FA Youth Cup final, first leg: Norwich City U18s 1, Chelsea U18s 0
PUBLISHED: 23:18 29 April 2013 | UPDATED: 09:46 30 April 2013
Norwich City’s braveheart captain Cameron McGeehan smashed home a nerveless stoppage time penalty to give Neil Adams’ young Canaries a slender FA Youth Cup final, first leg advantage on Monday night at Carrow Road.
City’s defensive resolution had superbly frustrated the holders, but things got even better deep into time added on when Josh Murphy enticed a rash challenge from Alex Davey inside the Blues’ penalty area.
McGeehan calmly stepped up to send Mitchell Beeney the wrong way to spark celebrations reminiscent of the recent spot kick semi-final aggregate success over Nottingham Forest’s under-18s. Chelsea will still be considered favourites to overcome the Canaries in the second leg at Stamford Bridge on May 13, but City showed enough on this evidence to travel in expectation as well as hope.
The Blues underlined their potent threat on the counter barely 40 seconds into the contest when the highly-rated Ruben Loftus-Cheek fed Kevin Wright who looked set to test William Britt until Kyle McFadden’s expertly timed sliding intervention.
City predictably tried to probe for weakness in the Blues’ backline through the Murphy twins. Josh lined up Ola Aina, but the Chelsea full-back was equal to the leg race. The precociously-talented Nathan Ake won a thunderous aerial duel against City forward Carlton Morris, with the opening skirmishes notable for the degree of freedom displayed by both teams despite the high stakes.
Jacob Murphy squared up Ake as he drove into the Blues’ penalty area before tumbling under pressure from the Chelsea defender, but referee Swarbrick remained unmoved. Islam Feruz lashed over eight yards out at the opposite end following clever movement to drift free of City’s centre backs from Alex Kiwomya’s cut back. Ake underlined his reputation with a raking crossfield ball that travelled fully 45 yards before dropping at the feet of Kiwomya only for Canaries’ lifelong fan Ben Wyatt to gamely stick to his task.
The Blues’ technically-gifted midfielders were constantly testing City’s defensive shape and collective discipline with Adi Viveash’s side looking to stretch the young Canaries at every opportunity. Kiwomya’s exquisite turn created space to attack down Norwich’s left again, but the dangerous Feruz again dragged wide on the angle of the six-yard box.
Morris relieved the growing siege with a hooked ball into space for Jacob Murphy to outstrip the Blues’ defence only for Aina to race round on the cover at the expense of a corner, from which Jacob drilled a curling left-footer wide of Beeney’s far post. Josh Murphy’s promising slaloming run midway through the opening period eventually petered out with Morris anticipating a near post delivery, but there was enough tangible evidence to suggest Adams’ charges could trouble Chelsea on the break.
Cameron Norman appeared to feed off that air of positivity with a similarly ambitious burst down the opposite flank and testing cross that momentarily interested the advancing Cameron King until Wright headed powerfully clear.
City were indebted to Norman’s defensive instincts in the 28th minute when he hacked clear off his own line after Ake’s far post poke had evaded the grounded Britt. City’s stopper then went full length in a vain bid to claw out Charlie Colkett’s rasping strike on the turn which flew a yard wide.
Kiwomya’s deflected cross in the final minute of the opening period triggered one more alarm for the hosts, but King was equal to the task with another goal line clearance to deny Feruz.
After the break City centre-back Harry Toffolo acrobatically tried to add to his burgeoning tally of goals in the Canaries’ stellar run to the final with a miscued bicycle kick after Josh Murphy forced an early corner.
Norwich’s greater attacking thrust almost left them exposed when Loftus-Cheek tempted Feruz to power clear but Britt was well-positioned to collect safely at the edge of his penalty area.
McGeehan’s bravery typified Norwich’s levels of resistance when he threw himself in the way of Feruz’s hammer shot in the 55th minute.
Josh Murphy’s vision and coolness surrounded by a posse of back-pedalling Blues fashioned the best sighter of the tie so far for Morris, but the striker’s wayward finish lacked the precision of the initial build-up. King then drifted the wrong side of Loftus-Cheek before sliding in Jacob Murphy but his swinging right-footer brushed the side netting.
City’s urgency had the desired effect in raising the decibel levels around Carrow Road with Viveash’s side looking less secure than at any point during the previous hour. The worry as the first leg edged into the latter stages was whether those exertions would take a toll. Kiwomya burst past three Norwich defenders but Toffolo had tracked the run and produced another sliding block tackle that was a testament to the concentration levels of Adams’ side. City made their first change of the night when the luckless Rod Young replaced King – the exciting Norwich attacking midfielder’s first FA Youth Cup involvement since being sacrificed within minutes of his introduction in the semi-final after the Canaries had been reduced to 10 men following Norman’s red card.
Young demonstrated his single-minded intent after Jacob Murphy rolled Wright, but a thumping long range effort struck Ake. The Blues continued to press forward in the closing stages searching for a decisive advantage to take back to Stamford Bridge, but City’s obduracy remained impressive to the finish before McGeehan’s sting in the tail from the penalty spot stunned the holders.
• Norwich City Under-18s (4-1-2-3): Britt, Norman, Wyatt, McGeehan, McFadden, Toffolo, Jacob Murphy, Randall, Morris, King (Young 74), Josh Murphy. Subs (not used); Lokko, Reading, Hodd, Brown.
• Goal: McGeehan (90)
• Chelsea Under-18s (4-2-1-3): Beeney, Aina, Davey, Ake, Wright, Baker, Kiwomya, Loftus-Cheek, Feruz (Musonda 73), Colkett (Swift 60), Boga. Subs (not used): Killip, Conroy, Dabo.
• Bookings: Aina (foul on Wyatt, 86) Davey (foul on Josh Murphy, 90).
• Added on time: 0 minutes / 3 minutes
• Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancs)
• Attendance: 21,595