Half time at the FA Youth Cup: Chelsea dominate, Norwich lead - the first leg goes to the Canaries 1-0

Christopher Lee

"We had enough chances to win three games." - Adi Viveash

Chelsea dazzled and entertained but it was Norwich who nicked it at the end with a rather fortunate penalty in the 93rd minute. A scoreless draw was all but assured when Ruben Loftus-Cheek lost the ball by cutting the ball right back onto his own heels. Alex Davey was covering and probably would've minimized the danger had he not stumbled and then dove directly at the feet of the advancing Norwich player. It was a silly play, as much as an unfortunate one, leaving no doubt about the penalty. McGeehan, the Norwich captain and ex-Chelsea schoolboy, fired an unstoppable penalty past Mitchell Beeney into the roof of the net and thus Norwich get to take a half time one-goal lead to Stamford Bridge in two weeks.

Adam Nditi, having missed out through injury and lack of proper match fitness, summed it up best:

It was a match of contrasting styles. Adi Viveash always talks about playing "the right way," and the right way was how Chelsea played. Lovely passing, plenty of chances - for much of the game, there only looked to be one possible winner. The front three of Boga - Feruz - Kiwomya were supported by the triangle of Baker - Colkett - Loftus-Cheek, while the defense lined up with the familiar foursome of Wright - Ake - Davey - Aina.

Unfortunately, Chelsea were far from flawless, especially in the final third. In what may be an all too familiar story from the first team, the Blues played narrow and struggled to finish. Islam Feruz was the first to waste a glorious opportunity, firing high up into the Carrow Road stands, much to the derision of the 22,000 spectators. Perhaps affected by the crowd and certainly trying to compensate for the dreadful miss, Feruz wasted another one just a few minutes later, this time harmlessly slamming his shot low and wide of the near post.

Surprise starter Charlie Colkett - part of the midfield trio in place of John Swift - had a very good opening 20-30 minutes and capped it off with a low drive, which missed by less than a foot. A few minutes earlier, Nathan Ake's shot was cleared off the line after his initial effort was saved rather acrobatically. Ake had another effort cleared off the line just before the end of the first half, part of a goalmouth scramble in which Chelsea could've easily scored at least three.

At the other end, Norwich was a decent threat on the counter, the Murphy twins and a bulldozer named Carlton Morris up top making Chelsea's defense work with direct, powerful runs. Ola Aina at right back and Nathan Ake in the middle were coping well, Alex Davey less so. Left back Kevin Wright had mostly an uneventful day, at both ends of the pitch.

The second half unfolded in similar fashion, although Norwich's Morris did conspire to miss almost as badly as Feruz did in the first half. As legs began to tire, Alex Kiwomya & Jeremie Boga popped up with several scintillating runs and John Swift came into the midfield to provide an extra bit of control and distribution. Just the same, the proper reward kept eluding the Blues.

With about fifteen minutes left, Islam Feruz made way for a Chelsea debutant, the much heralded Charly Musonda Jr. Fresh from the U16 squad, having finally settled whatever clearances and paperworks were needed for the step up, Viveash called him a "secret weapon" before the match. Sporting the same unfortunate haircut as Feruz, the Belgian looked hilariously tiny. Which reminds me of one of my favorite tweets from during the match:

As adorable as the youngest Musonda was, Chelsea's end product was still lacking. A bit of frustration may have started creeping in and Ola Aina picked up the game's first booking with a silly lunge. Caught between trying to press for a winner or playing it safe for a result, Chelsea's passing became disjointed. Alex Davey's David Luiz-esque long balls were still working however, and it was from one of those that Ruben Loftus-Cheek found himself all alone in the penalty area. Perhaps disbelieving his luck at how badly the Norwich right back misplayed the offside trap, the Chelsea standout completely fluffed his control and the chance went begging.

There were only a few minutes left at that point and Chelsea were ready to take the scoreless draw back home - a decent result in a two-legged final. But it was the unfortunate Loftus-Cheek who struck again, starting the sequence of events that lead to Norwich's penalty. I'm sure he will be out for revenge in two weeks.

So, at half-time in the FA Youth Cup final, it is Norwich City 1, Chelsea 0. It is worth noting that Chelsea also lost the away leg of last year's final 1-0, although that came after a 4-0 home win over Blackburn in the first leg. But considering the amount of chances they created and the eye-pleasing football often on display, It would not surprise me if the Baby Blues matched that same scoreline on May 13th at Stamford Bridge.

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