The young Blues put themselves in a strong position in the FA Youth Cup semi-final with a win at Anfield thanks to two late Alex Kiwomya goals.
An entertaining evening up on Merseyside was capped off in the final few minutes as the young striker notched up his fifth and sixth goals of this Youth Cup campaign, and put his side in a commanding position ahead of the return next week at Stamford Bridge.
There were four changes by manager Adi Viveash from the side that progressed past Derby County at Pride Park in the quarter-finals, with Kevin Wright replacing the injured Adam Nditi at left-back and schoolboy Ola Aina also coming into the back four, as Andreas Christensen moved central to partner Alex Davey in Nathan Aké’s absence. Mitchell Beeney continued his ever-present Youth Cup run this campaign between the sticks.
Lewis Baker captained the side from midfield alongside Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Charlie Colkett, while Islam Feruz led the frontline supported by Alex Kiwomya and Jeremie Boga from the flanks.
Viveash’s holders started the game brightly and confidently, enjoying a strong opening spell of possession as they looked to put themselves in control of the semi-final tie. Feruz had an early sight at goal quickly snuffed out as he found space for the first time in the evening, before Baker fired a free kick harmlessly into the populated Kop.
At the other end McLaughlin, the hosts’ overlapping right-back, ventured into dangerous territory in the Chelsea box before being successfully thwarted, then Ibe’s effort after some neat footwork was deflected just beyond Beeney’s goal.
It took until midway through the opening period before the game’s first real chance of note. Christensen had to be on full alert to poke the ball away from the lurking Peterson after Ibe’s effort was palmed away by Beeney.
The Chelsea keeper was certainly busier than his opposite number and had to be called upon again to deal with Peterson’s dangerous centre from the left, before Wright cleared the loose ball in the six-yard box, as the hosts enjoyed their best spell of the game.
Feruz then fired a low shot a few feet wide after a bright move involving Colkett and Baker before the visitors’ best opportunity of the half. Kiwomya raced clear on the break with options and skipped away from a couple of desperate challenges before a slightly heavy touch allowed the recovering Lussey to make a vital sliding tackle.
As the interval loomed schoolboy Colkett fired a difficult chance over and Davey’s header from a dangerous inswinging corner bounced just past Fulton’s far post as the Blues ended the half on the front foot.
The visitors began the second period similarly to how they had ended the first and Boga skipped past a couple of defenders before firing narrowly over the bar, before bending in a dangerous free kick delivery that Fulton did well to punch away from Loftus-Cheek.
The Blues had upped the tempo, certainly seeming reinvigorated and Aina did well down the right to beat his man before firing an effort across the face of goal that had Fulton beaten and skimmed back off the near post. Colkett’s neat flick over the top then almost presented Loftus-Cheek with a chance, though Fulton just about won the race to the ball.
After a couple of changes and injuries had taken the sting out of the game on the hour mark it soon burst back into life, with Feruz (pictured below) beating the offside trap in behind and seeing his effort bounce back off the post, before Loftus-Cheek’s effort on the rebound was well saved.
Then Kiwomya fashioned a similar opening with a clever run beyond defenders, though took a little too long to settle himself and saw his final effort well blocked, before the hosts retaliated on the break. Peterson led the break and it was only a crucial Beeney save onto the post that kept the scores level.
The game was now as open as it had been all evening, with both sides attacking and counter-attacking with real pace and conviction. Loftus-Cheek led one such charge that eventually petered out, before Aina was forced off after a crunching tackle and replaced by Fankaty Dabo at right back.
Christensen suffered a similar fate shortly afterwards, taking a heavy whack to his foot that forced his participation into a premature end as Dion Conroy replaced him at centre-back for the final 10 minutes. The young defender’s first involvement was unfortunate as he conceded a free kick on the edge of the box, though the resultant effort was charged down well.
Davey then saw a header fly straight into the grateful arms of Fulton before the visitors grabbed a crucial late winner. Skipper Baker’s effort was heading wide but deflected into the young wideman’s path and he controlled and finished expertly from close range to give the young Blues a late lead.
However, Viveash’s boys weren’t done there and doubled their first-leg advantage in added time. Boga advanced into space on the counter and waited for the right moment before feeding in Kiwomya down the right, who finished brilliantly across Fulton and into the far corner of the net. That earned the visitors a crucial two-goal advantage heading into next Friday’s second leg at Stamford Bridge. The away goals rule is not in operation in the Youth Cup
Chelsea: Mitchell Beeney; Ola Aina (Fankaty Dabo 72), Andreas Christensen (Dion Conroy 78), Alex Davey, Kevin Wright; Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Charlie Colkett (John Swift 58), Lewis Baker (c); Alex Kiwomya , Islam Feruz, Jeremie Boga.
Unused substitutes: Ben Killip Connor Hunte.
Liverpool: Ryan Fulton; Ryan McLaughlin, Joe Maguire, Lloyd Jones, Danny Cleary; Jordan Lussey (c) (Dan Smith 61), Jordan Rossiter, Cameron Brannagan; Kristoffer Peterson, Jack Dunn, Jordan Ibe (Jerome Sinclair 86).
Unused substitutes: Ryan Crump, Yalany Baio, Alex O’Hanlon.
By Sam Poplett.
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