An outstanding performance from the Chelsea Youth has seen them firmly place at least one hand (and a few fingers from the other hand) onto the FA Youth Cup Trophy. Few would've predicted such a crooked scoreline in a Cup final, but the Baby Blues firmly outclassed their opponents tonight and put themselves in a very strong position to finish the job on May 9th at Ewood Park.
Adi Viveash named an unchanged side from the one that progressed at home v. Manchester United, and the familiar combinations that we've come to enjoy so much during this Cup run paid off handsomely again. Islam Feruz's second half brace added to the advantage created by goals from Nathaniel Chalobah and Lewis Baker as Chelsea's young squad romped their way to victory in front of an appreciative crowd (which included not only several first-teamers, but even Roman Abramovich himself!).
The first 15 minutes of this match certainly gave no indication of how it would eventually turn out. Perhaps the magnitude of the occasion got to the youngsters on both sides at the start. A frantic, very open game with several tough, manly challenges (Blackburn's back line was positively giant compared to our forwards, although Nathaniel Chalobah in particular looked to take no prisoners either) and haphazard passing would see Blackburn Rovers carve out several good opportunities. If not for Jamal Blackman standing strong & tall in his goal, Rovers could've easily grabbed a goal or three.
Not for the last time on the night, Blackman would deny Blackburn's Osawe, once from point blank range after the 19-year-old lost his marker, and a second time from a scrambled header off one of Blackburn's 14 corners. Chelsea were looking a bit rattled and even the reliable John Swift would be guilty of a few giveaways.
Then, everything changed. What started as a fairly innocuous move by Chelsea, with plenty of yellow shirts defending in good positions, would result in the opening goal. Amin Affane wriggled free of his marker on the right side and lofted a perfect left-footed cross onto Nathaniel Chalobah's head. The Captain, having advanced from his holding midfield position, nodded coolly into the bottom corner, leaving Blackburn's Urwin with no chance. Just like that, it was 1-0.
Chelsea would not look back after that. The goal settled our boys' nerves and they looked in control for the rest of game (save for the odd scramble from a Blackburn corner). Lucas Piazon, quiet in the opening third, would start to exert his familiar influence on the game, while Affane would continue his good start by seeing a shot get cleared off the line.
We would not have to wait much longer for the second goal, and it was a beauty. The attack started once again on our right flank, this time with Todd Kane. The English U-19 International beat his man to create a yard of space and put a low cross into the Rovers' penalty box. Five yellow shirts were in there, but the ball still found Lucas Piazon. Nobody would've faulted the Brazilian for shooting after his excellent first touch tamed the cross...but instead of forcing it, Piazon laid the ball back to the onrushing Lewis Baker who slammed the ball into the top-right corner of the net. Positively Lampard-esque, that was an unstoppable shot.
Chelsea were cruising and the rest of the first half would pass without major incident, although not for lack of effort. Islam Feruz, not (yet) involved in any of the goals, was a constant thorn in Blackburn's side: closing down defenders, winning 50-50's, and even chasing back to put in key tackles around the Chelsea penalty box.
In the second half, Feruz's effort would pay dividends on the score-sheet as well. After John Swift missed on a free header from a rare Chelsea corner, Nathaniel Chalobah's defense splitting pass found Feruz clear through on goal and he made no mistake with a sweet first-time finish. 10 minutes later, Feruz would do it again, this time with just the barest of touches to redirect Piazon's through ball. Second goal for the Scot, second assist for the Brazilian, and the tie was as good as over.
Todd Kane would almost put extra shine on the proceedings towards the end. Penetrating the defense with yet another lung-bursting run, Kane saw his shot blocked at the last minute by the combined, desperate efforts of the Blackburn defense and keeper. The visitors also had one more decent effort (Osawe, for the third time), but just as he had all day, Blackman stood strong and sealed his clean sheet.
Chelsea were dominant on the night, dominant on the score-sheet, and to say that they look strong favorites to lift the FA Youth Cup on May 9th might be an understatement.