On a dramatic night at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s youth team came from behind to win the fifth FA Youth Cup in the club’s history.
Goals from Charlie Colkett, Jordan Houghton, Isak Ssewankambo and a brace for Dominic Solanke cancelled out efforts from Fulham’s Moussa Dembele, Patrick Roberts and Solomon Sambou.
Adi Viveash made four changes from the first leg as Mitchell Beeney returned in goal, Fankaty Dabo replaced Isak Ssewankambo at right-back and both Kasey Palmer and Charly Musonda came into the side further up the field.
Andreas Christensen, Jake Clarke-Salter and Jay Dasilva comprised the remainder of the back four, with Jordan Houghton, Charlie Colkett and captain Ruben Loftus-Cheek continuing in midfield. Schoolboy striker Dominic Solanke led the line up front, supported from out wide by Musonda and Palmer.
Fulham made one change from the 3-2 win at Craven Cottage as Dean O’Halloran replaced Joshua Smile in midfield.
Chelsea were looking for a bright start and an early goal to regain parity in the tie, though it was Fulham extending their aggregate advantage within five minutes of the start. Patrick Roberts caused some problems running at the heart of the Blues defence before Emerson Hyndman fed Dean O’Halloran on the right. His delivery was deep but Moussa Dembele was alert and stooped low to head through the legs of Beeney at the near post.
It was the striker’s ninth goal of Fulham’s Youth Cup campaign, though Chelsea responded well as Musonda’s low drive from 30 yards forced a save down to his right from Marek Rodak. The visitors had the game’s next best chance after 17 minutes, as Roberts rattled the post following defensive uncertainty in the box.
Christensen defended strongly up against the tricky Roberts before Solanke had a shot blocked by Ryheem Sheckleford and Loftus-Cheek fired the resulting corner wide as the hosts pushed forward. The action then burst to life with two Chelsea goals in three minutes to turn the game on its head. A bright move down the right saw the advancing Musonda exchange neatly with Solanke and then, upon receiving the return, he was upended by a late challenge from Jordan Evans.
The referee pointed to the spot and Colkett stepped up and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way with a strike low down to the right, to net his fourth goal of the Youth Cup campaign. A couple of minutes later the Blues drew the aggregate score level as Solanke once again acted provider, this time for Houghton, and the midfielder struck a great effort into the bottom corner beyond the despairing dive of Rodak.
However, just two minutes later the tie had another twist as Fulham grabbed their second goal of the evening. Hyndman provided the neat lofted pass to find Roberts in space eight yards out and the England Under-17 international finished with aplomb into the far corner.
Palmer saw a looping header from Dabo’s cross go narrowly over, while Rodak shovelled away Solanke’s left-footed strike and then gathered at the second attempt as the game remained open at both ends. That openness proved telling and costly for Chelsea seven minutes before the break as Fulham scored again. Midfielder Solomon Sambou found space in front of the central defenders and finished low into the bottom left corner from 25 yards out.
Palmer fired over from distance in the last few minutes of the half as Viveash’s side went into the interval 6-4 behind on aggregate.
There was a triple change for the hosts at the break as Isak Ssewankambo, Izzy Brown and Ola Aina entered the fray and Ssewankambo’s impact was noticeable immediately as he fired wide twice in quick succession. Fellow substitute Brown was also involved early on after the restart, bringing a comfortable low save from Rodak before being thwarted by a well-timed block from Sheckleford.
Rodak made saves from Brown and then Colkett as Chelsea took control of the game, though the visitors provided a threat on the break and Beeney had to excellently deny George Williams after Roberts had fed him in intricately down the left channel.
Dembele shot over following another familiar Fulham free-kick routine, with Cameron Burgess nodding the ball back across goal from the far post, while Hyndman’s free-kick was deflected inches over Beeney’s bar after Aina had conceded a foul on the edge of the box.
Brown headed over after Dabo’s cross was flighted just behind him, though the young Blues were back on level terms on the evening 13 minutes before time. Swedish youth international Ssewankambo fashioned some space for himself 25 yards out and unleashed a super strike that dipped and flew past Rodak to reduce the aggregate deficit to one.
That ensured a grandstand finale and Chelsea poured forward searching for the goal that would tie the aggregate final score. Solanke’s flicked header dipped and brought a good tip over the bar from Rodak before the schoolboy striker did manage to beat the goalkeeper and ripple the back of the net. Colkett’s cross was dangerously delivered and the forward got the perfect glancing contact to help the ball spin into the far corner.
Sambou denied Solanke in behind after Beeney’s excellent kick forward, before the Blues escaped big danger as a mazy run from Roberts saw the attacker’s effort come back off the post. Dembele was on hand on the rebound but stumbled at the crucial moment and Beeney eventually made the save.
However, there was to be one final twist and it was Chelsea celebrating as Solanke grabbed a late winner. Brown provided a pass into Colkett’s feet and a great back-heel found Solanke. The striker turned expertly in tight space before finishing high past Rodak to send Stamford Bridge into celebration mode. There were a few nervous moments in stoppage time but Viveash’s side held on to secure the club’s fifth Youth Cup title.
The 2013/14 campaign has now concluded for the youth team, though the Academy have one more game remaining as Dermot Drummy’s Under-21s take on Manchester United in the final of that age group’s end-of-season play-offs to determine the league champions. Further details of that clash and ticket information will be announced later in the week.
Chelsea Mitchell Beeney; Fankaty Dabo, Andreas Christensen, Jake Clarke-Salter (Ola Aina h/t), Jay Dasilva; Jordan Houghton, Charlie Colkett, Ruben Loftus-Cheek (c) (Izzy Brown h/t); Kasey Palmer (Isak Ssewankambo h/t), Dominic Solanke, Charly Musonda
Unused subs Bradley Collins, Isaac Christie-Davies
Scorers Colkett (pen) 22, Houghton 24, Ssewankambo 77, Solanke
Fulham Marek Rodak, Ryheem Sheckleford (Joshua Smile 88), Jordan Evans, Liam Donnelly (c), Cameron Burgess, Solomon Sambou, Dean O’Halloran, Emerson Hyndman, Moussa Dembele, Patrick Roberts, George Williams
Unused subs Magnus Norman, Noe Baba, Aaron Redford, Joshua Walker
Scorers Dembele 5, Roberts 26, Sambou 38
Booked Evans, Sambou