True Blues out there, can rest assured now – their future looks to be in very good hands. Chelsea FC are FA Youth Cup Champions’10 after a wait that has lasted 49 years. On a night which saw an attendance of more than 12000 at Stamford Bridge, the youth team came from a goal down to beat Aston Villa, justifying the faith the club, and the Arnesen regime in particular, has shown in them.
The Chelsea team started in the following 4-3-3 formation –
Billy Clifford Rohan Ince Jeffery Bruma Deen Conteh
Kaby Djalo Conor Clifford
Jacopo Sala Gokhan Tore
The most recognisable player of this team is the Dutch central defender Bruma thanks to his brief spells every now and then with the senior team, but if one were to put their money on the player most likely to make it big in the future, it has to be Josh McEachran – the young English attacking midfielder.
His skills, along with the pace of wingers Jacopo Sala and Gokhan Tore and the finishing of Marko Mitrovic have been the main talking points of this year’s youth season. The team is captained by Conor Clifford, who is a Chelsea fan and has earned a deserved reputation of being a fighter by not shying away from putting his body on the line for the team.
The Youth Cup final may be played over two legs, but the away goals rule does not apply. Both teams came into this second leg at the Bridge after grinding out a 1-1 draw at Villa Park. The Chelsea under-18 team had scored seventeen goals in the tournament and conceded just two before this match.
The young Blues started positively in front of the first team boss Carlo Ancelotti and John Terry amongst others, who were there to cheer the boys on, but despite dominating possession were unable to take the lead. The Aston Villa youth team drew first blood against the run of play, scoring off a header in the 30th minute.
After the goal, the home team responded positively and caused their spirited opponents countless problems but due to some exceptional defence and poor finishing, went into half-time trailing the away team by a solitary goal.
The feeling at the end of the first half was very unusual for a Chelsea fan. Here was a team hailed by all as the most talented youth team in the country, but despite producing some breathtaking football, were unable to equalize.
The West London boys began the second half in a similar fashion, and the Villa defence was subjected to relentless waves of attack. McEachran was at his influential best, pulling the strings from midfield while the wingers bombed forward with Mitrovic lurking in the box.
Finally their persistence paid off when the Swedish under-17 striker steered home a Jakopo Sala low cross at the near post. After the much deserved equaliser the home team began looking for the winner, but were again wasteful. McEachran outwitted two defenders and laid a ball for the Italian Sala, but he failed to capitalise.
The crowd continued to play twelfth man with vociferous support, but with just seven minutes remaining, extra-time was looming large. The Chelsea captain, however, had other ideas – Conor Clifford unleashed a trademark bullet from twenty five yards out, to send the Blues in front for the first time in this tie.
In the closing moments of the game, Kaby fell awkwardly and had to be stretchered off, but the young guns held their nerve to see off a determined Villa side. The referee blew the final whistle to signal a memorable success that will be remembered for years to come. The result could not have come at a better time for Chelsea FC, whose beleaguered academy has come in for some criticism in the recent past for their inability to blood the youngsters. These fine young lads and their seniors in the reserve team have finally started to repay the investment in Chelsea’s youth setup.
The trophy presentation marked an end to a romantic night, which began with the kids trying to emulate their first-team heroes by gracing the hallowed turf. It remains to be seen if the seniors can give it their all, in trying to emulate the little champions.