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Holders edge through in battle of Stamford Bridge

27 February 2016

Under-18s narrowly lose FA Youth Cup quarter-final in a dramatic Chelsea tie

Reading's FA Youth Cup campaign came to an end at Stamford Bridge as reigning champions Chelsea completed a 2-1 win over David Dodds' side, who having matched their opponents in a closely-contested first half, couldn't quite contain the Blues in the second period.

Jay DaSilva broke the deadlock just before the hour when Southwood's low dive was enough to stop second half substitute Dujon Sterling's low cross but it fell kindly for Chelsea's number 5 who tapped home from close range. And Abraham doubled the hosts' lead when he headed home from close range as Chelsea began to dominate the second half.

Chelsea, who have only lost one FA Youth Cup game in the last four years - and that was a Final in 2013 - were rattled when Axel Andresson deservedly headed Reading back into the tie with little more than ten minutes remaining. And the Royals had fleeting chances to equalise.

Luke Southwood had saved a penalty in the first half to deny Abraham from the spot and he saved an injury time effort from 12 yards too, this time Ali thwarted - but Reading missed a spotkick of their own when Tyler Frost placed his penalty against the crossbar. And Chelsea hung on to seal their place in the final four.

Ahead of the game, Under-18s boss David Dodds named an unchanged eleven, starting the same side that have begun in our previous FA Youth Cup victories this season. Chelsea started with Trevoh Chalobah, the younger brother of former Royals loanee Nathaniel Chalobah.

The first chance of the game fell Reading's way when Conor Davis slide a lovely ball into the path of Sam Smith who sprung the offside trap but from a difficult angle arrowed high over the bar.

A lovely piece of skill from Tyler Frost saw him bring down a dinked ball forward, turn and drill low just wide of the bottom left corner from outside the area.

Mukhtar Ali had Chelsea's first attempt at goal after 17 minutes. Given the space to drive a right-footed effort at goal from 22 yards out, he connected sweetly but Southwood was leaping to his left to save well and gather the ball in.

Osho fouled DaSilva soon after but Christie-Davies' inswinging delivery was bravely claimed by Southwood under pressure from Abraham in the six yard box. But Reading were more than holding their own and Barrett drove to the byline to win a corner which Andresson met in the middle but couldn't keep down when heading goalwards.

Abraham swept a difficult right-footed effort harmlessly over the crossbar, then Kyle Scott struck an effort well wide as the hosts began to impose themselves on the game. But Tyler Frost breezed past Clarke-Salter down the right to deliver a dangerous cross into the box that Nathan Baxter did well to cut out.

Abraham laid the ball off for Ali to scuff an effort wide, but Wakefield had the best chance with ten minutes of the first half remaining, bursting forward past two or three in Reading colours before driving inches wide of Southwood's top left corner.

As the half entered it's last five minutes, Chelsea were awarded a penalty when Andresson tripped Wakefield. Replays suggested that the tackle was made just outside the Royals box, but Southwood ensured justice was done with a splendid dive to his left parrying the towering Abraham's spotkick away.

Andresson, injured initially in the tackle, soldiered on after turning his ankle, but Chelsea appealed for a second penalty before the half was out when Abraham was slotted in by DaSilva and tripped by the onrushing Southwood. No penalty was awarded this time though and after Scott had dragged a deflected effort wide, the referee whistled for half-time.



Half-time: Chelsea U18s 0 Reading U18s 0

Chelsea manager Joe Edwards brought on Sterling for Wakefield at the break, but it was Abraham who had the first chance of the second period, heading just wide of the bottom right corner following a corner from the left.

Scott then hooked an effort just over after Sterling had set him up 15 yards out, but the reigning cup holders broke the deadlock before the hour when Sterling burst down the right, cut a low cross into the box which Southwood could only palm into the path of the loitering DaSilva who converted from close range to make it 1-0.

Chelsea looked to turn the screw and it took a good sprawling save from Southwood to deny Abraham on the slide. But Abraham headed the hosts into a 2-0 lead with 20 minutes remaining, rising highest to give Southwood no chance from a Christie-Davies cross.

The Royals had a lifeline with 12 minutes remaining, substitute Danny Loader was bundled clumsily over in the box by Clarke Salter and the referee pointed to the spot. Tyler Frost stepped up but fired his spotkick against the crossbar.

However, Reading did pull one back from the corner that followed. An inswinging delivery to the far post saw Andresson rise high to head the ball inside the upright and spark thoughts of a comeback.

Blues keeper Baxter spilled a high ball but got away with his error, then Frost's low centre flashed across the face of goal, inches in front of Davis arriving in the middle. But time was against our gutsy youngsters and Southwood had to save another spotkick in injury time when Sterling was barged over by Akinwunmi inside the box. Akinwunmi saw red for a second caution, but Ali was denied from the spot.

In a frantic finish, the excellent Southwood slid out to deny Maddox in the sixth minute of added time and still managed to thwart the home side when his flying save tipped Sammut's last gasp effort over. But that was the final kick of a hugely entertaining quarter-final and Chelsea hung on to reach the semi-finals once more.

Full-time: Chelsea U18s 2 Reading U18s 1

Chelsea: Baxter, Chalobah, Tomori, Clarke-Salter, Wakefield (Sterling HT), Sammut, Ali, Dasilva, Scott (Maddox 70), Christie-Davies, Abraham.
Subs: Ugbo, Thompson, Mount.
Yellow: Clarke-Salter, Ali.

Reading: Southwood, Akinwunmi, Richards (Howe 78), Osho, Andresson, Bennett (Coleman 70), East, Davis, Frost, Barrett (Loader 73), Smith.
Subs: Tupper, Holmes.
Yellow: Bennett, Akinwunmi, Smith, Andresson
Red: Akinwunmi

Referee: Mr N Kinseley


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