
Marcel Lewis put our youngsters ahead in the first half but after being pegged back soon after, we were level at half-time. It didn’t last long though as Manchester City found the lead following the restart. Lewis was involved again for our second, his shot deflecting off a City defender and into the net to level things up, setting the tie up for a tense finale.
Sadly it would be City who struck in time to clinch the win and the title, Cole Palmer with the damaging effort which found the back of the net six minutes from time, leaving little time for a Chelsea reply.
‘The lads are gutted in there,’ said Brand following the final whistle. ‘I thought it was a very even final against two good teams but unfortunately someone has got to come out on the wrong side of it and that was us tonight.
‘Without the ball, we started well and that’s something we had been working on. With the ball I think it looked like a typical final - both teams were cagey, trying to feel their way into the game and I thought as we got a little bit better on the ball things would start to happen for us.
Read: FA Youth Cup final match report
‘In the second half, the character we showed after going 2-1 down was good. We got the ball down and started to play and after going level at 2-2 I fancied us to nick it but it wasn’t to be.
‘We’ve got to marry up the difference between winning and development. Tonight we haven’t got the win so we have to take other things out of the game, learn from this and develop as a group and as players.’
Lewis Bate was handed the armband as a reward for his impressive performances leading up to the final and Brand highlighted the young midfielder's showing in his post-game interview, before praising his whole squad and reflecting his pride as their coach.
‘There were some really good performances out there. Lewis Bate has been outstanding for us throughout the competition and I think he showed real character, leadership and quality tonight,’ added Brand.
‘I’m proud of all the boys and I can’t fault their effort. We will come back stronger next time - this group is packed full of character, they’ve grown up together and have a real good spirit. Tonight we just fell on the wrong side of a pretty even game.
‘There are lots of things to be proud of but it’s one of the horrible things about the game that we love. When things are going well it’s the best feeling in the world but at the moment it feels like the complete opposite to that. When you take stock and look back at the performances and how the team took on information, I’ve got nothing but pride.’
The early rounds of the 2020/21 FA Youth Cup are already underway and the boss explains there is little time to dwell on the result as we are back in league action in under a week’s time.
'The strange thing about the situation we are in now is that we are already in the middle of a league campaign and an FA Youth Cup campaign will hopefully start soon,' he added. 'When you are at a club like this, the competitions come fast and you don’t have too much time to feel sorry for yourself. You have to pick yourself up and go again.'