FA Youth Cup Semi-Final Second Leg
Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1 (Colkett 16) (Chelsea win 3-1 on aggregate)
By Jeorge Bird @ Emirates Stadium
Arsenal’s hopes of winning the FA Youth Cup for the first time in five years were destroyed by an impressive Chelsea side at Emirates Stadium this evening. Chelsea, already carrying a 2-1 advantage from the First Leg at Stamford Bridge, capitalised on some woeful defending from Arsenal to score through Charlie Colkett and, despite Arsenal’s best efforts, didn’t come close to relinquishing their lead.
Arsenal did not give the best account of themselves during this tie, as they struggled as an attacking force in both legs, whilst Chelsea seemed physically and tactically superior throughout. This was Arsenal’s best run in the competition since they last won it in 2009, but, in these two games, they never came close to replicating the displays that the likes of Jack Wilshere produced half a decade ago.
Arsenal again failed to offer enough support to make the most of Chuba Akpom’s considerable talent and, although Gedion Zelalem was a little better than last week, the young Gunners lacked their usual fluidity, with Chelsea’s well drilled side closing them down at every opportunity.
Leander Siemann, meanwhile, made several defensive mistakes, rendering the decision to select him in preference to Stefan O’Connor rather bizarre.
Coach Carl Laraman made just one change from the First Leg, with Jack Jebb coming into the side at the expense of Dan Crowley, rather than Gedion Zelalem. Chelsea also made just a solitary alteration with Jay Da Silva being preferred to Isaiah Brown.
subs: Crowley (for Iwobi, 58), O’Connor (for Siemann, 67), Lipman (for Kamara, 86). Not used: Huddart, Mugabo.
Chelsea were impressive in the early stages, with Jordan Houghton sending a cross wide. Left-back Ola Aina then saw a shot saved by Josh Vickers following a good move involving Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Da Silva.
Arsenal’s first attacking move of note involved their two most dangerous attacking players, Alex Iwobi and Chuba Akpom, with Iwobi finding the striker, whose effort was deflected for a corner.
Chelsea soon provided Arsenal with a reminder of their threat, however. Kiwomya’s cross was cut out, with Charlie Colkett subsequently sending his shot wide. Arsenal then, not for the first time in this Youth Cup run, were reliant on Josh Vickers for coming to their rescue. The goalkeeper made a superb double save to deny Dominic Solanke twice in quick succession.
Arsenal then sought to assert themselves at the other end, with Jebb’s free-kick locating Julio Pleguezuelo at the far post, but the Spanish centre-back’s header was saved. The chances were coming thick and fast for both sides, and Chelsea would make their next opportunity count, with Colkett pouncing on some disappointing defending from Jebb and Siemann, as well as a rare mistake from Vickers, to open the scoring and give Chelsea a 3-1 aggregate lead.
Houghton then sought to put the tie beyond doubt, but Vickers held his shot. Arsenal demonstrated their quality when Zelalem played a clever lofted pass into the path of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, but the winger’s shot was saved.
Da Silva then sent an effort wide for Chelsea, with Arsenal responding with their best move of the half. Iwobi embarked on a driving run down the left flank and spotted Akpom in space. Akpom back-heeled the ball into the path of his team-mate, with Iwobi’s shot eventually being cleared for a corner.
Chelsea ended the half as they started it by creating chances with regularity. Solanke shot over, then, after Zelalem lost the ball, Da Silva did well to find Kiwomya, whose shot lacked conviction.
Chelsea’s dominance continued after the interval, with Andreas Christensen somehow remaining unopposed as he marauded up the field before shooting wide. Arsenal came close at the other end, with the impressive Glen Kamara seeing his effort cleated off the line after he latched onto Jebb’s free-kick.
Arsenal then struck the post through Akpom after a precise through-ball from Zelalem, but the offside flag had already been raised. Arsenal sought to increase their attacking momentum by introducing Crowley in place of Iwobi, but Chelsea continued to dominate, with Colkett’s shot deflecting off the disappointing Siemann for a corner, before Solanke’s effort was kept out by Vickers.
Siemann then made another error, but Colkett again couldn’t capitalise, with the German centre-back then, at long last, being replaced by O’Connor. Arsenal also introduced Austin Lipman, featuring in his third game in four days, as they went all out for victory, but, even with Crowley operating almost as a second striker, they were still unable to breach the resolute Chelsea defence.
Some of Arsenal’s performances in this competition this season, particularly against Charlton Athletic and Everton, were mightily impressive, but once again, as they did in both the U21 Premier League Cup and the UEFA Youth League, Arsenal’s youngsters have fallen at the latter stages of a major cup competition.