Under-18s report: Everton 0 Chelsea 1

It was semi-final success on Merseyside for our youngsters as they booked a place in the Under-18 Premier League Cup final with a spirited victory over Everton.

After finishing ahead of Brighton, Newcastle and Blackburn in the group stage, Jody Morris’s side needed extra-time to overcome Sunderland in the quarter-final at the end of last month. However, the job was done in 90 minutes at Everton’s Finch Farm training ground on a mild morning in the north-west.

The outcome was more emphatic than the 1-0 scoreline suggested as we dominated proceedings and created the vast majority of the game’s chances. Marc Guehi’s first-half goal settled the encounter, the defender reacting quickest in the box to score his seventh of the campaign, though the visitors were grateful for the intervention of the crossbar to keep out Ellis Simms’s header late on. Apart from that scare, our defensive work was impressive and a clean sheet well-earned, as was a place in the competition final.

Morris made three changes from the victory over Sunderland as Clinton Mola and Marcel Lavinier came into the back four, while schoolboy midfielder Tino Anjorin returned further forward.

Tariq Lamptey and Guehi comprised the remainder of the defence as we reverted to 4-2-3-1 with Karlo Ziger retained in goal following his extra-time penalty save against the Black Cats. Captain Conor Gallagher partnered Billy Gilmour in central midfield, with Anjorin joining George McEachran and Tariq Uwakwe in support of striker Martell Taylor-Crossdale.

The Toffees came into the contest as a side in form, a point off top in the Under-18 Premier League North with a game in hand and on the back of a win in the mini Merseyside derby last weekend, though their early FA Youth Cup exit heightened the desire to go far in this inaugural cup competition.

Morris’s men arrived on Merseyside unbeaten in any competition since October and confident following their advance to the Youth Cup quarter-finals in midweek. They enjoyed much of the early play in the opening 15 minutes, with our three attacking midfielders finding frequent pockets of space in which to exploit.

The trio combined to fashion our first chance as Uwakwe punched a pass forward for Anjorin to receive on the half-turn. The England Under-17 international spotted the run of McEachran and threaded a ball forward but home keeper Nicolas Hansen was off his line quickly to win the race.

Anjorin’s inside-left starting position was a source of danger and he dragged our first effort just wide following Lamptey’s dangerous run and cross from the right. The 16-year-old then won the ball high after sloppy play out from the goalkeeper but opted to find McEachran rather than shoot at goal when the direct route seemed more appropriate.

The Blues had the ball in the net midway through the first period, Gilmour’s deep free-kick won in the air by Guehi and turned in by Uwakwe, though the linesman’s flag cut short our celebrations. However, Everton continued to struggle to stem our momentum as the half progressed, unable to enjoy any time in possession in the face of our persistent pressing.

A typically enterprising run from Lamptey fashioned a sight at goal but Con Ouzounidis was across to make an important block before Uwakwe brought a flying save from Hansen with a shot from the edge of the 18-yard box.

The deadlock was broken 10 minutes before the break as Guehi struck again, his third goal in three games. A corner was floated in from the left and headed towards goal by the defender, who reacted quickest to the blocked attempt and turned the loose ball beyond Hansen from five yards out.

Everton made a double substitution at the break, introducing their top scorer Anthony Gordon, but it was Morris’s men who went close to striking again after the restart. Anjorin advanced threateningly and fired left-footed across goal, his low effort whistling just past the far post.

Taylor-Crossdale saw a shot blocked and Hansen saved from Anjorin as the visitors continued to assert control in the tie, though their failure to extend the advantage left them vulnerable. Lamptey had an opportunity from the right after more good play from Anjorin to play in the full-back but his finish was wayward from a tight angle.

With their cup ambitions fading, the Toffees had to take more risks going forward and their efforts almost paid dividends. A delivery from the right was inviting for Simms and the striker powered a header towards the top corner, though the crossbar came to our rescue and a combination of Lavinier and Guehi cleared the following danger.

Uwakwe forced a decent save from Hansen down the other end as Marcel Lewis’s arrival added a different attacking option for the Blues. The schoolboy threatened in the box with dazzling quick footwork after Taylor-Crossdale had launched a counter-attack from halfway, though the final pass for McEachran was delayed and the flag raised for offside. It was just as well for the hosts, as Hansen had rushed out to take down our midfielder and a penalty would surely have been awarded.

Our youngsters had to call on their vast reserves of character and resilience in the final 10 minutes to secure their place in the final. Guehi made a good block to thwart Simms before substitute Korede Adedoyin steered a shot wide.

There were chances to settle the game late on, Taylor-Crossdale firing straight at Hansen and Charlie Brown denied by the keeper, but this was a fully deserved victory for our battling youngsters. They outclassed their hosts, stood strong in the face of a physical challenge and demonstrated the winning habits that have produced so much silverware for our Academy in the last decade. The first chance to add to the trophy cabinet will come next month, with Tottenham Hotspur our opposition in the final.


Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Karlo Ziger; Tariq Lamptey, Marcel Lavinier, Marc Guehi, Clinton Mola; Conor Gallagher (c), Billy Gilmour; Tariq Uwakwe, George McEachran, Tino Anjorin (Marcel Lewis 75); Martell Taylor-Crossdale (Charlie Brown 90+1)
Unused subs Nicolas Tie, Renedi Masampu, Jon Russell
Scorer Guehi 35

Everton Nicolas Hansen, Nathan Moore, Joe Anderson, Con Ouzounidis, Elliot Richards (c) (Einar Iversen h/t), Ryan Astley, Manasse Mampala, Tom Scully, Ellis Simms, Stephen Duke-McKenna (Korede Adedoyin 59), Tom Warren (Anthony Gordon h/t)
Unused subs
Tom Murphy, Barney McKeown
Booked Richards 11; Ouzounidis 32

Referee Lee Hible