Despite giving it a good go, Chelsea were unable to defend the FA Youth Cup. Having been beaten 1-0 at Carrow Road in the first leg, they had plenty of work to do, but they certainly could have mounted a comeback if not for some highly unfortunate defending and wasted chances. Ultimately, they didn't do enough, and Norwich counterattacked brilliantly, winning 3-2 on the night to claim the trophy.
Chelsea opened up the match knowing they needed a goal to get back onto level terms, and just like in the first leg the Blues dominated. Norwich sat back, hoping to absorb pressure, and Jeremie Boga made them pay in short order. The centre backs were split thanks to Islam Feruz's run, and Boga exploded into the vacant space before slotting past Will Britt from 20 yards. The goalkeeper didn't even move.
Now level on aggregate, Chelsea had their tails up and pinned the visitors even deeper. But confidence suddenly turned into complacency, and poor defending suddenly put the Canaries back ahead. Norwich took a corner short, with Josh Murphy just barely keeping the ball in play before firing towards the near post. The ball came off either Adam Nditi or Mitchell Beeney at the near post -- it was a bit of a mess -- and went straight in. 1-1. Whoops.
Chelsea kept pouring forward. Feruz missed after being played in Lewis Baker. Alex Kiwomya pushed a shot just wide. Britt saved well from a swerving Baker free kick. A goal was coming, surely?
Yes. But at the wrong end. Only a few seconds after Baker saved the Blues' collective bacon by clearing off the line following some disastrous defending, Norwich 'earned' a penalty after Carlton Morris fell down in the general vicinity of Alex Davey. It was an utterly horrendous dive, but Neil Swarbrick pointed at the spot anyway, putting Chelsea in real trouble. Cam McGeehan sent Beeney the wrong way to put the visitors up on the night and two goals clear on aggregate.
Four minutes of injury time didn't help Chelsea much, but they did have the whole of the second half in which to mount a comeback. Two great opportunities to pull one back immediately presented themselves -- Feruz just failed to get on the end of an inviting cross before Britt saved well from a Baker volley.
It seemed almost inevitable that the Blues would score again, and after a Jonathan Swift through ball set Feruz one on one against Britt it looked as though the second was about to arrive. But Britt did superbly and got a finger on the ball, pushing Feruz wide and forcing him to slash an effort into the side netting.
The Canaries were still more than happy to hit Chelsea on the break, and then nearly took advantage of miscommunication between Davey and Nditi to put Murphy through. Beeney as able to make the stop, but it was yet another warning that Norwich could punish the Blues if they turned off.
Changes were needed, and the trio of Charly Musonda, Kevin Wright and Charlie Colkett were introduced for Ola Aina, Nditi and Swift respectively. It didn't help much, and Norwich began attacking the hole left by Aina's absence. The quickly resulted in their third goal -- a series of brilliant passes resulted in Jacob Murphy squaring to Josh, who killed off the tie with a tap-in.
There wasn't much left to do but see out the rest of the match. Musonda managed to keep the scoreline from getting more embarrassing with a brilliant last-ditch tackle on Josh Murphy as he broke clear of the defence, but that tackle was more about preserving pride than retaining any hope. Norwich could coast to victory, and they -- and the impressive away fans -- thoroughly enjoyed themselves at the Blues' expense. Not even an 87th minute Boga goal spoiled the party.
After losting the NextGen final to Aston Villa, this is another disappointment for the youth team, but they played some nice football and should be proud to even get as far as they did. You can't win them all.