A fifth successive FA Youth Cup final awaits holders Chelsea after a resounding second-leg win earned the Blues a 4-1 aggregate victory over Blackburn Rovers.
Joe Edwards’ side edged ahead of the Lancashire outfit with a 1-0 win in the first leg at Ewood Park and sealed their chance to retain the trophy with an emphatic display, capped by first-half strikes from Dujon Sterling, Tammy Abraham and Jacob Maddox.
Chelsea 3-1 Blackburn Rovers (4-1 on aggregate)
The FA Youth Cup
Semi-Final second leg
7.45pm Friday 8 April
Watched on by a large crowd at Stamford Bridge, a curling long ball over the top from Mukhtar Ali in the 13th minute picked out 16-year-old Sterling to slide the ball past Rovers keeper Andrew Fisher and open the scoring.
With the wind knocked out of Billy Barr’s side early doors, Chelsea were off in search of a second. The impressive Mason Mount combined with Maddox to release Abraham, who aimed to bend his effort into the far corner but steered it wide of the post.
Rovers forward Tre Pemberton’s misplaced delivery was the closest they came but Chelsea keeper Nathan Baxter was calm and composed in tipping the ball over the goal and out of danger.
With half an hour played Chelsea doubled their lead through a fine effort from Maddox, who rounded the keeper from a tight angle to give the young Blues a three-goal advantage on aggregate.
Abraham, who had been a thorn in the side of the Rovers defence from the off, then fired home a left-footed strike after being set up by Mount just four minutes later to make it 3-0 and seemingly dash Blackburn’s final hopes for good.
England Under-17s forward Abraham found the back of the net again two minutes before the break but his effort was ruled out for offside, much to the frustration of the youngster as Blackburn went into the break having barely forced the Chelsea goalkeeper to make a meaningful save.
Despite Chelsea firmly in command of proceedings at the break, Blackburn emerged from the interval hunting for a consolation goal.
Lewis Mansell’s penalty appeals were waved away on 55 minutes when Trevoh Chalobah appeared to lean into the number nine.
But Rovers finally opened their account at the Bridge in the 63rd minute when Josh Askew’s superb cross was converted by Mansell at the near post, putting his powerful header beyond Baxter to make it 3-1.
Blackburn keeper Fisher prevented the Blues' four-goal advantage being restored 15 minutes from time when Abraham turned provider to cross the ball for Mount’s shot to be stopped comfortably.
Substitute Charlie Wakefield looked to make an almost immediate impact when he whipped the ball in from the right moments later, only this time Abraham couldn’t connect to poke it home. Maddox’s fierce strike then forced a strong hand from Fisher to prevent the young Blues from finding a fifth goal with less than five minutes remaining.
With a 3-1 victory on the night and a 4-1 win on aggregate, Chelsea have their third successive Youth Cup trophy in their sights. They will now face a two-legged final against Manchester City – a repeat of last year’s showpiece, which the Blues won 5-2.
Chelsea's 2015 success was their second in as many years
Chelsea: 1 Nathan Baxter; 2 Josh Grant, 3 Fikayo Tomori, 4 Jake Clarke-Salter (captain), 5 Trevoh Chalobah, 6 Ruben Sammut,7 Dujon Sterling, 8 Mukhtar Ali, 9 Tammy Abraham, 10 Mason Mount, 11 Jacob Maddox
Subs: 12 Isaac Christie Davies (for Ali 77), 15 Charlie Wakefield (for Clarke-Salter 70), 16 Joseph Colley (for Chalobah 70)
Subs not used: 13 Jamie Cumming, 14 Ike Ugbo
Goals: Sterling, (13), Maddox (30), Abraham (34)
Manager: Joe Edwards
Blackburn Rovers: 1 Andrew Fisher; 2 Lewis Travis, 3 Josh Askew, 4 Lewis Hardcastle, 5 Matthew Platt, 6 Scott Wharton (captain), 7 Tre Pemberton, 8 Joe Rankin-Costello, 9 Lewis Mansell, 11 Ramirez Howarth, 10 Willem Tomlinson
Subs: 12 Joseph Grayson (for Tomlinson 63), 14 Mason Fawns (for Howarth 71), 16 Joel Steer (for Pemberton 81)
Subs not used: 13 Ben Ascroft, 15 Tyler Magloire
Goals: Lewis Mansell (62)
Manager: Billy Barr