UEFA Youth League: Chelsea 3-0 Anderlecht

Chelsea’s defence of their UEFA Youth League title will go all the way to the Final as they reached the showpiece occasion for a second successive year, dismissing Anderlecht 3-0 in Friday’s Semi Final to set up a Monday finale against either Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid.

Returning to Nyon’s Stade du Colovray on the shores of Lake Geneva, around the corner from UEFA’s headquarters, the Blues were never really in any danger against the Belgian champions and cruised through with plenty to spare. Kasey Palmer’s first-half goal gave them the platform to build from and additional efforts from Charlie Colkett and Tammy Abraham sealed the win later in the game.

Adi Viveash made a solitary change to his starting line-up from the Quarter Final victory over Ajax and it was an enforced one too with Jay Dasilva, injured against the Dutch outfit, unable to return to full fitness quite so soon. Ola Aina, suspended last time out, returned to the fold and joined Colkett and Palmer in starting having been on the first team’s substitutes bench last weekend at Swansea.

Anderlecht had been given something of a reprieve in this season’s competition, having been knocked out by Dinamo Zagreb only for the Croatians to then be ejected for fielding an ineligible player, but a last-eight defeat of Barcelona marked them out as no pushovers. They were energetic in the opening spells and, like Chelsea, were returning to Nyon having been beaten Semi Finalists against Shakhtar Donetsk a year ago.

They weren’t, however, good enough to prevent Chelsea from dominating a first half they should have taken greater reward from. Abraham laid down an early marker when his header hit the post following a fine leap from Jake Clarke-Salter at a corner, and Fikayo Tomori also went close as Colkett’s dead-ball deliveries posed plenty of problems for the under-sized Belgians.

Palmer opened the scoring in the 21st minute, showing zeal and graft to win back possession on the edge of the Anderlecht area before turning around and motoring his way towards goal. A quick one-two with Abraham later and the talented playmaker was sliding the ball past Mile Svilar and in off the post to make it 1-0 for his 15th club goal of the season.

Abraham continued to try his luck in front of goal as the blue tide continued to roll forward unabated; a solo run away from a clutch of neon yellow-clad shirts ended with a wayward shot before he was then unable to guide a tricky header towards goal after Aina had produced a fine cross. His best moment came a minute before the break when a mistake at the back by Samy Bourard allowed Palmer to feed him, and although he did get this one on target, Svilar got down low to palm it away smartly.

Palmer was withdrawn for Mason Mount ahead of the restart, a yellow card away from being suspended for the final, and Anderlecht were presented with their best chance two minutes into second half play when Brad Collins, a virtual spectator in the Chelsea goal, mis-kicked a clearance straight to the Mauves’ leading scorer Jorn Vancamp. His touch, however, was loose, and allowed Collins to quickly atone for the mistake by sliding the ball clear before saving the follow-up from Bourard.

It encouraged Anderlecht and both Azaz and Bourard had moments they will want to have done better with because, moments later, Colkett doubled the Chelsea lead. The skipper picked up possession on the edge of the Anderlecht area and took part in a stunning passage of incisive play also featuring Colkett and Mount, who squared the ball across the face of goal for Colkett to beat Svilar for power and net as he did in last year’s Semi Final against Roma.

Collins made his first save on the hour mark as a niftily-worked free-kick routine – with a little luck – presented Bourard with a clear sight of goal he rather snatched at, and then he had to do the same to keep Abaz at bay twenty minutes from time when the young forward got in behind Aina down the Chelsea left.

The finishing, though, was the difference, as Chelsea simply went down the other end and closed things out. Mount claimed a second assist with a glorious slide-rule ball to release Abraham, who did what he does best for the 26th time this season and the 8th time in the current iteration of the tournament. It might even have been more as substitutes Jay Dasilva and Isaac Christie-Davies combined well in quick order, the latter hitting the post three minutes from time.

Monday’s Final promises to be a much tougher proposition with both Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain (kicking off shortly after this report was published) are amongst the better Under-19 European sides and the French outfit in particular feature a number of players who were European Under-17 champions with Les Bleus last summer.

The match will kick off at 4pm UK time on Monday back at the Stade du Colovray, live on BT Sport in the UK and other channels worldwide. Live coverage, as usual, will also be available on @chelseayouth.

Chelsea: Collins, Sterling, Tomori, Clarke-Salter, Aina, Colkett (c) (Christie-Davies 79), Maddox, Ali, Abraham, Palmer (Mount 45), Scott (J.Dasilva 73)
Subs not Used: Baxter, Colley, Chalobah, Ugbo

Goal: Palmer ’21, Colkett ’55, Abraham ‘75

Anderlecht: Svilar, Faes, Amrani, Mikal (Petit 66), Bourard, Denayer (Bernier 52), De Medina (c), Sowah, Abaz, Vancamp, Silinou (Azevedo-Janelas 74)
Subs not Used: D’Alberto, Morias, Glecio, Loua

Booked: Bourard, Mikal, De Medina