Chelsea's U18 side went to Anfield today for the first leg of their FA Youth Cup semifinal. They were largely the better side during the match, and a pair of Alex Kiwomya goals in the final minutes of play see the Blues head back to London with a 2-0 lead in the tie.
I'm not going to recap the entire match here, for that you can check in with the club's website. I would like to share a few observations I made while watching the game though, as there are just so many good things to take from watching this current crop of youth play:
- I'll start with the goalscorer. The first half was a perfect example of the type of play he tends to struggle with. Chelsea were generally dominating possession and building up slowly, and aside from a few long balls from Andreas Christensen, Kiwomya was very rarely involved. As the game got a bit stretched in the second half, Kiwomya was seemingly able to see the lanes opening up to run into. All of a sudden he was a real nuisance for the Liverpool defense to deal with, and might have been unlucky to finish with only a brace. Hopefully he can find ways to have more of an impact against organized defenses going forward, as this is probably the part of his game that currently needs the most work.
- After watching today's game, I really have a hard time believing that Andreas Christensen was one of the youngest players on the pitch. He was absolutely sensational in the center of the defense, and has certainly had moments this season where he looked like he was just far too advanced for the U18 level. His ability to read the game is just uncanny for such a young player, and watching the game today reminded me of the days where we watched Ricardo Carvalho in blue. I hope his ankle injury is nothing serious, as he'd be a big loss for the remainder of the season. As he's probably young enough that the club won't be sending him out on loan quite yet, he may well be in for some minutes in the league Cup next fall.
- Ruben Loftus-Cheek was just at an entirely different level than the rest of the midfielders for either side today. His positioning and defensive work were absolutely exceptional, and he was strong and composed with the ball at his feet. He's another one that reminds me of one of Chelsea's greats from the near past, as he even moves like Michael Ballack used to. All of the tools are there for him to become a truly fantastic player, and I could see the club being aggressive and sending him out on loan in the fall. If they don't he'll likely join Christensen in the discussion for some League Cup minutes.
- Jeremie Boga's work on the second goal was sensational. He's the type of player that can certainly make something out of nothing, and he read the run of Kiwomya and laid on an absolutely perfect pass to put the game to bed. Here's what Oldham player and Wales international Danny Byrnes had to say after watching that:
Actually glad i wasn't in the Wales squad when we played france cos Boga would've given me nightmares looool— Dan (@Danny_Byrnes) April 12, 2013
- I really have to finish with Ola Aina here, as he doesn't get used with this group of players very often. He was extremely impressive considering he was sort of tossed into the deep end today, and didn't look out of place at all for the vast majority of the match. I suppose it's a nice luxury to have when you can call on and England youth international when you're forced to shuffle the defense due to injuries. He's still just a schoolboy (along with Charlie Colkett and Jeremie Boga), so he'll likely be more heavily involved with this squad over the course of the next year or two.