Chelsea booked their place in the FA Youth Cup Quarter Finals for the seventh year in succession by coming away from AFC Wimbledon’s Cherry Red Records Stadium with a 4-1 win on Tuesday night.
The scoreline was a little flattering for a Blues side made to work extremely hard for their reward by. Dons team inspired by wins at Watford and Newcastle get this far and backed by almost 3,500 supports on a wet and cold Kingston occasion.
Fikayo Tomori had opened the scoring for the visitors but the goal merely served to spark Wimbledon into life and they deservedly equalised when Alfie Egan, scorer of a brace at St James’s Park in the previous round, headed them level. It remained that say until midway through the second half when Chelsea substitute Jacob Maddox scored the first of his two goals; the second putting the result beyond doubt before Mukhtar Ali curled home a late free kick to add some gloss to the final outcome.
Coach Joe Edwards made just one change from the team that dismantled Man Utd 5-1 a fortnight ago, with captain Jake Clarke-Salter fit to return to the defence at Josh Grant’s expense. Once again adopting their 3-4-1-2 formation, Chelsea looked in good touch early on and might have found a quick goal had Iké Ugbo managed to make more of a pair of half-chances.
When he did get hold of one he saw his strike saved by Wimbledon goalkeeper Jack Wingate, deputising for the injured first choice Will Mannion. Wingate had relatively little to do for large spells as Ugbo and Tammy Abraham were well-marshalled by a diligent Dons defence.
The dynamic did however play a part in Chelsea’s opener, combining from a corner to eventually see the ball land at the feet of Tomori, who smashed it through a crowd to score his second of the season. It gave way to Jay Dasilva and Mason Mount each going close to swiftly doubling the advantage whilst Ali saw a skidding effort deflected just wide.
Yet if there was any suggestion that the hosts were to be daunted by the task they now faced, the way in which they raised their game before half time put everyone on notice that they were very much in this tie. Several crosses from the left had Blues goalkeeper Nathan Baxter in some bother before Neset Bellikli dragged a shot wide of the target.
Then it happened. Another Tosoyi Olusanya cross from the left asked questions of Baxter, who could only punch onto the head of the waiting Egan. He guided it home to spark wild celebrations and reignite their Youth Cup dream.
They proved more than good value for it too. Certainly, Abraham missing a sitter from two yards out and Dasilva dropping a cross onto the woodwork suggested there was some luck on their side but it was thoroughly earned by a unified will and desire to stand up and be counted against their more illustrious opponents.
Eventually, the game swung back in Chelsea’s favour, particularly with the arrival of Maddox. He had been on for some five minutes before he made his presence felt with a lovely curled effort into the top corner to restore the lead at 2-1. The Wimbledon response was to introduce Nathan Wood from the bench and within ten seconds he flashed just wide of the top corner after a jinking run.
Fitness and experience ultimately told though as Maddox secured safe passage through with his second, applying the finishing touches to a counter attack that saw Charlie Wakefield put in the hard yards with a run from one penalty area to the other. That alone may have been hard on Wimbledon but when Ali made it 4-1 in stoppage time it didn’t really reflect the sort of game it had been.
Nevertheless, Chelsea advance to the last eight, where they’ll host Reading at Stamford Bridge at some point in the next month as they continue their bid for the first FA Youth Cup ‘three-peat’ in more than sixty years.
Wimbledon: Wingate, Mensah, Ompreon, Sibbick, Kalambayi, Stripp (c) , Bellikli (Wood), McKillop (Antwi), Ano, Egan (Williams-Bowers), Olusanya
Subs not Used: Zabotti, Bachelor
Chelsea: Baxter, Chalobah, Tomori, Clarke-Salter (c), J. Dasilva, Ali, Wakefield, Scott (Sammut), Abraham, Mount (Maddox), Ugbo (Sterling)
Subs not Used: Thompson, Christie-Davies
Goals: Tomori, Maddox (2), Ali
Booked: Scott, Dasilva, Sammut