Chelsea’s Under-19 team secured safe passage through to the knockout stages of the 2012-13 NextGen Series with an Islam Feruz-inspired 3-3 draw away to Ajax Amsterdam on Tuesday evening.
In what was by far their most impressive result in the competition so far, Alex Kiwomya gave the youngsters an early lead but it was immediately cancelled out by a Jordi Bitter strike.
Feruz then took over with two strikes either side of half time to keep up his scintillating form and before Alex Davey handed the hosts a penalty which was converted by Lesley De Sa. In increasingly poor conditions of heavy rain and high winds, the game became a battle in the closing stages and although it appeared as if Chelsea would hang on, a last-minute strike by Nick de Bondt changed the face of the group entirely and secured top spot for Ajax.
It had looked like a potentially uphill struggle for the young Blues to make it out of their group after an opening day loss to CSKA Moscow and a draw away to perennial whipping-boys Molde, but an emphatic 6-0 win over the Norwegians at home followed by a pair of draws against Ajax ensured that Drummy’s boys made it through as one of the best third-placed teams.
Their opponents in the round of sixteen are Barcelona, the most prestigious and currently most successful academy in the game. They topped Group A led by forward Sandro Ramirez and qualified with Anderlecht and Tottenham, beating the Londoners 2-0 at White Hart Lane before succumbing to a 4-1 reverse at home having already qualified and taken the decision to rest a number of players.
Venues and dates for the fixture are yet to be confirmed but expect it to be some time in the next month.