Chelsea won the Youth Cup final for the second time in three years following an extraordinary 5-3 win over Fulham to secure a remarkable 7-6 aggregate victory.
Fulham were on the brink of a first Youth Cup in their history and led by two goals with a quarter of an hour remaining, building on their first-leg lead. However, the earlier attacking potency of Patrick Roberts and Mousa Dembélé, who have both played in the Premier League, was cancelled out by a stunning comeback that ended in an injury-time winner from Dom Solanke.
It was a simply enthralling contest. Solanke ran to the Chelsea coach, Adi Viveash, on the bench after knocking in the late winner, as his team-mates danced jubilantly on the pitch at full-time.
Fulham, though, sank to the turf. It was the second blow in three days for the club, who were relegated from the top-flight on Saturday, but they can take some solace from the attacking performance of their players, who could feature in the first team next season in the Championship.
They were so close to a famous victory, yet Steve Wigley’s side could not contain Chelsea in the closing stages. José Mourinho was present before kick-off and how he would have liked such attacking prowess in his side this term. Chelsea can take satisfaction, with their youngsters demonstrating fine attributes to come back from a seemingly impossible position.
Dembélé gave them an early lead in the fifth minute. Roberts played a key role in the opening goal, jinking between blue shirts on the edge of the box before Emerson Hyndman slid in Dean O’Halloran wide right.
O’Halloran drifted an inviting cross to the far post where Dembele nodded in between the legs of Chelsea goalkeeper Mitchell Beeney. Roberts almost killed the game in its early stages but rifled a shot against a post from a tight angle, before Chelsea hit back in the 21st minute through Charlie Colkett’s penalty.
The Fulham left-back Jordan Evans then slid in rashly on Charly Musonda, who had dribbled inside from the right wing, and Charlie Colkett fired the penalty into the bottom corner. Chelsea were soon level on aggregate when Jordan Houghton’s shot from the edge of the area, following a neat one-two with Dom Solanke, crept into Marek Rodak’s goal.
However, the topsy-turvy opening 45 minutes took a further twist when Roberts pulled Fulham level, lashing a right-footed effort in on the half-volley following an excellent threaded ball from Emerson Hyndman, and deep-lying midfielder Soloman Sambou put Fulham ahead 3-2 on the night before half-time with a fine 25-yard effort.
The substitute Isak Ssweankambo, one of three Blues changes at half-time, shot wide in the 52nd minute, Chelsea’s hopes appeared to be fading. However, Ssweankambo unleashed a vicious shot into the bottom corner from 25 yards with 13 minutes remaining to get Chelsea moving again and Colkett, arguably their best player, drifted a cross in from the left for Solanke to glance a fine header into the far corner to stun Fulham. He was the hero late on, too, capitalising on a smart back-heel to settle it.