The Under-19s went down to defeat in the quarter-final of the inaugural UEFA Youth League as goals from Sebastian Starke Hedlund, Maurice Multhaup and substitute Florian Pick sent the Germans into the last four. A John Swift strike midway through the second half gave Chelsea brief hope but they were unable to recover on a sunny spring afternoon at Cobham.
Manager Dermot Drummy named an unchanged starting side from the team that defeated AC Milan in the last round last month. John Swift and Alex Kiwomya, tied as the Blues’ top goalscorer in the competition this term on five each, supported striker Islam Feruz from the flanks.
Lewis Baker, scorer of a brilliant 30-yard strike in that win over Milan, captained the team from midfield alongside Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Jeremie Boga, while Ola Aina, Andreas Christensen, Dion Conroy and Fankaty Dabo continued at the back. Mitchell Beeney was in goal.
The visitors from Germany started brightly, pressing Chelsea high up the field and making it difficult for Drummy’s side to play the ball out from the back. Their encouraging start was rewarded inside five minutes as the referee awarded a penalty following an aerial challenge from Conroy. Sebastian Starke Hedlund stepped up and dispatched the kick from 12 yards confidently into the bottom right corner.
The young Blues responded as Boga’s mazy run was blocked well by a defender and Loftus-Cheek headed the resultant corner over the bar, before Beeney made two crucial saves in quick succession down the other end, the first a strong stop from captain Pascal Itter.
Feruz worked himself a promising opportunity in tight space, showing neat footwork and a burst of pace to escape the attention of nearby defenders and fire a low effort at goal, though Timon Wellenreuther was equal to the effort from close range as he made his first stop of the afternoon.
Midway through the half Beeney was called into action again, making an excellent save with his feet to deny forward Maurice Multhaup as the wideman benefited from a fortuitous defection to get away from Aina down the right flank.
The visitors were continuing to create chances in front of goal and Leroy Sane’s free kick was deflected narrowly over Beeney’s bar following a foul on the edge of the box that brought the game’s first booking for Conroy.
Swift headed Baker’s free-kick delivery narrowly over and Feruz tested Wellenreuther following a bright move out from the back by the hosts, before Christensen (pictured top) came closest for Chelsea as he headed Baker’s free kick forward against the crossbar. Yet the deficit was doubled in the final minutes of the half as the impressive Leroy Sane beat a couple of defenders, fed Multhaup with a clever back-heel and the striker finished emphatically beyond Beeney.
Drummy introduced Izzy Brown for the second period in a move that saw Loftus-Cheek depart and Swift move infield. Christensen forced a save from Wellenreuther inside the opening couple of minutes as his header from a corner was gathered, before Feruz shot wide having been played through by Swift.
Chelsea were enjoying more control in possession but struggling to break through a spirited and well-drilled Schalke defence. Itter fired narrowly over from range after more good work from Sane before the hosts grabbed a goal that reignited the contest. Brown progressed well down the left and, after some tight interplay with Baker, the loose ball fell to the lurking Swift (pictured below), who finished neatly beyond Wellenreuther for his sixth goal in the competition this campaign.
The young Blues were buoyed by the goal and continued to threaten as they searched for an equaliser. Baker forced a low save from the goalkeeper before Marvin Friedrich had a great chance to restore Schalke’s two-goal advantage. The hosts pushed out following a corner but left Friedrich onside, though the defender’s connection was tame and Beeney gathered.
However, Beeney was soon beaten once again as the visitors grabbed a third goal. A slaloming run from substitute Florian Pick beat a couple of defenders before the striker finished confidently and low beyond the goalkeeper to put his team back in control.
A effort from Boga (pictured below) flew inches past the far post and Brown also bent a shot narrowly wide as Chelsea continued to push forward, while Ssewankambo defended strongly against Pick to deny the visitors a fourth at the other end. Yet it was ultimately an afternoon of disappointment for Drummy’s side.
Next up for the Academy is a league trip to Reading tomorrow for Adi Viveash’s Under-18 side.
Drummy conceded his side exited the competition at the hands of a side who were superior on the day. They were unable to combat the game plan of their opponents from Germany.
Speaking to the official Chelsea website after the game, he said: ‘We were beaten by the better side on the day. Schalke’s first-half performance was very good. They pressed, didn’t allow us to play and blocked us off centrally.
‘In the second half we had a better performance as their energy levels dropped off but I still think individual decisions like poor marking and poor defending have cost us and we had a lack of real creative, inventive play, qualities that we’ve shown throughout this competition.
‘You can’t argue with the penalty and then we’re 1-0 down inside five or six minutes. Schalke didn’t allow us to control the tempo and they were very strong. We identified Sane as a top player and he produced a bit of magic for the second goal and they could have had two more.’
However Drummy wished to pay tribute to his players’ European exertions this campaign.
‘We’ve had a fantastic journey and I have to give credit to my players. Some of them are first-years and will be able to play another two years in this competition. We’ve done really well to get to this stage but the big lesson is that you have to turn up against big sides on the day.’
Chelsea Mitchell Beeney; Fankaty Dabo (Isak Ssewankambo 62), Dion Conroy, Andreas Christensen, Ola Aina (Dominic Solanke 76); Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Izzy Brown h/t), Lewis Baker (c), Jeremie Boga; John Swift, Islam Feruz, Alex Kiwomya.
Unused subs Bradley Collins, Jordan Houghton, Charlie Colkett, Reece Mitchell
Scorer Swift 65
Bookings Conroy, Baker
Schalke Timon Wellenreuther, Adis Omerbasic, Daniel Koseler, Sebastian Starke Hedlund, Marvin Friedrich, Miles Muller, Pascal Itter, Maurice Neubauer, Leroy Sane (Thilo Kehrer 88), Felix Platte (Hendrik Lohmar 82), Maurice Multhaup (Florian Pick 68)
Unused subs Janik Schilder, Tim Bodenroder, Donis Avdijaj, Kim Sane
Scorers Starke Hedlund 6, Multhaup 44, Pick 77
By Sam Poplett