Chelsea’s remarkable FA Youth Cup run continued in the most unlikely of circumstances as they turned a 3-0 half time deficit into a dramatic, late, 4-3 victory.
First half strikes from David Morgan and Jordan Palmer-Samuels sandwiched a Nathan Aké own goal to leave Eoin Jess’ boys 3-0 up and firmly in control of affairs, but an astonishing second half saw Lucas Piazon get a foothold in the game before a brace from Islam Feruz and a poacher’s effort by Alex Kiwomya secured a Semi Final berth against either Manchester United or Charlton Athletic.
Adie Viveash made one change from last week’s tie against West Ham, bringing in Under-16 winger Reece Mitchell in place of Anjur Osmanovic and moving his compatriot Amin Affane inside to the creative number ten role at the top of the midfield.
Forest were forced into replacing the competition’s leading scorer Patrick Bamford, who joined Chelsea on transfer deadline day after eleven goals in the competition but was cup tied for this clash.
The hosts were quickly into their stride, no doubt spurred on by Jess’ pre-match words that they had not done themselves justice in a 4-0 defeat to the Blues in the competition in 2010, and had the first chance through full-back Lawrence Gorman, who saw his effort saved by Jamal Blackman.
The Chelsea goalkeeper was in Naples with the first team less than 24 hours prior to the game and drove up to join his younger colleagues hours before the match.
Gorman’s effort was dealt with easily but he was extended fully moments later as Ben Osborn curled one towards the far post, whilst in response Piazon dragged a left-footed effort past goalkeeper Dimitar Evtimov but onto the outside of the goalpost.
Forest’s start had threatened much and with just twelve minutes on the clock, they had the lead. Adam Nditi’s clearance failed to convince but Morgan’s instinctive volley was full of class and flew into the far corner, leaving Blackman with no chance.
It would prove to be an eventful half for the all-action midfielder, who went close to a second moments later before having his name taken by the referee for a foul on Piazon which may have warranted a red card under a different referee.
Chelsea were being bullied by a more physical team who had the greater commitment to the cause. They did, however, still manage to carve out opportunities and there were few better than the one Affane received midway through the first half.
Feruz did well down the right and cut the ball back, but Affane’s shot was high and over the crossbar. He was made to pay for it ten minutes before half time when Forest doubled their advantage.
Nditi equalled the bookings tally with a foul on Morgan wide on the right, and from the ensuing delivery, Blackman failed to collect and the loose ball hit Aké and spun over the line into the unguarded net.
Facing an uphill task, Chelsea sparked into life for five minutes and efforts from Kane and Piazon threatened, the latter forcing a fine save from Evtimov after being released by Affane.
Feruz had a shout for a penalty turned down when he collided with Lascelles in the box but, like an earlier collision with Piazon, it was deemed that the giant Forest captain merely used his ample frame within the laws of the game.
Two became three on the stroke of half time from another set piece as Lascelles nodded into the path of Palmer-Samuels, who backheeled past Blackman from close range.
In a bid to add some size to Chelsea’s ranks, Viveash introduced Archange Nkumu at the break and moved Nathaniel Chalobah into midfield, and the positive start reaped a reward within ten minutes.
Piazon found some space down the left and was able to steady himself for a strike at goal, one which was destined for the far corner but found its way in off the body off Kieran Fenton on the line.
Tails firmly up, the Blues looked to make hay and looked to further reduce arrears with shots from Affane and Nditi, but neither were able to beat Bulgarian stopper Evtimov.
Lascelles gathered his team-mates together in a bid to find their focus but they were clearly rattled and looked nowhere near the team they were in the first half. They were still able to threaten from corners though, but Gorman spurned his second opportunity of the night.
Midway through the second half, the lead was reduced to one when Feruz capitalised on a loose pass by turning left-back Andrews and firing a low strike into the far corner of the net.
There was only one side in the contest by this stage and the equaliser came five minutes later. Chelsea’s tenth corner of the night saw Affane drop the ball right underneath the crossbar, where Feruz was able to leverage his body against Evtimov and head home from a yard out.
With two goals to his name the young Scot posed the greatest threat and had chances to complete a memorable hat-trick as the game ticked towards its finale but a close range shot was well saved by Evtimov before a free header went wide of the near post.
Where Feruz failed though, Kiwomya succeeded, when with five minutes left on the clock he pounced on a loose ball after Evtimov spilled Piazon’s effort to complete a quite remarkable comeback and make it 4-3.
Forest staged a late rally but failed to really test Blackman and after four tense minutes of stoppage time the referee blew the final whistle to signal wild celebrations from the blue shirts on the pitch.
Chelsea: Blackman, Kane, Chalobah (c), Aké, Nditi, Baker (Gordon 90), Swift, Affane (Kiwomya 71), Lucas Piazon, Mitchell (Nkumu 45), Feruz
Subs not Used: Osmanovic, Beeney
Nottingham Forest: Evtimov, Gorman, Lascelles (c), Fenton, Andrews, Hollingsworth (Gnahore 72), Blake (Otim 90), Morgan, Osborn, Wallace, Palmer-Samuels
Subs: Smith, Ackroyd, Kamaneno
Goals: Morgan, Aké og, Palmer-Samuels (NFFC); Piazon, Feruz 2, Kiwomya (CFC)
Booked: Morgan, Wallace (NFFC); Nditi (CFC)