Chelsea’s Under-19 team can look forward to playing in the knockout phase of the inaugural UEFA Youth League in the new year after rounding off a thoroughly emphatic group phase with a resounding 5-0 win over Steaua Bucharest at Cobham this evening.
John Swift, Islam Feruz, Alex Kiwomya and Ambrose Gnahore were all on the scoresheet as Dermot Drummy’s side ensured a 100% group record – the only such one in the competition – and have asserted themselves as genuine contenders to lift the trophy in Nyon in April.
Having sent Basel packing 4-0 on Matchday One, they followed suit by winning away in Bucharest by the same scoreline. A double-header against Schalke followed and the matches were undoubtedly the toughest tests the young Blues had faced but Lewis Baker’s dead ball mastery helped them on their way to 2-0 and 1-0 victories before he and Swift struck again to secure a 2-1 win in Basel on Matchday Five.
That goal in Switzerland was the only one the team conceded through six matches and it came after Nathan Aké gave away an unfortunate penalty in the last minute of the game. It is but a minor blemish on an otherwise perfect record and whilst the standard of opposition may not have been as high as it has been in other groups, Chelsea have done what has been asked of them and have done so in style.
They are joined as group winners by Real Sociedad, Real Madrid, Benfica, CSKA Moscow and Barcelona, with two groups to be decided tomorrow. All group winners are assured of home ties in the last sixteen draw; the knockout rounds consist of single leg matches, with the Semi Finals and Final played over one weekend in Nyon.
Amongst the teams who may be destined for a trip to London are Shakhtar Donetsk, FC Kobenhavn, Paris Saint Germain and Milan, whilst one of Napoli or Dortmund could be added from Group F and one from Atlético Madrid, FC Porto and Austria Vienna from Group G will be added to the list by close of play this week.