FA Youth Cup: Chelsea 1 United 0
Manchester United's hopes of joining neighbours Manchester City in the FA Youth Cup final were dashed when a single goal from Chelsea’s Bryan Fiabema, just after half-time, was enough for the Londoners to win an entertaining semi-final.
This really was the battle of the giants where the FA Youth Cup is concerned with the clubs having won the trophy no fewer than 19 times (United's record 10, Chelsea 9) between them and they are also the only clubs to have lifted the cup on five successive seasons.
The game was preceded by a minute’s silence as a mark of respect to former United warrior Nobby Stiles, who had passed away earlier in the day, and also to 18-year-old former Manchester City academy starlet Jeremy Wisten who died tragically last weekend. Both teams were also wearing black armbands.
There can be no denying that the Londoners had made an impressive opening and the chances started to pile up with the best one being another header – this time from Tino Livramento – which struck the bar after deflecting off Reds defender Reece Devine.
Lucas Bergstrom, the Chelsea ‘keeper, had rarely been involved during the first half but he needed to be alert to deal with a Mark Helm shot which threatened to present United with a shock lead.
Helm going close had a galvanising effect on United and for the first time in the match we were providing Chelsea’s back-line with plenty to keep them occupied.
United’s resurgence in the later stages of the first half was immediately continued following the restart when Shola Shoretire made a great opening for Helm to fire in a shot which forced Bergstrom to take evasive action.
Having astonishingly reached the break goalless, it was no surprise that within five minutes of the second period having commenced that one would come along. And it was Chelsea who was celebrating after striker Bryan Fiabema had lashed the ball home from close range.
Youth Cup highlights: Chelsea 1 United 0Video
Undeterred, the Reds continued to give a good account of themselves and always looked capable of gaining parity.
As time trickled away, but with the score still 1-0, United’s hopes remained. However, close to the end, the Blues almost scored again with only terrific defending from Will Fish preventing Jude Soonsup-Bell from putting the game out of reach.
After five minutes of injury time, Chelsea were over the line and in the final. Neil Ryan's Reds, meanwhile, deserve great credit for the run to the last four and for pushing the opposition all the way on the night.
Ryan's semi-final verdictVideo
United: Mastny; Bejger, Fish, Mengi, Devine (Hardley 77); McCann, Svidersky; Shoretire (Forson 86), Hannibal, Elanga; Helm (Wellens 72).
Substitutes not used: Mee, Neville, Savage, Iqbal.
Chelsea goal: Fiabema 49.