UYL reaction: Keeping standards high
news Thu 22 Feb 2018
Another glittering display from our youngsters on the big stage saw them book a place in the UEFA Youth League quarter-finals last night (Wednesday) following a 5-2 victory against Feyenoord at Aldershot.
A header from Ethan Ampadu plus strikes from Daishawn Redan and Harvey St Clair were coupled with two own goals as Joe Edwards guided the young Blues into the last eight of the Under-19 European competition.
The manager reflected on some pleasing aspects of the performance but also highlighted room for improvement, particularly in regards to the mental approach and concentration of his players.
‘It’s mixed emotions for us because we’re obviously pleased to have such a convincing win in the latter stages of a European competition and it’s great to be into the next round but we let our standards slip after a good start,’ Edwards told the official Chelsea website after the victory.
‘We had a clear game plan and the lads applied it perfectly early on but we didn’t maintain the high standards we set. We should have kept a clean sheet from 2-0 up so it was disappointing to concede two goals, particularly when you consider how well we have defended the box in recent games against Leicester City and in the Checkatrade Trophy. We looked sloppy and that’s one aspect where the players mentally have to be more consistent.
‘They were outstanding at the start, really concentrated and everyone knew their job but we took our foot off the gas. That can happen sometimes with young players in games that appear to be comfortable but it’s something we’re talking to our boys a lot about at the moment. It’s being a bit hard on the lads after a 5-2 win but there’s nothing wrong with that – we set high standards and will certainly have to maintain those as we move forward in this competition.’
Edwards expanded on the detail of the game plan, which focused on finding a way to break through a resilient and organised opponent.
‘We felt we could hurt Feyenoord by opening the sides up and playing with width,’ the manager explained. ‘After watching their games, we knew they would get very compact and narrow without the ball so we put a lot of attack-minded players on the pitch. Callum Hudson-Odoi and Harvey St Clair can hurt any team and we also allowed Dujon Sterling and Juan Castillo to play a lot higher as wing-backs than they normally do.’
The tactics paid dividends as the Blues raced into a 3-1 lead by half-time before adding a further two goals in the second period, setting up a tantalising quarter-final away in the Spanish capital against Real Madrid. It will be a meeting between the two highest-scoring teams in this year’s competition, the 2015 and 2016 winners against a side beaten at the semi-final stage in three of the past four years.
‘These are the games you enter this competition hoping to get,’ admitted Edwards. ‘We know the level will go up a notch because Real won their last-16 game away in Munich [against Bayern] with 10 men.
‘We’d usually like to have home advantage in a quarter-final but the experience of travelling to Madrid and playing against a team like Real is exactly what we want for our players, for their learning and development but also for their careers and lives in general. It’s going to be a fantastic occasion for them.’