Chelsea’s defence of their UEFA Youth League crown continued on Tuesday afternoon after they overcame Valencia in a tough encounter at Cobham, controversially prevailing on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
Jay Dasilva had opened the scoring for Chelsea shortly before half time only for Carlos Soler to immediately peg them back with the first of two penalties in normal time. Ismael Martínez missed the second of those before the match went to a shootout which Chelsea won 5-3 thanks to an officiating blunder as it was adjudged that Antonio Gil had hit the post when, in fact, his strike had crossed the line and bounced back out off the goal stanchion.
Chelsea coach Adi Viveash selected a starting eleven of players eligible to represent England – although one or two have turned out for other countries – and was able to call upon the services of first-team squad defenders Ola Aina and Jake Clarke-Salter for the occasion as well as the tournament’s second-leading goalscorer Tammy Abraham. Valencia included Fran Villalba and Rafael Mir, each of whom have played for their own senior team this season, ahead of a contest many expected to be closely-contested.
The first half certainly played out that way and was remarkably similar to the Blues’ last eight tie against Atlético Madrid a year ago. Valencia defended stoutly in all departments and were dutiful in their approach, forcing Chelsea into mistakes and limiting their creativity to the lively Palmer in the middle of the park. Clear chances were at a premium with the two defences well on top; Fikayo Tomori a stand-out for the hosts whilst Mariano Konyk ruled the roost for the away team.
Antonio Martínez flashed an ambitious volley over the crossbar from the edge of the area in a rare moment of goalmouth action but it was Chelsea who were able to curate the clearest opening with 25 minutes played. Abraham’s slide-rule pass released Palmer, who looked for all the world to be set to find the back of the net only to see the post get in the way of his effort.
Half-chances followed for Fran Villalba and Abraham himself with neither looking convincing in their approach but the game sparked into life in the last five minutes of the half. A cross from the Valencia right looked to have given Antonio Martínez a close-range tap-in but the big number nine missed his kick, leaving Aina to slice the ball over his own crossbar instead.
Chelsea went down the other end and made them pay for it by stealing ahead for the first time. Maddox took advantage of Konyk’s stumble to bear down on goal and, although he was denied by Antonio Sivera, Dasilva was on hand to volley the loose ball back into the unguraded net for 1-0.
It was, however, a lead they were unable to take into the half time break with them. Tomori mis-timed a clearance straight up in the air, whereupon Brad Collins clumsily fouled Mir and referee Adrien Jaccottet pointed to the spot. Soler did the necessary from twelve yards to send the two teams in deservedly level.
With those brief but notable fireworks having come and gone, the second half reverted to type. Chelsea’s general slowness in possession and occasional indecisiveness when presented with potential shooting positions played ably into Valencia’s hands, but the Spaniards didn’t have a great deal to shout about when they found their way into the attacking third; Mir’s wayward volley clearing even the protective netting high behind Collins’ goal.
Viveash turned to Charlie Colkett on the hour mark, the England Under-20 midfielder only able to play in a limited capacity after a recent injury, and an increased urgency arrived with the substitution. Maddox was again offered a sight of goal but could only slide his shot two inches wide of the far post, and Abraham did the same from Colkett’s deep free kick to the far post moments later.
The game suddenly sprung wide open with the prospect of a penalty shootout looming large and it was Collins who stood up to make himself count after conceding that first-half spot kick. Ismael Martínez, who had come on in place of the injured Sito earlier in the match, found himself clear on goal but was unable to find a way past the Chelsea stopper.
Then, with ten minutes remaining, Valencia were awarded their second penalty of the afternoon. Antonio Martínez galloped away from Clarke-Salter before shooting wide, but the Chelsea captain caught him in the process of trying to block the effort and it was enough for Mr Jaccottet to once again point to the spot. Ismael Martínez took this one but sent it high over the crossbar.
It proved decisive as well as a frantic closing spell yielded no further incident of note, resulting in a penalty shootout after ninety minutes. Colkett scored Chelsea’s first effort before Gil appeared to have done the same for Valencia, only for the officials to decree that his shot had come back off the post. Television replays revealed the ball had in fact crossed the line and bounced back off the stanchion inside the foot of the post and back out.
Despite considerable protests the shootout continued without anyone else missing. Soler, Villar and Mir did their duty for Valencia but Mason Mount, Scott, Palmer and finally Abraham made it a perfect five for Chelsea to set up a last eight clash at home to either Lyon or Ajax. The outcome of this one, however, may be discussed further before then.
Chelsea: Collins, Aina, Tomori, Clarke-Salter (c), Chalobah (Colkett 62), Ali, Maddox (Mount 83), Scott, Abraham, Palmer, J.Dasilva
Subs not Used: Baxter, Quintero, Christie-Davies, Colley, Sammut
Goal: Dasilva ‘44
Booked: Chalobah, Collins, Clarke-Salter, Aina
Valencia: Sivera, Ferris, Lato, Badal, Konyk, Soler, Mir, Gómez Martín (c), A.Martínez (Gil 85), Villalba (Villar 65), Sito (I.Martínez 39)
Subs not Used: Reig, Pena, Prados, Llamas
Goal: Soler ’45 (pen)
Booked: Ferris, Badal, Lato, Sivera