Tell me if you've heard this before...Chelsea were in control of a game against Barcelona, they have a player sent off, do a fantastic job of defending deep, and win the tie with a late strike against the run of play. It happened again today, this time for the U19 side in the NextGen round of 16.
The junior Blues lined up with a very young eleven, even by the standards of the U18/19 NextGen Series. The starters for Chelsea included Mitchell Beeney, Todd Kane, Alex Davey, Andreas Cristensen, Adam Nditi, George Saville, Connor Hunte, Lewis Baker, Alex Kiwomya, Jeremie Boga, and Islam Feruz. Most notable in that lineup was the fact that the Chelsea attack included three 16-year olds and the 17-year old Feruz.
The game got started as a fairly evenly matched affair, with Chelsea nearly getting caught on a quick counter attack just ten minutes in. A Todd Kane goal line clearance kept the game scoreless though, with the young right back making his first appearance for the U19 side since returning from his one-month spell at Blackburn.
Alex Davey would match Todd Kane's goal line clearance just minutes later, as Mitchell Beeney couldn't manage to control a Diarra shot. Barca were taking control of the match on their home soil, beginning to put the Chelsea keeper under pressure.
Twenty five minutes in, Chelsea would begin to mount some pressure of their own. Barcelona's defense struggled to cope with the speed of Alex Kiwomya, and he forced the Barca keeper into a good save. Minutes later Islam Feruz almost managed to latch onto a Kane cross into the box, just missing out on a chance to put the Blues ahead.
The youngest player on the pitch was Jeremie Boga, the only player born in 1997. As the first half wore on, Boga was showing why he was playing at such a young age by slowly taking over the match. He'd start off the break that eventually saw Chelsea open the scoring, driving down the middle of the pitch and finding Todd Kane on the right. Kane found Feruz with his cross this time, and the Scottish youth international buried the easy tap in to send the Blues into the break up 1-0.
There were no changes to start the second half, but just after it got underway Chelsea were forced to alter their approach. Connor Hunte made a silly challenge to get himself sent off in the 47th minute, an attempt that he'll hopefully learn to avoid as he grows older. Being down to 10 caused Chelsea to play an all too familiar strategy, dropping deep into two banks of four with Islam Feruz all alone in the attack.
The Barcelona pressure mounted, but like so many matches when the senior sides of these clubs meet, Chelsea's youth defended admirably and Mitchell Beeney was rarely forced into a difficult save. Boga capped his excellent night with a stoppage time goal to seal it, and the Blues advanced with a 2-0 win on the road against Barcelona's U19 side.
The Blues next opponent will be determined on Friday, when the draw for the NextGen quarterfinals are held. With the win, the academy sides have now reached the final eight of both the NextGen Series and the FA Youth cup, an impressive feat considering the amount of schoolboys that they have been using. Well done junior Blues!