The youth team won at the Emirates to book their place in a third successive FA Youth Cup final. Charlie Colkett’s strike after 18 minutes was the difference between the two sides in north London, though Josh Vickers in the Arsenal goal was once again significant, repeating his performance from the first leg with a string of impressive saves.
The Blues will face west London rivals Fulham in the two-legged final, with the first game to be played at Craven Cottage on Monday 28 April, the return at Stamford Bridge on Monday 5 May.
Adi Viveash made one change from the first leg at the Bridge, with schoolboy Jay Dasilva replacing Izzy Brown on the left side of attack. Alex Kiwomya continued on the opposite flank with Dominic Solanke leading the line up front.
There was a switch at full-back as Fankaty Dabo moved to the right and Ola Aina to the left of the back four, while Andreas Christensen and Jake Clarke-Salter comprised the remainder of the back four. Ruben Loftus-Cheek captained the side alongside Charlie Colkett and Jordan Houghton in midfield, while Mitchell Beeney remained in goal.
Arsenal also made one change from the previous game as Jack Jebb replaced Daniel Crowley in midfield, while their goalscorer from the first leg, Chuba Akpom, led the line up front once again.
Chelsea started brightly on a mild evening in north London as Aina tested Vickers in the hosts’ goal after eight minutes with a right-footed drive from the edge of the box after a quick break forward led by Loftus-Cheek and Dasilva. Christensen cleared well from Ainsley Maitland-Niles’s cross from the right before Houghton fired narrowly wide as Kiwomya caused problems down the right.
Vickers had to be alert to deny Solanke after 15 minutes as the schoolboy striker was fed in behind the Gunners’ defence and the goalkeeper did well to save at the near post, and then again as Solanke followed up on the rebound.
The game’s first booking came shortly after as Dabo was penalised for a foul and Jack Jebb’s dangerous delivery found Julio Pleguezuelo at the back post, though his header lacked the pace to trouble Beeney. That was Arsenal’s first attempt at goal and the deadlock was broken moments later, though it was the visitors celebrating.
Colkett advanced into the box onto Houghton’s return pass with a dancing run past a couple of defenders, and managed to squirm a low shot underneath the onrushing Vickers that trickled over the line for the midfielder’s third Youth Cup goal of the campaign.
The goal gave the young Blues a 3-1 aggregate advantage, though Arsenal were looking to reduce that deficit quickly and Maitland-Niles brought a save from Beeney with a left-footed effort as he cut inside from the right.
A dangerous run from Alex Iwobi caused Chelsea some trouble after half an hour as the forward exchanged passes intricately on the edge of the box and advanced into the area, though his final effort lacked accuracy and Aina was able to clear the danger. Down the other end, Aina’s driven cross from the left was precise and Houghton powered a header inches over the bar.
Solanke fired over in the final few minutes of the half after Colkett had found space in front of the home defence and threaded through a neat ball, while Kiwomya struck wide of the near post as Dasilva turned provider coming infield off the left flank.
Christensen (pictured below) had the first effort after the restart as the Danish youth international stepped out of defence in typical fashion and advanced 70 yards before unleashing a left-footed strike that flew narrowly past the far post, while Colkett’s free kick was hit over after Houghton had been upended.
Glen Kamara came close to pulling a goal back for the hosts after 55 minutes as he picked up the loose ball in the box following Jebb’s free-kick delivery from the right, worked some space for himself and shot low, however Houghton was positioned well to block on the line.
Kiwomya scampered clear as Chelsea hit the hosts on the break, though Tafari Moore defended well as he blocked the winger’s pass towards Solanke in the middle. Chelsea remained on the front foot and Colkett had a deflected shot loop narrowly wide, before Solanke’s wonderful individual effort after skipping past three Arsenal defenders forced a good low save from Vickers.
Viveash was forced into a defensive reshuffle midway through the second period as Clarke-Salter was forced off with an injury. Izzy Brown entered the fray, with Dasilva moving to left-back, Aina to right-back and the earlier substitute Isak Ssewankambo switched centrally alongside Christensen. Chances became limited as the Blues looked to manage the game, though Aina did strike fiercely into Vickers’ midriff as the visitors looked for a second goal.
Vickers then had to be quick off his line to smother at Solanke’s feet after a clever reverse pass through from Colkett, before the busy home goalkeeper denied Ssewankambo superbly as he tipped the Swedish youth international’s header on to the bar.
The visitors continued to threaten in the final 10 minutes, while Ssewankambo and Dasilva defended strongly as Arsenal attacked down their right side and the evening’s action came to a close with Viveash’s side through.
The young Blues will face Fulham in the two-legged final, with the first tie to be played at Craven Cottage on Monday 28 April and the return at Stamford Bridge the following Monday 5 May.
Ticket details will be announced next week.
Viveash was understandably pleased to see his side progress to another final and praised their eagerness to win the second leg at the Emirates. Speaking to the official Chelsea website after the game, he said: ‘We’re delighted and to keep a clean sheet at the Emirates is a fantastic achievement.
‘We wanted to win the game and I thought we fully deserved to because we were very positive. We struggled to get going in the first 20 minutes and struggled to get our press going but then we started to impose ourselves and move the ball around much better.’
The manager also took time to credit the evening’s goalscorer, as Colkett netted his second semi-final goal over the two matches.
‘The goal came from endeavour and hard work, with Ola Aina pressing the ball strongly, and I thought it was fitting that the three midfield players were involved because over the two games it’s been in that midfield where we’ve dominated.
‘Charlie Colkett’s now scored four in six games I think and that’s been a part of his game that we’ve been working with him to improve. Now he’s up to full fitness he’s making some great runs to get into goalscoring positions and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who was also involved in the goal, has just been colossal in the two games.
‘We had five really good chances in the first half and their goalkeeper has been their outstanding player in the two games and deserves a lot of credit but to get to five finals in seven years is a great achievement.’
Chelsea Mitchell Beeney; Fankaty Dabo (Isak Ssewankambo 59), Andreas Christensen, Jake Clarke-Salter (Izzy Brown 68), Ola Aina; Jordan Houghton, Charlie Colkett (Reece Mitchell 80), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (c); Alex Kiwomya, Dominic Solanke, Jay Dasilva.
Unused subs Bradley Collins, Kasey Palmer
Bookings Dabo, Houghton
Scorer Colkett 18
Arsenal Josh Vickers, Tafari Moore, Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, Glen Kamara (Austin Lipman 85), Leander Siemann (Stefan O’Connor 69), Julio Pleguezuelo, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Gedion Zelalem, Chuba Akpom (c), Jack Jebb, Alex Iwobi (Daniel Crowley 59)
Unused subs Ryan Huddart, Alfred Mugabo