Lalkovic promised a win, and the youth boys delivered it!
And so the Chelsea youth boys roll on to the semifinals of the FA Youth Cup! The pattern is familiar - they go down a goal early on (at least this time they managed to last longer than a minute before conceding) and then stage a comeback, getting the winner late in the second half. Today's goalscorers were Bobby Devyne with a ridiculous looping header and a Watford own goal from a Billy Clifford attempt.
Chelsea could have gone one up within the first minute when Milan Lalkovic was brought down in the Watford box in what should have been a penalty. Lalkovic nearly scored shortly after, dragging his shot just wide. The boy was determined today as the rest of the team sought him out with long balls and his pace drove Watford crazy. Unfortunately, his game was marred a bit by a penalty miss, but that didn't hold him back. He deserved a goal today, but it didn't come.
Young Josh - his passing was superb. At one point he played a particularly delicious pass to Clifford that sliced right through the Watford defense and into their box. Here was another performance of his where I sat thinking "those are the types of passes we need on the first team - get him on the pitch!" The way he and Clifford were linking up in the second half was brilliant to watch.
I did mention Josh's passing, but much of the passing in general was frustrating to watch. The boys gave the ball away a lot and put themselves under much more pressure than they needed to, but they fought hard to win the ball back and didn't give up once the Watford goal went in. George Saville made one particularly excellent EBJT-esque block to keep Watford from scoring again - though he's not quite as immune as JT, it took him a minute to recover! It just shows how much determination these young boys have, and it's wonderful to see.
Tomas Kalas still looks a bit shaky in defense and needs a bit more time to adapt. We bought him in the summer and immediately sent him back on loan to his former club, but he came back in the winter for another trial and the Chelsea bigwigs were impressed enough to end his loan spell early and start incorporating him into the Academy.
We could have won by a much larger margin, but Watford goalkeeper Jonathan Bond was in excellent form during the second half, blocking shot after shot that peppered his goal, and several of the boys were missing the target when they had sight of goal. In the end, a deflection from Billy Clifford's cross was enough to seal a place in the semifinal against either Liverpool or Manchester United (they don't play their quarterfinal until March 10th). The semis are played over two legs, with the first leg at Stamford Bridge.
Well done to the boys - not their best performance of the Cup but a hard-fought win!