A late brace from Dominic Solanke helped Chelsea win The FA Youth Cup for the fifth time in the most dramatic of fashions after an enthralling 7-6 aggregate victory over Fulham.
After a gripping first leg that resulted in Fulham travelling to Stamford Bridge with a 3-2 lead to protect, first-half goals from Moussa Dembele, Patrick Roberts and Soloman Sambou looked to have put the game out of the reach of Blues – despite early strikes of their own from Charlie Colkett and Jordan Houghton.
But it was Adi Viveash’s Blues who took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half and late goals from Isak Ssewankambo and the Solanke brace turned the tie in Chelsea’s favour, allowing them to reclaim the trophy they surrendered to Norwich City at the same stage last season.
Chelsea 5-3 Fulham
Chelsea win 7-6 on aggregate
FA Youth Cup Final Second Leg
Monday 5 May
With away goals not a factor in The FA Youth Cup and home advantage in their favour Chelsea begin the game knowing that any two-goal victory would be enough for them.
However, it was Fulham who began the game on the front foot and struck first to leave Chelsea faithful silent within the opening five minutes.
Jay DaSilva was caught out of position and Emerson Hyndman picked out Dean O’Halloran in space on the right wing.
The Ireland youngster floated an inch-perfect cross into the path of Dembele, who confidently headed through the legs of Mitchell Beeney in the Chelsea goal.
In the first leg there were five goals in 21 breathless second-half minutes - and it looked to be a case of history repeating itself as as four more flew in over the next 33 minutes.
With a quarter of the game gone Chelsea were level on the night when Colkett converted from the spot after a clumsy challenge on Charly Musonda in the box by Jordan Evans.
The game had barely got under way again as Jordan Houghton fired home from outside the box on 24 minutes - putting the hosts ahead on the night.
However, the quickfire double did not affect the Cottagers’ morale and they were back ahead on aggregate three minutes later as Roberts scored the goal of the night, latching on to Hyndman’s exquisite pass to rifle past Beeney.
Beeney – who has spent the week with the first team squad training for their Champions League semi-final – had his misery confounded when he let Sambou’s long-range effort slip though just before the break as Fulham went in with a two-goal aggregate lead.
The difference looked to be decisive as – despite a triple change at half-time – Chelsea rarely threatened the Fulham goal for the first 30 minutes of the second half.
But super-sub Ssewankambo fired the Blues back into contention with 13 minutes remaining. Fulham’s Marek Rodak got a firm hand to it but it squirmed under the young keeper and into the net.
Then the game entered a 10-minute period none of these Chelsea youngsters will ever forget.
With eight minutes remaining Solanke rose to meet Colkett’s in-swinging cross and with a terrific glancing header brought the tie to 6-6 and sent the home crowd into raptures.
Solanke’s place in the annals of FA Youth Cup history was confirmed as – deep into stoppage time and with Fulham seemingly dead on their feet – the youngster picked up the ball in the box and rifled into the net from close range.
What a finish. What a tie.
Chelsea (4-3-3) 1 Mitchell Beeney, 2 Fankaty Dabo, 3 Andreas Christensen, 4 Clarke-Salter, 5 Jay DaSilva, 6 Jordan Houghton, 7 Kasey Palmer, 8 Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 9 Dominic Solanke, 10 Charlie Colkett, 11 Charly Musonda
Substitutes 12 Isak Ssewankambo (on for Palmer, 46) 13 Bradley Collins, 14 Isaiah Brown (on for Loftus-Cheek, 46) 15 Ola Aina (on for Clarke-Salter, 46) 16 Isaac Christie-Davies.
Goals: Colkett (22 pen), Houghton (24), Ssewankambo (77), Solanke (82, 90+1)
Bookings: Houghton, Dabo
Youth team coach: Adi Viveash
Fulham 1 Marek Rodak, 2 Ryeem Sheckleford, 3 Jordan Evans, 4 Liam Donnelly, 5 Cameron Burgess, 6 Soloman Sambou, 7 Dean O’Halloran, 8 Emerson Hyndman, 9 Moussa Dembele, 10 Patrick Roberts, 11 George Williams
Substitutes 12 Magnus Norman, 14 Joshua Smile (on for Sheckleford, 88), 15 Noe Baba, 16 Aaron Redford, 17 Joshua Walker
Goals: Dembele (4), Roberts (27), Sambou (37)
Bookings: Evans, Sambou
Youth team coach: Steve Wigley
Referee: Jonathan Moss