Despite a showing our club can be proud of, Chelsea Under-18s were on the end of a defeat in the final of the 2019/20 FA Youth Cup at St George's Park on Monday night.
Almost a year after our campaign began, it came to an end on the final stage at St George’s Park against Manchester City. The young Blues can be proud of their efforts, which saw Marcel Lewis open the scoring in the first half. We were pegged back just under 10 minutes later though and entered the break level.
Our fortunes turned after the break and City were ahead within seven minutes of the restart. That didn’t damped our hopes of clinching 10th Youth Cup title though and Lewis was involved again as Chelsea forced an equaliser of their own.
Against the run of play and on the counter-attack, City found the eventual winner through Cole Palmer six minutes from time, meaning they lift the trophy for the first time since 2008, when they also beat us in the final.
The young Blues
For this evening’s final, Ed Brand named one change from the side that started in the semi-final win over Manchester United. Ben Elliott was in midfield in place of Tino Anjorin, who dropped to the bench having only just returned from injury. Lewis Bate captained the side in Anjorin’s absence and Charlie Webster was on the bench.
An eventual final like no other
The 2019/20 final was one which took place at St George’s Park, six months later than originally scheduled. Broadcast nationwide live on BT Sport, it was a game players and staff of Chelsea were grateful to see go ahead after what had been the most unimaginable season of football.
City take early aim
A cold wind greeted the two teams as they entered the Sir Bobby Charlton pitch at St George’s Park, a contrast to the calm weather during our semi-final win over Man United, and Tommy Doyle looked to use the gusts to his advantage in the first attempt on goal after 10 minutes. Lucas Bergstrom was required to palm the ball to safety from the City midfielder’s wide free-kick as the action slowly got started.
Man City brought the game to our defence, who were being asked questions in Staffordshire, but remained solid and provided the much-needed answers as Morgan Rogers was next to take aim at Bergstrom’s net.
Chelsea warm to conditions
Tino Livramento had been active up and down the right flank in the semi-final and it wasn’t too long before he showed similar signs of attacking intent.
Alpha Diounkou stood between our wing-back and the byline, however the England Under-20 international beat his man and sent a hanging cross to the back post where Bryan Fiabema waited to head home but City dealt with the looping danger well.
Lewis gives us the lead
It was from the right that we broke the deadlock with Livramento again involved in the build-up. He received the ball from Henry Lawrence and quickly spotted the run of Lewis, who timed his bending movement expertly well.
Arriving to the ball before the out-rushing goalkeeper Cieran Slicker, Lewis had time to take two touches before finding the back of the net before any City defenders could make the goal-line clearance and we were ahead.
City draw level
Our lead lasted just nine minutes as City found the net themselves before the break. Doyle fashioned space down our left flank and pulled back a low centre for James McAtee to sweep home from 12 yards out.
It was an unfortunate end to the first half for the Blues after taking the lead but with all still to play for, half-time spirits remained high as the whistle blew.
Early second-half setback
Anjorin was introduced for the second half in place of Elliott, taking the armband for the final 45 minutes of the 2019/20 FA Youth Cup and it wasn’t long before we saw our first bit of action. City forward Rogers fired at goal from wide left and with the wind to its aid the ball slammed against the woodwork and luckily away from danger for Chelsea.
We weren’t so fortunate with City’s next chance however and it was Rogers again, who this time made no mistake to sweep home from a low cross eight minutes after the restart, giving us work to do to try and regain control of the game.
Chelsea force a second
Brand's boys never looked completely out of the game and remained a threat with every passing counter-attack. After good defending to keep the deficit at just one goal, we forced a leveller of our own in fortunate circumstances, though it was no more than our intent deserved.
Lewis was played in behind the City defence again and with the ball at the corner of the box, the midfield man still had plenty to do. A jink inside on to his right foot opened up space for a shot which deflected beyond Slicker via the head of Taylor Harwood-Bellis. It was game on at 2-2.
There was still plenty of football left to play after our equaliser and the tables seemed to have turned back in Chelsea’s favour. However, it was now City posing a threat on the counter-attack, the newly-introduced Jayden Braaf firing against the post from distance after a slick sky blue move.
And it was on the counter where City did the ultimate damage. A rapid move upfield needed a little bit of luck but ended with Cole Palmer volleying into an empty net at the back post. With just six minutes on the clock, City celebrated the goal knowing there was little time left for a Chelsea response and for Palmer it was especially significant redemption after his penalty shootout miss in the 2019 final handed Liverpool the trophy.
There was time remaining for one last opportunity to send the final to penalties and Peart-Harris had it in the dying moments of stoppage time. Livramento's cross from the right was perfectly flighted but the midfielder sent a header inches wide of the post and with that chance City sealed victory and the 2020 Youth Cup crown.
A campaign that started last December went all the way for our young Blues and their effort on the big stage was commendable but this was City's night.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1) Lucas Bergstrom; Henry Lawrence, Dynel Simeu, Levi Colwill; Tino Livramento, Lewis Bate (c), Ben Elliott (Tino Anjorin ht), Dion Rankine (Harvey Vale 75), Myles Peart-Harris, Marcel Lewis; Bryan Fiabema (Thierno Ballo 60)Unused subs Bashir Humphreys, Jake Askew, Charlie Webster, Jude Soonsup-BellBooked Vale 77Scorers Lewis 28, Harwood-Bellis (OG) 59
Man City Cieran Slicker, Conrad Egan-Riley, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Luke Mbtete-Tabu, Alpha Diounkou, Joseph Hodge, Cole Palmer, Thomas Doyle, Liam Delap, James McAtee (Alexander Robertson 86), Morgan Rogers (Jayden Braaf 75)Unused subs Finley Burns, Joshua McNamara, Samuel Edozie, Benjamin Knight, Oscar BobbBooked Hodge 60Scorers McAtee 37; Rogers 52; Palmer 84
Referee Geoff Eltringham