The youth cup has been one of the brightest spots of the season for Chelsea fans thus far, as despite being one of the youngest (if not the youngest) side in the tournament they've been generally impressive in their march to the quarterfinal. Forest would be a real test though, as they've been the most prolific side in the tournament so far and were coming off of a demolition of Southampton (one of the top academies in the country).
Ade Viveash kept basically the same side as he played against West Ham. He played Reece Mitchell on the left wing and slid Amin Affane into the advanced midfield slot previously occupied by Anjur Osmanovic. Jamal Blackman arrived a few hours before kickoff after returning from Naples to take his place in the goal.
The game got going in a hurry, and Chelsea was immediately under heavy pressure as Forest was sprinting to close down space and challenge every pass. Chelsea didn't have any real possession early, and aside from a Lucas Piazon curler that struck the post and what should have been a penalty as Piazon was floored in the box, they offered little threat in the early going. They'd soon find themselves in a very familiar position, trailing early as a poor clearance from Adam Nditi was pounced on and David Morgan found the back of the net. This is starting to become routine for the Chelsea youth, and it really does appear to have a lot to do with the tendency of opposing clubs to play ultra high pressure against them early. That style of play has been stereotypical of the English game for an awful long time, so to see it being instilled in the youth of the smaller clubs really doesn't seem shocking. I suppose this is one of the things the FA hopes to curb by installing the EPPP this coming summer, but enough on that for the moment.
Chelsea would begin to find a foothold in the game at about 25 minutes in. David Morgan went in for a two-footed studs showing tackle on Piazon that may have deserved a card other than the yellow he received. Islam Feruz then played a perfect ball to the feet of Amin Affane only to have the shot lifted high. Reece Mitchell then just missed connecting on an awful Forest throw. Nditi did escape conceding a penalty as his handball in the box managed to escape the referee's attention. Seconds later we'd be punished though, as Adam Nditi got himself booked for a terrible tackle and the ensuing free kick resulted in a Nathaniel Ake own goal. Jamal Blackman really should have done better, but Nditi shouldn't have put him in that situation.
Chelsea were now in a tough spot, but Forest were starting to show signs of fatigue. Chelsea's attacking play resulted in three more excellent chances, with Piazon and Kane just missing wide before another penalty shout was ignored as Feruz was flattened in the box. We'd concede a third seconds later as Jordan Palmer-Samuels would flick one past Blackman at the stroke of halftime. While we had steadily been gaining traction in the game, we'd trail by 3 at the half and it looked to be an impossible task to come back.
The problem with the stereotypical English insane high pressure style is that half way through the game most players are so gassed they can barely move. Other teams from Europe used to play that to their advantage against the English, hanging around early only to dominate the game as it wore on. Luckily for Chelsea, their smart controlled early play would allow them just such an opportunity.
Viveash pulled Mitchell of to start the second half, replcing him with a big center back in Nkumu. This slid Affane to the wing, pushed Swift and Baker forward, and put Chalobah in the holding midfield role (I feel that's his best position). Chelsea would get one back almost immediately as Lucas Piazon found some space on the left and fired one into the back of the net (it took a deflection, but was going in anyway).
Forest looked to be playing on dead legs now, and Chelsea would dominate possession. They pushed and pushed and Islam Feruz would draw us within 1 at about 65 minutes. Just minutes later Feruz would strike again, this time bullying his way to a corner and heading in from just inches out. 20 minutes to play and it was all level.
Forest now looked demoralized on top of exhausted, and the only real question at this point was how soon Chelsea would add another. Just after the third goal Ade Viveash would unleash possibly the fastest U18 player on the planet in Alex Kiwomya, and his pace would immediately be a nightmare for the tired Forest defenders. Chelsea continued to barrage the Forest end, and after the keeper fumbled a Piazon blast Kimomya outran his marker to pounce on the rebound and make it 4-3. Forest would now throw everyone forward to no avail, and Chelsea would see it out to the final whistle for the 4-3 victory.
This marks the 4th semifinal appearance for the youth in the last 5 years, and we'll face the winner of next week's Charlton/United tie at Old Trafford. The semi's are a two legged tie, and Chelsea will be away for the first leg before playing at Stamford Bridge for the decider.
I hate to give out a free advertisement here, but this was quite possibly the most exciting game I've seen this season. I feel like my year's subscription to Chelsea TV was probably worth it just for this game, and any of you that haven't thought about it really should. The way these kids have been playing, it would be an absolute crime to miss a minute of the semis. FOr those of you who already subscribe, I really hope you got to see that amazing win.