FA Youth Cup: Chelsea 5-1 Manchester City (6-2 on aggregate)

They’re at it again. For the fourth year in a row, for the fifth time in six years, and for the third successive time against Manchester City, Chelsea are FA Youth Cup champions.

This was one for the ages. The bar has seemingly been raised higher and higher with each passing success, but a 7-1 home win over Tottenham Hotspur followed by a 5-1 win over City here – 6-2 on aggregate – saw the two clubs grouped alongside the Blues as the country’s outstanding developers of young talent absolutely blown away by a rampaging tide of home-grown talent.

From Trevoh Chalobah’s imperious early header to Iké Ugbo’s spectacular overhead kick and from Callum Hudson-Odoi’s silky and spectacular solo strike to Dujon Sterling’s raw athleticism, Jody Morris’ Under-18s had gears their illustrious visitors couldn’t match. Cole Dasilva’s late fifth was a particularly sweet moment following his brother Jay’s triple success from 2014 to 2016, and there were feel-good stories throughout the squad, for this was truly a group effort.

Previous campaigns have seen a solid core of players relied upon each and every round, with a handful of others making cameo impressions here and there, but whilst Morris relied upon five regulars, he made sure to involve everybody early and often. Twenty-one players saw Youth Cup playing time this season, encouraging and demanding competition for places, and ensuring that, when called upon, each one of them would be ready to step up.

It took just seven minutes for Chalobah to make his considerable presence felt in front of a decently-sized crowd at Stamford Bridge. Charged with looking after the tournament’s leading scorer Lukas Nmecha for much of the two-legged tie, he broke the parity of the 1-1 scoreline from last week’s opening gambit at the City Academy Stadium with a thumping header beyond the reach of Arijanet Muric, and Chelsea never looked back.

Lee Carsley’s light blues couldn’t get to grips with the pace of the match nor the demands in and out of possession, unusually so for a side that has swept almost all before them over the course of the last two years. Muric kept skipper Mason Mount from adding to the lead but the one-way traffic made a second home goal almost inevitable, and Ugbo provided it before the half-hour with an acrobatic finish applied to a cross from Sterling, who had blitzed his way down the right in unstoppable fashion.

City tried to get key man Jadon Sancho involved by moving him around the full width of the pitch, but he and fellow playmakers Brahim Diaz and Phil Foden were well shackled by a diligent midfield partnership between Jacob Maddox and Tariq Uwakwe and a determined back three so effectively marshalled by Chalobah.

Things got interesting when Nmecha netted his eleventh of their run to the Final with a perfect touch and finish from Matt Smith’s well-spotted pass, but even that had come moments after the same player had wasted a much easier opportunity, and though it put them back within a goal of being on terms, the momentum still seemed to be with Chelsea.

And, when 16 year-old schoolboy Hudson-Odoi shrugged off the tenderness of his years by dribbling his way past two opponents and slamming an unstoppable shot into the top corner in front of the Matthew Harding Stand, the jig was up. City found themselves constantly overwhelmed by Chelsea’s options, and Sterling’s fourth summed it all up in one neat and tidy package. The formation provided the overload in wide areas, the players had the technique and speed of thought to create the opening with a smart one-two, and Sterling had the rest in him to advance into the area and clip a near-post finish past the helpless Muric.

The ensuing celebration saw Morris mobbed by his young charges, who had for the first time let themselves begin to celebrate a job well done. Ugbo, Uwakwe and Hudson-Odoi were afforded deserved ovations and two of the replacements showcased the strength in depth of this group at the very end, when George McEachran’s shot was spilled by Muric, and Dasilva followed up to make it a rout.

Mount, who was held off the scoresheet but was still a mature and effective influence throughout, followed in the modern-era footsteps of Jake Clarke-Salter, Charlie Colkett, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Nathaniel Chalobah and Conor Clifford in lifting the prized trophy aloft in familiar yet no less jubilant scenes, with ten of the starting eleven on the night having represented England at youth level and eight of them having been at the club since the most formative age groups at Under-8 and Under-9.

The ten-year plan put into place at the academy by Neil Bath and a hard-working, talented cast of hundreds in 2005 has laid the foundations for the consistent on-pitch success that has followed. From Dermot Drummy to Adi Viveash through to Joe Edwards and now Morris, each manager has set the same standards whilst adding their own personal touches to their teams, and they’ve achieved some truly spectacular feats.

The ultimate goal, as all of them will tell you, is to produce players for the first team, and they at least are doing everything they can. With more than half of the squad on this Wednesday night eligible to defend their trophy again in 2017-18, who would bet against them doing so?

Chelsea: Cumming, James, T.Chalobah, Guehi, Castillo, Uwakwe (McEachran 81), Sterling, Maddox, Ugbo (Taylor-Crossdale 78), Mount ©, Hudson-Odoi (C.Dasilva 84)
Subs not Used: Bulka, Gallagher

Goals: Chalobah ‘7, Ugbo ’24, Hudson-Odoi ’60, Sterling ’66, Dasilva ‘87

Manchester City: Muric, Duhaney, Diallo, Francis ©, Wilson, Davenport (Bolton 45), Diaz (Dele-Bashiru 81), Smith, Nmecha, Foden, Sancho (Gonzalez 78)
Subs not Used: Frimpong, Sokol

Goals: Nmecha ‘52