Chelsea started the day with a hard-won 2-0 first leg advantage from Anfield. The comfort of the two-goal lead lasted just fifteen minutes however, as lackadaisical defending allowed Liverpool's second-year scholar Kris Peterson to slot home expertly from just inside the area.
If Chelsea had any nerves, it didn't really show. Even with two schoolboys in the starting lineup (Jeremie Boga & Ola Aina) and two more on the bench, Ade Viveash's charges did not panic. The experience of John Swift and Lewis Baker in midfield - the combination of the same two leading last year's side to the Youth Cup title - not to mention Nathan Ake in defense certainly helped.
Fans' nerves were settled just before half time with a classic, flowing counter attack. Some might say, it was a ... swift ... counter, even. As the Liverpool attack broke down, Swifty picked up the ball and powered his way through the middle. Reaching the half-way line, he released Alex Kiwomya down the right, the speedy wing-forward easily catching up to the ball that looked overhit at first. While both Islam Feruz and Jeremie Boga were steaming down the middle, Swift did not stop running either. In classic Frank Lampard fashion, he became the third runner into the box, his trailing run expertly spotted by Kiwomya. The pass in was great, the finish even better, and as Swift's controlled half-volley nestled into the far corner, Chelsea looked well on their way.
Most of us would've been satisfied with a half-time score all even at ones, but not Nathan Ake. We were still discussing just how amazing John Swift's goal was when the Ruud Gullit-lookalike powered home a Chelsea corner with almost the final action of the half. Liverpool probably should've made sure to at least put a token man-marker on the 18-year-old who already has three appearances for the first team.
The second half was mostly one-way traffic and Chelsea could've easily scored 17. A combination of wasteful finishing and a horrible linesman (single-handedly chalked off at least two goals for Alex Kiwomya) kept the score at just 2-1 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate.
A few additional thoughts:
- Mitchell Beeney didn't have much to do, but what he did have to do, he did largely well. That included a rather impressive throw well past the half-way line to start a Chelsea attack.
- A similar statement applies to the defense, especially in the second half. When Liverpool were still in with out a shout, they did not look the strongest however. Liverpool's goalscorer Peterson was allowed to cut in far too easily - thanks to a combination of an out-of-position Ola Aina and a lackadaisical Alex Davey - while Nathan Ake didn't always look like he was fully concentrating on the match.
- Except for that hiccup, Aina was quite impressive on the right flank. Strong and quick, eager to join or lead an attack. Certainly outshone Kevin Wright, his counterpart on the left side.
- I was happy to see John Swift back in the starting lineup, playing slightly ahead of the two guys who have taken his place for most of the season, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Lewis Baker. Swift's confidence of touch and general excellence was in full display and not just on the goal.
- It wasn't the brightest day for either Jeremie Boga or Islam Feruz, the former too one-dimensional always cutting in from the left wing, the latter initially a invisible, then overly selfish and trying a bit too hard.
At the end of the day, it was a good win for the U18's and their dominant second half performance deserved several more goals. Not to worry, they get two more chances to score to their hearts' content when they take on Norwich City in the final. The first leg is set to take place at Carrow Road on Monday, April 29th.