Chelsea’s Under-21s came from behind to secure victory at Old Trafford and claim the league crown. Tom Lawrence put the hosts ahead after 12 minutes with an expert finish beyond Jamal Blackman, before Charly Musonda levelled the scores 10 minutes later with a low drive from the edge of the box.
The Blues had the better opportunities throughout the second period as Lewis Baker fired over and Ruben Loftus-Cheek brought a good low save from Ben Amos in the Man United goal, before Baker curled a brilliant effort into the far corner in the 79th minute to secure the win.
Dermot Drummy made two changes from the semi-final victory over Manchester City as Nathan Ake and Ruben Loftus-Cheek returned. Isak Ssewankambo, goalscorer in last week’s memorable FA Youth Cup final win over Fulham, dropped into defence alongside Ola Aina, Andreas Christensen and Adam Nditi.
Ake skippered the side from midfield with Loftus-Cheek and Lewis Baker, while recent first team debutant John Swift started wide-right. Charly Musonda retained his place on the opposite flank and Islam Feruz led the line up front. Jamal Blackman continued in goal.
Both James Wilson and Tom Lawrence, two players who started in the first team’s 3-1 win over Hull City last week, returned for Warren Joyce’s side. Andreas Pereira, who scored the only goal in their 1-0 win over Liverpool in the semi-final, also started in midfield.
Chelsea had the first effort of the evening after just five minutes as Baker carried the ball forward from halfway and brought a good save from Ben Amos in the United goal, before the club’s Young Player of the Year again tested the goalkeeper with a left-footed drive following a short corner routine with Musonda.
United first threatened with a ball over the top for Wilson to chase, though Christensen read the danger cleverly and positioned himself well to nod the bouncing ball back to Blackman. However, the deadlock was broken after 12 minutes and it was the hosts celebrating an early advantage.
Saidy Janko advanced down the right and delivered a low cross into the box that Wilson laid back invitingly for Lawrence. The midfield man fooled the covering defenders as he feigned to shoot and then bent a great strike into the far corner beyond the diving Blackman.
United continued to threaten and both Swift and Nditi picked up yellow cards for late tackles before Drummy’s side grabbed an equaliser midway through the half. Musonda received the ball into feet from Ake and floated infield, beating a couple of defenders before unleashing a low right-footed drive into the far bottom corner for his sixth goal of the campaign.
A period of Chelsea control followed as the young Blues enjoyed a spell of possession without quite managing to carve out clear-cut opportunities. Swift fired narrowly wide after Feruz’s dummy from Musonda’s cutback created space for the midfielder on the edge of the box, before Baker’s shot also failed to trouble Amos in the final few minutes of the half.
Amos saved well from Nditi shortly after the restart as the defender’s dipping effort bounced awkwardly in front of him, while Lawrence had a sight of goal as a high cross came in from the right but couldn’t quite get enough contact on the header at the back post.
Baker then had a great opportunity to put the visitors in front after Loftus-Cheek escaped in behind down the right and pulled the ball back for the side’s top league goalscorer, though the midfield man got underneath his strike and fired harmlessly over the bar.
Yet the Blues continued to create chances and Loftus-Cheek next threatened, bursting into the box after receiving a pass from Feruz and firing low towards goal, though Amos saved well once again with his feet. Aina defended well up against Lawrence in the penalty area as the United man isolated the centre-back one-on-one, but it was Chelsea continuing to create the best openings.
Feruz shot over on the volley after Musonda’s inswinging cross from the left and Nditi’s deflected effort from 20 yards spun just wide as the Blues probed in United’s final third. The hosts fired a warning shot as Ben Pearson stole the ball in midfield and advanced past Aina to fire low but straight at Blackman, however the game’s crucial third goal soon arrived with 11 minutes remaining.
Feruz profited from some loose play at the back and Baker picked the ball up on the edge of the box and curled a brilliant effort beyond Amos and into the bottom far corner. It was his 12th Under-21 league goal of the season and 18th in all competitions.
United responded with attacking substitutions but Blackman held a couple of high free-kick deliveries well and Chelsea did well to hold on to possession high up the field as the final whistle approached. A couple of late corners were defended strongly and Blackman had to save well to his right from substitute Blackett as Drummy’s side claimed the victory to secure the league crown.
Chelsea Jamal Blackman; Isak Ssewankambo, Ola Aina, Andreas Christensen, Adam Nditi; Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Kasey Palmer 78), Nathan Ake (c), Lewis Baker; John Swift, Islam Feruz, Charly Musonda (Charlie Colkett 86).
Unused subs Mitchell Beeney, Alex Davey, Fankaty Dabo
Scorers Musonda 22, Baker 79
Booked Swift, Nditi
Manchester United Ben Amos, Guillermo Varela, Reece James (c) (Tyler Blackett 82), Patrick McNair, Michael Keane, Charni Ekangamene, Saidy Janko, Ben Pearson, James Wilson (James Weir 68), Andreas Pereira, Tom Lawrence (Joshua Harrop 85)
Unused subs Joel Pereira, Matthew Willock
Scorer Lawrence 12
Booked Pearson, Ekangamene