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FA Youth Cup semi final: Villa 2 Chelsea 3


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A close call and a really good game of football that tells us a fair bit about both clubs as Villa were knocked out of the Youth Cup at home in front of over 10,000 at Villa Park.

An unusual evening this at Villa Park where rather than the usual smattering of familiar faces, an audience of 10,891 awaited our young heroes. The lights were burning, the crowd expectant, who would meet the challenge and who would fluff their lines?

Villa lined up as expected with Parish in goal, a back four (from left to right) of Baker, Roome, Clark and Bradley, a midfield of Forrester, Hofbauer, Bannan and Albrighton and Collins and Delfouneso up front.

Standard fair for a Villa youth team, but tonight with a twist.

From the kick off it soon became apparent that big James Collins was playing at left wing with Forrester up front. A strange decision I felt and I couldn’t help but wonder why on earth we’d started Forrester up front.

I wondered for about 2 minutes and 50 seconds in fact; That’s how long had gone when Forrester picked up Delfouneso's flick on and hammered it past the Chelsea keeper from 25 yards to put us one nil up.

Many of the crowd were barely in their seats when he turned. We were all out of them the moment it left his foot. A cracking strike from Forrester and a great start to the game.

He almost scored again a minute later and looked very lively in a busy opening.

Both sides were up for the game and were moving the ball well; Chelsea enjoyed a significant height advantage and were making good use of their quick wingers, Kakuta and Stoch. Villa were probing with balls up to Delfouneso and Forrester and looking to catch Chelsea on the break.

They equalised on 17 minutes when the petulant Tejera-Rodriguez turned in the box and finished well with a volley that Parish could do nothing about.

Forrester was almost through in the 21st minute but dallied a moment too long in the box and was well tackled by a recovering defender. The referee didn’t give the corner.

Chelsea were a little more worldly than our boys, and they and their coaching staff managed the referee for much of the game, Tejera being particularly culpable with one or two particularly theatrical dives.

For the remainder of the second half they were also better than us, Kakuta down the left looked particularly dangerous every time he got the ball and it was no surprise when he put Chelsea ahead.

Bradley went out to challenge him near the halfway line, but Kakuta slipped him and Bradley found himself on the wrong side. The Chelsea players pace got him from there to the edge of our box where he dropped a shoulder, went past Baker and slotted home.

Villa flirted with a recovery through Forrester again as he met Marc Albrightons first cross of the evening on the half hour mark and nodded just wide. That incident earned Nathan Delfouneso a rollicking from our bench as he’d elected not to make his way into the box.

We didn’t really threaten for the remainder of the half and looked pretty pleased to see the whistle go.

Not as pleased as the kids that came on to play their cup final at half time, all those who’ve been tonight will know what I mean when I say that throw-in was a highlight of the evening. Fair play to ‘em they looked like they had a great time.

Villa came out with a lot more gusto in the second half, and set about fair razzing Chelsea for the opening few minutes. Albrighton was suddenly buzzing, winning a corner almost immediately and tormenting Chelsea.

Bannan cleared off the line as Chelsea reminded us they were still around, but Clark shot wide, Hofbauer put one over the bar, Forrester had a shot blocked and Bannan threatened in the space of five minutes as Chelsea looked rattled.

So rattled in fact that it took two mysterious (but long winded) injuries to help them regain their nerve. The second of which involved a player lying a yard away from the touchline having treatment to his noggin for a good five minutes. Sid Cowans wasn’t happy with the situation and he and the referee had a brief but intense discussion on the subject.

Chelsea regrouped and looked to have ridden out the storm, but after good work on our right sent a ball flashing across Forrester young Harry showed tremendous ability to rescue it, come back inside and wriggle past two defenders before deftly placing it past the keeper.

It made the score two each and with Villa looking in the ascendancy and the Holte in fine voice, things looked very promising indeed.

Forrester almost made it a hat trick soon after, running across the Chelsea box and shooting across his body but just wide of the post with the keeper beaten.

Villa piled forward and looked dangerous but were outdone by a mistake at the back.

