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Chelsea U19 come up short in UEFA Youth League final second year running

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Porto 3-1 Chelsea, UEFA Youth League final

For the second consecutive season, Chelsea U19 made it as far as it’s possible to make it without winning Europe’s premier competition for youth teams, losing in the final of the UEFA Youth League. While the Baby Blues avenged last year’s 3-0 defeat with a penalty shootout win over Barcelona in the semifinal on Friday, they were unable to keep up with FC Porto in the final, losing 3-1.

This was Chelsea’s fourth appearance (and second loss) in the final of the competition that’s only six years old — and Chelsea were not in it three years ago, despite being defending champions. While UEFA have fixed that oversight and now allow the winners to automatically qualify, too, Chelsea’s results in the U18 Premier League have not been good enough, and will therefore depend on the senior team finishing in the top four or winning the Europa League (all teams in the Champions League group stages get to bring along the kids to work).

Having led for just 9 total minutes in the knockout rounds, just making the final could be considered a tremendous accomplishment, but there was certainly a sense of disappointment for not being able to finish the job. Of course, youth football is as much about development as it is about winning, perhaps even more so, but part of the Chelsea way is winning, of which there is ample evidence in the trophy cabinets back at Cobham.

After both teams spurned glorious opportunities in the opening quarter of an honor, Porto took the lead with a well-worked attack and cross from the right finding a wide open Pedro Vieria at the far post to tap home. Having come from 2-0 down in the quarterfinals and twice from one goal down in the semifinals, both times to win on penalties, Chelsea were not unfamiliar with this game state and went to work, eventually knotting the game up at one apiece through a Daishawn Redan header ten minutes into the second half. But Porto re-took the lead just two minutes later — Karlo Žiger, one of the many heroes of the previous two rounds, getting mighty unlucky on a rebound or two — and then added a third fifteen minutes from time to seal the deal. There would be no fightback this time, with Porto’s edge in age and experience — many dropping down from Porto B, from the Portuguese second division — making a difference.

As ever, for the Chelsea kids involved, this is just the beginning. They are the next generation of supreme talent on that Cobham conveyor belt, ripe for the picking for potential first-team or loan army action. This certainly won’t be the last time we hear the names Redan, McCormick, Gallagher, (George) McEachran, Gilmour, Guehi, Žiger, Lamptey, Castillo, Maatsen, Colley, Anjorin, or Charlie Brown. And that’s just the 13 who featured on Monday.

Onwards and upwards!