Friday 02 May 2014
Chelsea progressed to the Barclays Under-21 Premier League play-off final in dramatic circumstances after winning a penalty shootout against Manchester City following a 1-1 draw.
"We deserve to be in a final and hopefully now we can go on and win it having already finished first
In a match being watched by over 4,000 spectators at Etihad Stadium Ruben Loftus-Cheek scored the winning spot-kick after Seko Fofana and Olivier Ntcham had efforts saved by Jamal Blackman, the visiting goalkeeper who had earlier been beaten by Olivier Ntcham’s strike 13 minutes from the end of normal time to cancel out Islam Feruz’s early opener.
Chelsea U21s manager Dermot Drummy made four changes from the side that started last week's 2-1 Barclays Under-21 Premier League win over Arsenal at Emirates Stadium, with involvement in Jose Mourinho's first-team squad for Mitchell Beeney opening the door for Blackman to start in goal, while City welcomed back defender Shay Facey to the heart of defence.
The west Londoners had grabbed the early initiative with an eighth-minute goal when the teams met in the regular season at Stamford Bridge, in their 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge in October, and they got off to another perfect start in Manchester when Lewis Baker raced clear on goal, rounded Ian Lawlor and clipped the ball back across to the far post where Feruz nodded the ball into the net.
Patrick Vieira's side, playing at the club's main stadium for the sixth time this season and being supported in the stands by the entire Man City first-team squad, responded strongly but it was Chelsea who almost doubled their advantage midway through the half when Ellis Plummer ceded possession on the edge of his penalty area and Isaiah Brown rifled a left-footed drive narrowly wide.
City grew in confidence as the half wore on, finding considerable space down the right flank from where Adam Drury's low cross picked out Sinan Bytyqi only for the winger to scuff contact, while Marcos Lopes fired just wide after being set free by a pass from Seko Fofana, who himself sliced a shot beyond the near post from a tight angle.
Feruz tested Lawlor within a minute of the restart, but it was City who began to dominate with Blackman twice called upon to deny Lopes as City pressed for an equaliser. The hosts were almost caught out on the break, though, on 69 minutes when substitute Loftus-Cheek headed Lewis Baker's corner goalwards only for George Glendon to clear off the line.
Glendon had kept Vieira's charges in the match and within nine minutes they were level as City under-18s’ top-scorer Thierry Ambrose, pickpocketed the last Chelsea defender and squared for his compatriot Ntcham to swivel and fire in the equaliser.
Though there were chances for either side in extra time the match would be decided on penalties. The first four kicks were finished confidently, with Brown and Andreas Christensen netting for Chelsea, before Fofana's central effort was saved by Blackman and Baker gave the visitors a 3-2 lead.
"The demands and the mental side of the game on the players have been enormous but it's a good experience"
Plummer, John Swift and Devante Cole then netted before Casey Palmer passed up the chance to win the game for the Blues. However, Ntcham's high effort was wonderfully saved by Blackman and England youth international Loftus-Cheek made no mistake with Chelsea's sixth penalty to send the side who had finished top of the league at the end of the regular season into the final.
"I'm really pleased for the boys because we've worked all year with this group," Drummy told the club’s website. "Nathan Ake has moved up to the first team but this group have stuck together. We've brought younger players in from Adi Viveash's group and we've supported the Youth Cup which sometimes is a drain on the energy levels but we're fully together as an Academy for that competition.
"To play in a Youth Cup final is hard enough. The demands and the mental side of the game on the players have been enormous but it's a good experience, especially for someone like Ola Aina who's still a very young kid. He's had to mark a really good player tonight and done really well.
"City were physically strong and played a pressing game at times which we found hard but we defended to the hilt and we really wanted to win. We deserve to be in a final and hopefully now we can go on and win it having already finished first."
The proceeds from this match were donated to #StephensStory, the inspiring campaign raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Manchester City 1. Ian Lawlor; 2. Adam Drury, 4. Shay Facey, 5. Ellis Plummer, 3. Greg Leigh; 6. George Glendon, 7. Marcos Lopes (c) (12. Angelino 107), 8. Seko Fofana, 9. Jordy Hiwula (16. Thierry Ambrose 59), 10. Olivier Ntcham, 11. Sinan Bytyqi (15. Devante Cole 59). Unused subs 13. Billy O'Brien, 14. Kean Bryan.
Booked Fofana, Ambrose
Chelsea 1. Jamal Blackman; 2. Fankaty Dabo (15. Kasey Palmer 55), 4. Andreas Christensen, 5. Adam Nditi, 3. Ola Aina; 6. Isak Ssewankambo, 7. Isaiah Brown, 8. Lewis Baker (c); 10. John Swift, 9. Islam Feruz,
11. Charly Musonda (12. Jeremie Boga 60) (14. Ruben Loftus-Cheek 67). Unused subs 13. Bradley Collins, 16. Jordan Houghton.
Referee: Paul Tierney