Clark, Baker and Bannan contrived to give the ball away on the half way line and a simple through ball put Chelsea’s quick striker Phillip through, he stayed calm and finished well to restore Chelsea’s advantage and leave Villa a goal down with 20 minutes to play.

Form then on, Chelsea stopped playing and concentrated on the more cynical aspects of their game, time wasting, feigning injury, pressuring the referee and most notably flying two footed challenges over the top of the ball.

A lunge from Sawyer on Clark looked a red card from where I was, but given the referees performance on the evening I was still only half convinced he’d show it. Thankfully he did the right thing and Sawyer was red carded. It took him a good three minutes to meander off the pitch mind you, and then he only made it to the tunnel after stopping to give a mouthful to the Villa support. The referee seemed in no hurry to get him away, and Chelsea’s coaching staff shamelessly encouraged him to linger and eat into the time remaining.


Villa now threw the kitchen sink at Chelsea who remained resilient, picking up a booking or two for cynical fouls and one for time wasting on the way.

We couldn’t find a clear-cut chance and as time ticked on, we became progressively more desperate and Chelsea progressively slower.

The board for time added on said five minutes though and hopes were raised momentarily.

Only to be dashed as Roome was harshly sent off.

He went in for a challenge with a Chelsea player and I think got the ball, I was surprised it was a foul and if it was, surprised it wasn’t only a booking, but having sent off a Chelsea man the ref looked very keen to even things up and he had the card out of his pocket almost before the entire Chelsea bench were up on their feet and onto the pitch. (Which is pretty damn quick!)

Weimann almost got onto the end of a header from Baker in what must have been the 94th minute, and was a whisker away from sending us into extra time, but it wasn’t to be.

The whistle went and Chelsea celebrated like they’d won the cup. One or two of our boys were in tears, but they’ve nothing to be ashamed of in what has been a tremendous cup run and a great effort on the night.

Chelsea still managed to expose their lack of grace in celebration as a two or three of their players took delight in baiting the Holte End by running at it waving their shirts and mocking the fans. Thankfully there was little response other than some foul language and one or two paper cups as the evening ended in acrimony.

I’ve mentioned before that one of the great things about reserve and youth team football is that it’s a more detached, pleasurable experience; a sometimes welcome break from the pressures of the first team. Paul Barnes in his excellent report on the first leg mentioned how it was almost a return to innocence, a way to play the game that seems to have gone.

Tonight Chelsea took that away, and with this team they’ll win more games than friends. It remains for me a shame that a club that has the money to be anything it wants to be chooses to be this rather dislikeable cynical entity.

Which is not to take anything away from their ability, Stoch, Kakuta and co are a good young group I’m sure we’ll hear more from and they deserved their victory over two legs. There are some very good young footballers in their side and I wouldn’t doubt their ability to go on and win the final.

Some ratings;

Parish (7) Can’t be blamed for any of the goals and although he occasionally looked weak coming for the ball in the air he made a couple of decent saves and looked neat and tidy in his distribution.

Bradley (6) Struggled all night with Kakuta but will be better for the experience, never gave up on anything and showed a lot of guts in sticking with it.

Clark (7) A class act and did well against their huge number 9. He’s big, strong, quick and decisive. He’ll be back.

Roome (6) Worked hard against the Chelsea’s forwards and showed a willingness to put his body on the line where he needed to. His sending off was ridiculously harsh.

Baker (7) Every time I’ve seen him I’ve been more impressed. Still only sixteen and I thought he did a really good job of stifling Miroslav Stoch who is very highly thought of at Chelsea.

Bannan (7) Couldn’t quite make it happen tonight, but he schemed and harried and worked his socks off. He had one or two half chances and if he’d had just a bit more luck on the night we might be telling a different tale.

Hofbauer (7) Best game I’ve seen him have, worked really hard in the centre of midfield and put in an enourmous amount of work. Couldn’t quite get his final ball working tonight, but didn’t deserve to be on a losing side.

