For the second round in a row Chelsea kept their FA Youth Cup hopes alive courtesy of a penalty shootout after a dramatic 120 minutes against West Ham United.
Lewis Baker’s opening goal highlighted a sterling first half performance by the Blues but they were pegged back shortly before the break. Islam Feruz restored the lead but Blair Turgott drew the Hammers level again before Elliott Lee’s stoppage time strike appeared to have won the game.
However, Nathaniel Chalobah scrambled a third Chelsea goal and took the game into an addition period, before the tie was settled by Todd Kane’s sudden-death spot kick.
Manager Adie Viveash was given a pre-match boost with the news that goalkeeper Jamal Blackman was fit to return to action after a month out with a knee injury, but he was forced to work without Daniel Pappoe, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Alex Kiwomya, who all would have featured if available.
Nathaniel Chalobah moved into the centre of defence alongisde Nathan Aké, allowing Anjur Osmanovic a first start in the competition at the top of a re-shapen midfield. The youth team have thus far this season used a traditional one-man base to their 4-3-3 formation in midfield, but of late they have swapped it around.
The visitors were captained by Dan Potts, who has played for Sam Allardyce’s first team this season, but were surprisingly without star striker Robert Hall, an apparent late omission from the matchday squad.
In the league meeting between the two sides at Cobham in early January, Chelsea dominated large portions of the first half only to find themselves on terms at the break due to slack defending, and this contest was scarcely different, with the Blues in control from an early stage.
Swift and Baker drove the game from the middle of the park, keen to spread the ball wide, where Lucas Piazon and Amin Affane were ably supported by full-backs Kane and Adam Nditi.
It was Kane who offered the notable attacking impetus, first putting in a fine cross from the right before driving through the middle to fire a testing effort which goalkeeper David Wootton did well to deal with.
Wootton was to be a busy man in the opening 45 minutes and was soon called into action again when Swift sent a shot his way which was duly tipped away for a corner. From the set-piece, Piazon’s firmly struck drive nestled safely in the arms of the Hammers stopper.
Chelsea were keen to make an early impression and within twelve minutes had the lead. Neat approach play from a handful of Blues eventually saw Swift pick up the ball and carry it from left to right and into the box before cutting it back for Baker to rifle into an empty net.
It was the midfielder’s fourth goal of the season, and a first from open play. Moments later he came within inches of a second as an inswinging cross from the right was left by everybody and rebounded off the post.
The visitors had struggled to get a footing in the game and took 25 minutes to ask a question of Blackman, who was alert to save Taylor Miles’ ambitious long-range effort.
Respite was brief however, and Chelsea were soon back on the front foot as Piazon and Feruz both came close to doubling the lead after a good cross by Todd Kane. Piazon followed that with a low shot from the edge of the box but it was, once again, straight at Wootton.
For all their dominance though, the Blues had just the one goal and moments before half time West Ham showed exactly what they’re capable of by grabbing the equaliser. Kane’s clearance was poor and landed at the feet of Miles, who drove a shot from 25 yards past Blackman’s outstretched arm and into the back of the net.
Having had the confidence boost of a goal just before the break, it was unsurprising to see the visitors start the second half well, with two or three deliveries into the box causing some consternation and uncertainty from Blackman.
Viveash responded by introducing Ismail Seremba in place of Anjur Osmanovic and the hosts were quickly back into their stride. Kane continued to rampage down the right and provided a wonderful chance for Piazon, who saw his effort saved and then Affane’s follow-up blocked in desperation.
Midway through the second period, Chelsea restored the lead their play deserved. Swift won the ball back in midfield and quickly played a ball through the heart of the West Ham defence, with Feruz alert to the situation.
The young Scot shrugged off the attentions of Kenzer Lee before beating Wootton with a confident left-footed effort for his seventh goal of the season, making him the outright leading scorer in the youth team ranks.
Chelsea controlled the next ten minutes whilst probing for a goal to put the game to bed but, as has been typical of this fixture this season, West Ham responded and scored the game’s fourth goal to once again draw level.
Substitute Dominic Vose came forward unchallenged and linked well with Elliott Lee before playing in Turgott, who beat Blackman unchallenged from the centre of the goal.
The rhythm of the entire game swung with Turgott’s strike as Chelsea spent the final ten minutes penned in their own end fending off claret and blue advances. Vose was the orchestrator of much of their best but they were unable to find a way through.
That was until the 93rd minute, when Lee collected the ball wide on the right of the box and sent a skidding effort back across the face of goal and into the far corner, beating Blackman’s despairing dive.
West Ham celebrated with a place in the Quarter Finals surely confirmed, but immediately from kickoff Chelsea launched a last hurrah and when Feruz’s effort came back off the post, Chalobah was in the right place at the right time to score and send the match into extra time at 3-3.
Perhaps predictably, the additional minutes were played at a much less frenetic pace with tiredness setting in on both sides.
Vose however, having been on barely twenty minutes, was a clear and constant threat and went close to adding his name to the ever-expanding scoresheet as the game ticked into its 100th minute, but a brave stop from Blackman denied him from six yards out.
Chelsea’s best efforts came in the second half, firstly when Piazon’s mazy run won a free kick on the edge of the box, but Affane put his shot high over the crossbar. Then, the Brazilian’s quick feet set up a chance for Feruz, but Wootton continued his stellar night with a smart save having narrowed the angle.
In the end, penalties settled it for the second consecutive round. Even the first five rounds couldn’t separate the sides as although Elliott Lee saw his spot kick saved by Blackman, Feruz put the decisive effort over the bar to prolong affairs.
Blackman repeated the heroics when he denied Vose though, allowing Kane to step up and secure a date at Nottingham Forest in the Quarter Finals.
Chelsea: Blackman, Kane, Chalobah (c), Aké, Nditi, Baker, Swift, Osmanovic (Seremba 51), Affane, Lucas Piazon, Feruz
Subs not Used: Beeney, Nkumu, Gordon, Nortey
West Ham United: Wootton, Young, Chambers, K.Lee (Shaw 67), Potts, Miles (Hurley 78), Powell, Sadlier (Vose 70) Turgott, Fanimo, E.Lee
Subs not Used: Baxter, Boakye-Yiadom
Goals: Baker, Feruz, Chalobah (CFC), Miles, Turgott, E.Lee (WHUFC)
Booked: Chambers, Turgott, Potts (WHUFC)
Penalties: Turgott SCORED, Chalobah SCORED, E.Lee MISSED, Piazon SCORED, Powell SCORED, Baker SCORED, Chambers SCORED, Affane SCORED, Potts SCORED, Feruz MISSED, Vose MISSED, Kane SCORED.