Blues see off Shakhtar Donetsk to be crowned European youth champions and enhance the reputation of a highly promising group of youngsters.
Jose Mourinho has vowed to hand young players more opportunities in his second tenure at the Bridge, in Roman Abramovich’s quest to comply with the Uefa Fair Play regulations and a potentially golden generation could be conveniently forming for the Portuguese to live up to his word.
Having convincingly seen off AS Roma in the semi-finals, Chelsea began the match as strong favourites. However Shakhtar had enjoyed a fairytale run to the showpiece, with a squad made up of entirely homegrown Ukrainians. A sunny Swiss day would play host to this one, with Uefa president Michel Platini in attendance as Chelsea quickly asserted their dominance on the game. The likes of Jeremie Boga, Charly Musonda and Dominic Solanke causing havoc early on.
Although it would be captain Izzy Jay Brown, playing after his appearance on the first team bench the day before, who would open the scoring. A crisp, flowing move was finished off by Brown, with a close range effort.
Although the West Londoners failed to push on from the perfect start and Shakhtar gradually begun to grow into the game. Solanke would come close with an eye-catching solo effort before the opposition would strike on the counter. Andreas Christenson slicing a cross-goal pass into his own net. It was an unfortunate goal to give away, but the Ukrainians had earned it. Lengthy spells with the ball had finally led to an opening and we appeared to have a real game on out hands
The first half finished in an end to end fashion, with Chelsea somewhat sparked into life by the shock leveller and Shakhtar brimming with confidence. Although although the second period began as the first had begun as the Blues came out like a side who has received a good kick up the backside from their manager at the interval.
Their dominance soon saw them go back into the lead. Jeremie Boga weaving gracefully, before crossing the ball beautifully for the lurking Solanke to head home, in the 47 minute. A very well worked goal indeed.
This time they weren’t ever going to relinquish their advantage and went in search of a quick fire third. The U21 Premier League champions’ sharp passing and movement appeared to be too much for a Donetsk side who had seemingly hit the wall. It wasn’t long before Brown added his second of the game and a clincher for his team, with a well placed shot from just inside the area from another Boga assist.
It appeared to be game, set and match as Chelsea looked to cruise to the crown. A range of flicks and tricks were now on display, with Musunda and Boga in particular seemingly having the opposition defence on a plate. The game should have been 100% dead and buried, as Solanke surrendered 2 golden opportunities to add a fourth.
The much-awaited introduction of wonder kid Kovalev off the Donetsk bench though, lifted his side almost instantaneously. As soon as he arrived on the pitch, the fight seemed to be back in the Ukrainians, chasing balls with more vigour and playing with more cutting edge. Although even his late, well-taken consolation goal couldn’t prevent the Orange and blacks from coming up short in this one. Had he been brought on earlier, you wonder what the young man might have conjured.
Although this was deservedly Chelsea’s triumph. Managing to restore some pride, in what has been a harrowing campaign for Premier League clubs in Europe. This side also appears to be a bit special at that, having won a number of titles over the last few seasons. Many members of the squad have been making a name for themselves in youth football – with Brown, Musunda, Boga and Charlie Colkett all standing out on the day for me. Colkett’s pint point forward passed catching my eye as he put in a Michael Carrick-esque display. A few have already trained and played with the first team in short cameo appearances but you fear that regular opportunities at such a level may be hard to come by at such a glory crazed club such as this. You almost feel sorry for them, in as much that such a talented crop may never get a proper chance.
Are You Watching Jose?
Despite this though, you feel that Jose will live up to his word in some way, ha has too. Many of these talented youngsters may be performing too well to ignore. The likes of Brown, Boga, Solanke and Loftus Cheek as well as the on loan pairing of Patrick Bamford and Lewis Baker are stars any club would love in their academy. I believe that at least 3 of this upcoming generation make the step up that only John Terry has managed in the past 15 years.
So another trophy to add to Chelsea’s ever growing honours board. However this group of likely lads won’t just bring the trophy home with them, they will bring further hype of their growing reputations as a reminder to Mr Mourinho to not let the, go to waste like so many other promising prospects at the club in the past.