Albrighton (7) In and out of it tonight but put in a twenty minute spell in the second half that showed what he’s all about, At his best he’s putting in crosses from either side and running at full backs, but he seemed to playing too deeply at times. Took a smack on the nose (and what a nose) for his troubles and really showed what it meant at the end. He’s another who will be back.

Forrester (8) Our Man of the Match tonight, whilst one or two others didn’t show up for the big occasion, Harry revelled in the limelight. Two great goals and a number of other chances, he ran Chelsea ragged at times and looked like he might save us.

But for the width of a ball he might have had a hat trick and this would’ve been Harry’s game, as it is 10,000 Villa fans now know why we’re paying Watford a million pounds.

Collins (6) Not a left winger, but not a bad striker, he got moved around a couple of times tonight but couldn’t really find an opening. He’s a big strong boy who could do with a touch more pace, but it’s a pity he didn’t get to show the big crowd his real talent; which is for finishing.

Delfouneso (6) A disappointing night for Nathan who seemed to freeze a little under the lights. A little more aggression is needed in order to help him bring the talent he has to bear. Got better as the game went on, but never looked like reaching the levels he has previously in this competition. He’ll learn from this and it’ll be interesting to see how he responds.


Weimann (7) Looked lively and worked hard to try and prise an opening at the end, if his leg was foot longer we might still be there, but it just wasn’t to be.

And that’s that.

These chaps should still win their league, and there might be an opportunity to applaud them at Villa Park when they do.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this cup run, and these youngsters have been excellent footballing company, collectively they are a credit to this club, they represent us well, they are possessed or character, determination and no little ability, they have spark, endeavour and an honest love of the game that will take them far and for that we should be grateful.

They will look back upon tonight with sadness, but for at least some there is a great deal to look forward to.

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Chelsea still managed to expose their lack of grace in celebration as a two or three of their players took delight in baiting the Holte End by running at it waving their shirts and mocking the fans

Let them enjoy it while they can. I think our lads have a far better chance of playing in front of the Holte in a first team game for us than they do of playing in a Chelsea first team shirt in front of The Shed.

I wonder whether we should make a cheeky bid for the likes of Kakuta now or wait until they face being loaned out because they have two £15m players ahead of them in the race for their first team shirt? :winkold: Home grown talent has a big obstacle to clear to get first team action down there and I know which team is likely to have more players make the grade with the club they are now with.

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tbh, think it was a little harsh on us, as we were the better side, but a couple of mistakes and some clinical finishing gave chelsea the win...

karuka for them was excellent... his mazy dribbling was superb and his goal well taken... thought we could have done better with that attack, but story of the night was silly mistakes from us costing us dearly...

overall, they held the ball well, and their movement was excellent.... having said that, they only really threatened us on 4 or 5 occasions and scored 3 goals from that... whereas we had numerous chances and only put the ball in the net twice...

thought some of the link up play was superb from us... forrester, delfouneso and bannon in particular all seemed to be on the same wavelength...

was frustrating though, how 50/50 balls nicked away, always seemed to drop at their feet, whereas they were always just that fraction away from us... maybe it just wasnt our night...

for us, forrester was excellent and took both goals extremely well... delfouneso was quiet by his standards, but he won everything in the air, showed some excellent touches and good vision... didnt get in and around the box enough for me though and he looked a little off the pace...

bannon was his usual self... tenacious, excellent touches and good passing and vision... cant win a header though because he is only 2 foot tall...

albrighton was very quiet for me... good delivery on occasion, but didnt show anywhere near enough of his ability...

baker did well, although had the odd shaky moment... he has an excellent touch and a good bit of pace about him... he handled their danger man from the first leg, stoch, very well...

thought collins was poor.. very poor first touch and nowhere near enough pace...

bradley had a torrid night.. not just being skinned by karuka, but his heading and clearing was attrocious...

overall, it was a good night of football for the 11 thousand fans that turned up, but disappointed to not be in the final... having said that, this is an excellent test for the youngsters to see how they react, and the signs for one or two of them are very very positive...

the future is very bright for three, maybe four of them and they can all be proud of their run this year...

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