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Chelsea win fifth FA Youth Cup final with comfortable win

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After their stellar second-half comeback at SW6 on the Friday, Chelsea arrived at the Emirates with renewed vigour and confidence.

Their squad depth was demonstrated too with Lamptey, Uwakwe and Brown replaced by 1st leg substitutes Redan, Castillo and Dujon Sterling. A switch to a back three, so popular at senior level also left a solid defence of Jonathon Panzo, Marc Guehi and Reece James- all U17 World Champions. Arsenal also made two changes with Oluwu and Saka replacing Medley and Smith, who were both suffering at the end of the punishing first leg.

If Arsenal were going to fight for the trophy, they needed an early goal. Amaechi started brightly but scuffed his shot and Cumming gratefully collected.

A few moments later and the tie was effectively over thanks to a brilliant finish from Billy Gilmour. The sixteen-year-old Scotsman was played in by George McEachran and he powered the ball low and hard past Joao Virginia on the half-volley. If one was being harsh, potentially Virginia could have done better. Gilmour didn’t care and the reaction said it all - Chelsea knew that was game over.

Hudson-Odoi continued to dictate tempo and his effort was parried by Virginia before he collected a header from Guehi at a corner. The pace dropped to a level suitable for Chelsea and Arsenal were chasing shadows.

The score was 1-0 to the visitors at half-time, but it really was men against boys. If anything, the first half simply highlighted the immense gulf in class between the top two sides in the U18 South Premier League.  

Like in the 1st Leg, Chelsea were slow to get started in the second half. Saka was almost gifted a goal as Cummings missed a floated free-kick, but his flicked effort wasn’t quite on target and squirmed wide.

Another good break for Arsenal was stunted by some excellent defending by Juan Castillo, but all this really gave Arsenal was false hope. False hope which would be shattered very shortly after.

The away fans cheered 'ole' as Chelsea set together a string of impressive passes in the final third, before slipping through Callum Hudson-Odoi. The poster-boy of recent Youth success at Chelsea, he notched his ninth Youth Cup goal and his 20th in all competitions, driving past Ballard and Daley-Campbell before nonchalantly caressing the ball into the corner of Virginia’s net. He never broke a sweat, the modicum of composure and quality.

Chelsea knew it was time to show off and sixteen-year-olds Tino Anjorin and Clinton Mola replaced the more experienced Conor Gallagher and George McEachran.

Arsenal subbed on their top scorer Folarin Balogun for Amaechi, but the Blue onslaught continued, Dujon Sterling forcing Virginia into another excellent stop. Although Chelsea would extend their lead shortly after, the Portuguese keeper was still putting in a top performance.

He didn’t stop the next attack though, orchestrated by the mercurial Hudson-Odoi. He drove through the centre of the Arsenal midfield, cutting a swathe through and as the central defenders decided to track Redan instead, it left Anjorin to curl home a finish from close range into the bottom left corner of the goal. At 6-1 on aggregate, that really was that.

However, Chelsea’s youngsters do not take it easy. Jody Morris, a serial winner with Chelsea at Senior and Youth level simply does not allow it. Reece James lashed over from close range after Hudson-Odoi’s floated free-kick came all the way through.

Arsenal subbed on Zech Medley for captain Daniel Ballard; the centre-back no doubt wounded by the stinging thrashing his old side were inflicting upon his new teammates.

Hudson-Odoi completed the rout shortly after. A quick counter-attack by Chelsea played the seventeen-year-old through and his first touch was perfect, while his composure was absolute as Arsenal defenders and keeper fell around him like bowling skittles. When Hudson-Odoi tucked the ball into the almost-empty net, he had beaten three, perhaps four players without breaking a sweat.

Clinton Mola and Hudson-Odoi both went close again, denied by Joao Virginia who was determined to prevent further damage.

Tempers flared slightly late on as the frustrated Arsenal boys went in hard on Hudson-Odoi and co. earning a booking for Robbie Burton and Reece James picked up a yellow for remonstrating, pleading innocence when trying to protect his Blue teammates.

Arsenal’s night was summed up when they finally managed to beat Jamie Cumming following a neat move, only for the offside flag to spell an end to the very muted celebrations.

In the end, a predictable result and Chelsea’s remarkable run of seven Youth Cups in nine years, as well as a further final in that period leaves them one behind Manchester United in the all-time list of total winners. It is time now for Chelsea’s young charges to kick on and become stars in world football- either at Chelsea or elsewhere.

Media Credit - Pixabay. Wikipedia Commons. Twitter.

Main image shows Chelsea's Youth Team celebrating their FA Youth Cup victory in 2015. 

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