The UEFA Youth League, formerly known as the UEFA U19 Champions League, has served as happy hunting grounds for Chelsea over the years. Since its NextGen Series-inspired inception in 2013, the Blues have won the competition twice (2015 and 2016) and came runners-up once (last year). Chelsea also finished runners-up in the 2013 NextGen Series.
Yesterday, Joe Edwards’ U19s found themselves in an uphill battle against the famed academy of Dinamo Zagreb in the quarterfinal at Cobham, down two goals with less than 15 minutes remaining. But then Luke McCormick, who has been with Chelsea since the age of six, became the hero of the day by scoring two goals to force extra time against the visitors. The first goal came courtesy of a free kick routine...
...while the second one, with just four minutes left in regulation, showed off some impressive jumping ability while taking advantage of some suspect goalkeeping. They all count!
The game eventually went to penalties with McCormick, Conor Gallagher, Marc Guehi, and Joseph Colley converting their attempts. On the other end, goalkeeper Karlo Ziger saved two shots to help secure the U19’s passage through to the semifinal!
It wasn’t a vintage performance, but coach Joe Edwards praised the fighting spirit of his young charges.
“We’re disappointed with our quality levels, which need to improve a lot if we want to reach the final.”
“In order to win tournaments and progress as a player, you have to show character in tough moments so that’s a massive positive we’ve shown and we know we have in our armoury as a team. At 2-0 down, we weren’t playing well individually or collectively but you saw that typical Chelsea Academy belief where the winning mentality came through.”
-Joe Edwards; source: Chelsea FC
Particular praise goes to defender Marc Guehi. The defender was stone cold in his attempt, converting his penalty without any run-up.
No-run-up pen.— Eugene (@EugeneOEA) April 3, 2019
Marc Guehi, Chelsea and England U19 defender. Ivorian-born.
And Chelsea legend and current Aston Villa assistant coach, John Terry, even took time out of his busy schedule to return to Cobham!
John Terry was at Cobham today to watch Chelsea U-19s. Absolutely unreal. He works at Aston Villa, is the assistant manager, and on his time off comes to watch Chelsea youngsters play. Incredible. Our real leader! pic.twitter.com/ffJo9ZCdgb— Younes H-Hamou (@youneshh) April 3, 2019
Up next for Chelsea U19 in the semifinal is a rematch against Barcelona on April 26th in Nyon, Switzerland. It will be a re-edition of last year’s final, which saw Chelsea fall short of the La Masia outfit.
Here’s hoping that the rally against Dinamo Zagreb will provide the spark for Chelsea to get their revenge against Barça, and advance to their fourth Youth League finale!