Chelsea booked their place in the 2014-15 UEFA Youth League Final on Friday afternoon with an emphatic 4-0 win over Roma at the Stade Colovray in Nyon, Switzerland.
A three-goal flurry early in the second half was started by Charlie Colkett and swiftly followed by a Dominic Solanke brace – taking him to 33 goals for the season – whilst substitute Tammy Abraham came off the bench to add a 34th of the campaign for himself and set the table for Monday’s Final against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Coach Adi Viveash was granted the services of first-team squad members Andreas Christensen and Ruben Loftus-Cheek ahead of such a big weekend and, despite the pair both being slight injury doubts, they took their places in possibly the strongest Under-19 team available. Brad Collins continued in goal with Christensen paired alongside Jake Clarke-Salter at centre-back, flanked by Jay Dasilva and Ola Aina at full-back.
Loftus-Cheek and Colkett provided the midfield foundation for a fearsome foursome ahead of them in attack Charly Musonda and Jeremie Boga joining captain Izzy Brown and the competition’s joint-leading goalscorer Solanke in attack.
Roma were without the services of Italian youth defender Elio Capradossi after his red card against Manchester City in the Quarter Finals but did feature two players with Serie A experience in former Barcelona forward Antonio Sanabria and Daniele Verde, who has featured almost a dozen times for the Giallorossi in senior football this term.
A cagey start soon gave way to Chelsea asserting dominance first of possession and then of territory. Colkett was the first to work Gabriele Marchegiani with a stinging try from distance but Roma were able to keep Collins interested at the other end as he was called upon to save Sanabria’s header and then deal with Verde’s threatening free kick from a wide position.
Roma boss Alberto De Rossi had spoken pre-match of his concerns in dealing with Chelsea’s attacking players and so had adopted a rather deeper formation designed to frustrate the English opposition and prove hard to break down. The longer the first half went on, however, the more the Blues looked like they were capable of doing so and they soon began to rack up the chances.
Brown followed Colkett’s lead with a low drive from outside the box demanding a save before then driving inside from the right and getting a more potent effort away, but Marchegiani was equal to them both. He was however then central to the biggest talking point of the half as he appeared to trip Boga at the end of a dazzling run by the young French forward, but referee Jesús Gil Manzao signalled for a goal kick rather than point to the spot.
Loftus-Cheek had a glimpse of goal from six yards that was gone just as quickly as it had emerged and from the ensuing corner, Musonda’s ambitious try flew wide of the top corner. Colkett was later to repeat the trick but as the half drew to a conclusion it was Roma who surprisingly looked the more likely to score the game’s opening goal. A mistake by Aina allowed Francesco Di Mariano to bear down on goal only for Clarke-Salter to sweep up with a thundering sliding tackle, and captain Lorenzo Pellegrini – scorer of a sublime winner against Manchester City last time out – clipped one inches wide of the target.
Chelsea’s pressure eventually told within two minutes of the second half getting underway however. Brown’s dogged determination down the right saw him win the ball under pressure before laying off to find the advancing Colkett, and whilst his effort lacked conviction it took enough of a deflection to deceive Marchegiani and find the back of the net to open the scoring.
One became two three minutes later as Christensen’s long ball forward caused confusion in the Roma ranks and as defender and goalkeeper converged, Solanke took full advantage to find the unguarded net and move into double figures for the competition; his ten taking him clear of Anderlecht’s Aaron Leya Iseka in the race for the golden boot.
Defending for so long against Chelsea often proves hard to maintain and so it had proven here, with the Blues putting themselves out of sight on 56 minutes. Colkett’s aggression ensured a change of possession high up the pitch and he continued his run to meet Boga’s cross. Marchegiani saved the header but was unable to hold onto the ball, allowing Solanke to double his tally and make it 3-0.
Clarke-Salter’s tackle on Pellegrini – deemed reckless enough for a caution by the referee – gave Roma a chance to get themselves back into the match but whilst Verde struck it well, Collins showed a strong pair of hands to divert it away. Midfielder Jose Machín then tried his luck from much further out only to be frustrated by a deflection.
The preserving of legs ahead of the Final began with Kasey Palmer coming on in relief of Boga with twenty minutes to go, but Musonda showed no signs of tiring as he embarked upon a run to the heart of the Roma defence before fizzing an effort inches wide of the near post. Palmer then displayed the effect of his introduction by taking the recently-booked Silvio Anočić on a long sweeping run before laying off for Loftus-Cheek, who shot well over the bar.
Musonda did then give way to the prolific young talents of Abraham and it took him less than a minute to make an impact, squaring for Palmer to test Marchegiani, who made perhaps his best save of the afternoon by scrambling well to get a strong right hand on a shot destined for the far corner.
Christensen almost took advantage of a loose throw from the goalkeeper but a fourth goal inevitably arrived with eight minutes left on the clock; the two substitutes combining as Palmer did well down the left before picking out Abraham inside the six yard box, and he finished in his typically clinical fashion. He very nearly added another a minute later but Marchegiani’s latest intervention kept the scoreline at just 4-0 come the full time whistle.
The young Blues will now prepare to face Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk on Monday afternoon following their rather surprising 3-1 victory over the much more favoured Anderlecht earlier in the day. The match kicks off at 3pm UK time and will be televised live by Eurosport.
Chelsea: Collins, Aina (Tomori 88), Christensen, Clarke-Salter, Dasilva, Colkett, Brown (c), Loftus-Cheek, Solanke, Musonda (Abraham 75), Boga (Palmer 70)
Subs not Used: Thompson, Ugbo, Suljic, Scott
Goals: Colkett ’46, Solanke ’49, ’56, Abraham ‘82
AS Roma: Marchegiani, Anočić (Ciavattini 88), Calabresi, Paolelli, Marchizza, Pellegrini (c), D’Urso, Machín, Verde, Sanabria (Vestenický 45), Di Mariano (Ndoj 77)
Subs not Used: Pop, De Santis, Adamo, Soleri
Booked: Pellegrini, Di Mariano, Anočić