Chelsea are back in the FA Youth Cup Semi Finals after a comfortable 1-0 win over Millwall at Stamford Bridge on Thursday evening.
A second-half strike by Armando Broja, his 20th of the season, was enough to steer the Blues to within one match of another Final, and it was ultimately a more comfortable win than the scoreline really reflected. Enjoying the lion’s share of possession and creating by many more chances, Chelsea will be frustrated that they weren’t able to produce a more handsome margin of victory, but they held their opponents at an arm’s length for much of the evening and were rarely worried.
Dan Davies was pitchside to capture the photos with his ever-impressive match gallery.
Millwall have enjoyed a very successful season so far and travelled to the Bridge hopeful that their up-tempo, dynamic approach that has seen them rack up the goals against their Category Two rivals would give the hosts something to worry about. As it was, they spent much of the contest defending in numbers, trying to frustrate and take their chances on the break, but Chelsea refused to allow them even that. A late flurry of set pieces proved cause for minor consternation, including a loud penalty appeal backed by the 1,000 away fans behind the goal, but a goal at that stage would have been more than they frankly deserved.
Chelsea could have been ahead early on, and perhaps should have been, but neither Broja nor Tino Livramento could make the most of decent openings. Broja did have the ball in the back of the net midway through the half, but it was disallowed for dangerous play, as his overhead kick had the unfortunate consequence of injuring defender Ben Bennett, who was unable to continue and was replaced by Ezekiel Miller.
Livramento and Marcel Lewis had chances they ought to have made more of late in the first half but, considering Millwall had been restricted to one off-target header from Alex Mitchell, they weren’t unduly worried. Needing to be that little bit braver in the final third to support their confident approach play, they upped the tempo when the second half got underway, but at the same time left themselves a little more open at the back. That allowed Sean O’Brien to get a chance to run at the defence for the first time and, while Levi Colwill was able to retrieve the ball from him, he injured himself in doing so. Dion Rankine was his replacement in a move that saw Ed Brand throw more attacking firepower onto the pitch.
That Chelsea scored with their very next attack was a mere coincidence, but it nonetheless helped. Lewis’ free kick from the left swung into the middle of the box, where Broja had managed to evade Millwall’s high line and offside trap, meaning he had the freedom of West London in which to produce a smart finish. Tails up, they went in for the kill, and it took a terrific interception from Miller and a pair of top saves from Leighton Fanshawe to prevent Rankine, Anjorin and Dynel Simeu respectively from putting the Blues out of sight.
Simeu was much busier at the other end in the closing stages, however, sweeping up any long balls in behind and winning everything in the air as Millwall threw whatever they had left forwards. There were loud but desperate appeals for a penalty when Mitchell went down in the box, but they fell on deaf ears, and Chelsea saw out the five minutes of added time to set up a Semi Final at home to Manchester United or Wigan Athletic.
Should they come through that and reach their thirteenth final, and eighth in ten years, they would be away to Blackburn, Arsenal, Manchester City or Burnley. They won’t look that far ahead yet, though, and instead will focus on a last four tie to played at the Bridge at some point in March.
Chelsea: Askew, Lawrence, Simeu, Colwill (Rankine 60), Maatsen, Bate, Livramento, Simons, Broja (Ballo 90), Anjorin ©, Lewis
Subs not Used: McClelland, Wady, Humphreys, Peart-Harris, Fiabema
Goal: Broja ‘62
Millwall: Fanshawe, Bennett (Miller 24), Ezennolim, Munting, Mitchell, Muller, Barton (Bate 85), Allen (Briscoe 68), Abdulmalik, O’Brien, Boateng
Subs not Used: Gillmore, Penney, Brooke, Walker