Chelsea will play a third FA Youth Cup final in four years after adding victory at Stamford Bridge to the one in the first leg at Anfield a week ago.
Passing an important test of character, our Under-18s went behind early in Friday’s second leg but had the lead on the night before half-time, John Swift and Nathan Ake the scorers.
Given the amount of chances that came the young Blues way after the interval it was surprising the winning margin wasn’t greater, but it all added up to a very entertaining night for those watching.
Norwich await in the two-leg final with the second match at Stamford Bridge.
Adi Viveash made two changes to the side that won at Anfield. Ake was available so was the natural choice to come in at centre-back for Andreas Christensen who came off injured a week ago.
John Swift replaced Charlie Colkett in the No.10 role behind striker Islam Feruz.
Liverpool made three changes with Yalany Baio, Dan Smith and Jerome Sinclair introduced.
Chelsea were defending a 2-0 lead from the first leg and were playing in front of a good crowd at the Bridge, but Liverpool had shown enough in the Anfield game to leave Chelsea in doubt the tie was far from over, and so it proved, at least for the first 40 minutes.
Indeed the first chance of the game did fall to the visitors but centre-back Lloyd Jones headed over the bar. Jeremie Boga, in quick retaliation, was found by a good long pass by Davey and cut inside before letting loose a powerful effort, but it curved over the target.
Chelsea began to settle into a good early stride. Loftus-Cheek, Baker and Kiwomya were combining well with quick movement and passing, but then having been pegged back for a spell, Liverpool broke forward and took the lead through an individual goal by Kristoffer Peterson.
The winger, who had looked dangerous a week ago, found a way past the outside of Chelsea right-back Ola Aina and then went infield past Davey, before a well-placed shot into the bottom corner. There were 13 minutes gone.
Reassuringly, the next efforts were all by Chelsea. Kiwomya shot over and then left-back Kevin Wright struck one across the turf which required good reactions from Liverpool keeper Ryan Fulton to keep out.
When Liverpool did attack, Davey was in the right place to stop a shot from Jack Dunn who was moments later lectured by the referee for a foul on Baker that verged on the reckless.
Just past the half hour Boga and Feruz nearly picked a way through a crowd of red shirts in the area, and then Boga went on another mazy run that left an opponent on the floor, but his shot was deflected behind for a corner.
The equaliser came five minutes before half-time and it was counter-attacking at its finest. Swift (pictured top) took possession just outside the Chelsea area and drove into the Liverpool half with a good turn of pace. He played the ball wide to the fleet-footed Kiwomya who certainly wasn’t going to be caught. The winger’s delivery to pick out Swift’s continued run was high quality and the midfielder had the technique to find the net with a first-time shot.
Chelsea’s pace was finding space and Ola Aina almost went all the way with an electric run down the wing. He won a corner instead and from it Chelsea took the lead. Played quite short by Boga, it was met by the head of Ake and Fulton didn’t move as the ball nestled inside his near post.
It was Liverpool who again went close at the start of the half and this time they struck woodwork. Ake did well to get a toe in as Jerome Sinclair wriggled goal-side of the Dutch defender inside the area, but he still didn’t prevent the Liverpool No.9 getting his shot away. It crashed back off the bar.
Feruz was then denied by the offside flag when he found the net and he then screwed a shot wide after wrong-footing his marker. The Scotland Under-21 striker went close with another effort from the edge of the area.
Among those quick-fire attempts, Viveash made a change – replacing Swift with Connor Hunte to bring the schoolboy count on the pitch for Chelsea up to three. One of them, Boga, now moved into the middle.
On 63 minutes Kiwomya from the right worked space and flashed a shot narrowly wide. We were looking good for more goals and Feruz again went close after a mistake by centre-back Danny Cleary. Kiwomya should have scored from Feruz’s supply.
Liverpool wasted a chance of their own when Sinclair shot too tamely at Beeney. Their midfielder Jordon Rossiter was the game’s first booked player for reacting badly to a decision against him.
A fourth schoolboy was introduced when Charlie Colkett came on for Feruz. Boga now moved to a third position, this time wide right.
Inside the final five minutes and Kiwomya took a touch too strong with only the keeper to beat and another chance slipped away before Cleary was booked for a foul on Loftus-Cheek just outside the area.
Baker crashed the free-kick against the crossbar and the keeper did very well to keep the ball out as Loftus-Cheek headed the rebound. He couldn’t prevent Kiwomya then turning it home but the linesman denied Chelsea the goal this time – wrongly as replays showed the scorer was not offside.
The first leg of the final is at Carrow Road on Monday 29 April with a date for the second leg at Stamford Bridge yet to be set.
Chelsea: Mitchell Beeney; Ola Aina, Alex Davey, Nathan Ake (Dion Conroy 84), Kevin Wright; Ruben Loftus-Cheek, John Swift (Connor Hunte 53), Lewis Baker (c); Alex Kiwomya, Islam Feruz (Charlie Colkett 77), Jeremie Boga.
Unused substitutes: Ben Killip, Fankaty Dabo.
Liverpool: Ryan Fulton; Yalany Baio, Lloyd Jones, Joe Maguire, Danny Cleary; Jordan Lussey (c), Jordan Rossiter (Nathan Burke, 79) Dan Smith; Jack Dunn (Alex O’Hanlon 84), Jerome Sinclair, Kristoffer Peterson.
Unused substitutes: Ryan Crump, Cameron Brannagan, Cory Whelan.