FA Youth Cup final: Chelsea U18s 2, Norwich City U18s 3 (Norwich win 4-2 on aggregate)
- Credit: Matthew Usher
Norwich City's magnificent youngsters served up a thrilling encore to the club's Premier League survival tonight to lift the club's first FA Youth Cup since 1983.
Neil Adams and his talented Canaries' crop joined Dave Stringer's vintage in the history books by dethroning holders Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in front of more than 3,000 travelling supporters.
Jeremie Boga had cancelled out City's slender first leg lead within 15 minutes of a high octane start from Adi Viveash's side, but the luckless Adam Nditi deflected Josh Murphy's cross past his own keeper before skipper Cameron McGeehan displayed fresh nerves of steel to slot his second penalty of the two-legged final.
The Canaries were then indebted to visiting stopper William Britt and a series of heroic interventions after the interval until Josh Murphy bundled home brother Jacob's cross to spark wild scenes of celebration barely muted by Boga's late consolation.
City's achievement capped a perfect two days for the club after Chris Hughton's seniors secured a third consecutive season of Premier League football with their 4-0 weekend win over West Brom. Adams' collective will rightly be feted in similar fashion after inflicting a huge upset on the favourites.
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Adams deployed the same starting personnel from the first leg win but Chelsea were full value for their early opener.
Britt had already raced from his line to foil Boga but he was left stranded when the pacy forward veered across the face of City's retreating backline before guiding a right footer low into the bottom corner.
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The excellent visiting keeper was beaten by the accuracy as much as the power, but Ruben Loftus-Cheek's radar proved less precise in the seconds that followed with Norwich understandably rocked by the early setback.
But, like their more established counterparts, this City collective had faced such adversity many times before on a fantastic journey. Nottingham Forest failed to break them despite holding a numerical advantage for an hour in the semi-final and the Blues had been unable to breach their lines in the first leg. So it was to prove again.
Josh Murphy weaved his way into the home box before a low cut back was inadvertently diverted past Mitchell Beeney by Nditi at his near post.
Murphy raced away to celebrate in front of the Yellow Army with Adams remaining implacable at the front of his technical area. Perhaps the City chief knew what was coming with Alex Kiwomya a yard away from nudging Chelsea back in front at the end of a pulsating opening quarter. Britt then went full length to claw out Blues' captain Lewis Baker's goalbound free kick. Islam Feruz dragged wide after escaping detection from City's defence. The signs were worrying; the volume and frequency of Chelsea's chance creation a cause for concern. The travelling fans sensed the same mood shift with a spontaneous burst of noise to remind anyone who cared to listen the Canaries would remain a Premier League entity for a third consecutive season.
Chelsea's dominance of territory and possession around the half-hour mark had become almost total, but City's composure was proving equally impressive - allied to a threat on the counter that demanded respect from the hosts. Jacob Murphy cut inside Nditi, but Baker had retreated to kick away off his own goal line with Blues' keeper Beeney beaten.
Chelsea simply failed to heed the warning when Carlton Morris coaxed another rash challenge from Alex Davey – he of first leg infamy, who had also conceded the stoppage time penalty on Norfolk soil despatched by McGeehan. City's captain stepped up again to hammer low into the opposite corner from his Carrow Road stoppage time strike.
Chelsea's frantic urgings to try and retain their grip on the trophy saw the Blues attempt to step up the intensity even further. Feruz was a yard from anticipating John Swift's cutback early in the second half as Norwich's rearguard creaked. Britt then denied Baker with a fantastic reaction stop to foil the Chelsea skipper 12 yards out. Every minute, every misplaced pass from the hosts felt like a pyrrhic victory for Adams' battlers. City's travelling support ratcheted up the pressure on Viveash's talented players as each fractured attacking foray was greeted with a cacophony of noise.
Britt denied Feruz again in their personal grudge match with a fingertip stop to halt the striker's slaloming run deep into the Norwich penalty area; Feruz's wild follow up into the side netting was laced with frustration of a tie slipping inexorably away. Harry Randall's mistimed challenge on Boga underlined the exhaustive toll City's defensive effort following the interval had taken, but Baker's swinging free kick sailed over Britt's bar.
Yet Norwich still retained a genuine air of menace. Morris linked seamlessly with Jacob Murphy, but the left-footed hit drifted well wide before Beeney was forced to kick away his right footed strike in another rapier counter.
McGeehan took one for the team to halt the advancing Boga in the 70th minute with the least contentious caution of his young life, but fresh belligerence from the Canaries thwarted the danger from the resulting free kick.
Loftus-Cheek's wayward strike from range shortly after carried the first traces of desperation from the holders and that desperation turned to despair in the 77th minute when Jacob squared for Josh to finish.
Both Murphys wheeled away in delight as a spontaneous outpouring of emotion engulfed Adams in the away technical area.
Chelsea swarmed forward in hope rather than expectation but Boga's smart finish with three minutes of normal time remaining was merely an aside to another fantastic chapter in an unforgettable season for the club.
• Norwich City Under-18s (4-1-2-3): Britt, Norman, Wyatt, McGeehan, McFadden, Toffolo, Jacob Murphy, Randall (Hood 90), Morris, King (Young 81), Josh Murphy. Subs (not used); Lokko, Reading, Brown.
• Goals: Nditi og (21), McGeehan (36), Josh Murphy (77)
• Booking: McGeehan (foul on Boga, 70)
• Chelsea Under-18s (4-2-1-3): Beeney, Aina (Musonda 72), Davey, Christensen, Nditi (Wright 70), Baker, Swift (Colkett 64), Loftus-Cheek, Feruz, Boga, Kiwomya. Subs (not used): Conroy, Kilip.
• Goals: Boga (15, 87)
• Bookings: (Davey dissent, 82), Baker (foul on Norman, 90)
• Added on time: 4 minutes / 4 minutes
• Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancs)
• Attendance: 17,676