The NextGen Series has its very first semi-finalist confirmed and it will be an English side; keeping the dream of an all English final four alive and well.
While the senior Chelsea side could not contend with the senior Juventus side in European competition this season the juniors had little trouble seeing off their Italian rivals as they thrashed the Bianconeri 4-1 to book a visit to Lake Como at the end of the month.
The game was an unusual weekend fixture with free entry to the home of Brentford FC’s Griffin Park to anyone who wanted to see the youngsters in action and a terrific turnout were in full voice getting behind the English side.
Clearly this home advantage inspired Chelsea; in particular their captain Lewis Baker who was head-and-shoulders above the other players in a tremendous individual performance.
He got the ball rolling on eleven minutes when his 20-yard pearler curled perfectly into the top corner of Romanian youth international Laurentiu Branescu’s goal and it was just two minutes later when Islam Feruz slid through a perfect through ball for Alex Kiwomya to tuck home Chelsea’s second.
Chelsea were pegged back slightly when Daniele Rugani grabbed a goal back for the Italian side after the break but Dermot Drummy’s men were in no mood to allow a comeback.
Feruz grabbed Chelsea’s third after Kiwomya returned the favour to send him on his way and Baker completed his double when he ran on to Charlie Colkett’s deft pass before coolly slotting the ball past the onrushing Branescu.
Chelsea are now through to the semi-finals which take place at Lake Como in Italy on the 29th March where they will face either Aston Villa, Tottenham, Arsenal, CSKA Moscow, Sporting Lisbon or Olympiakos depending on which three teams qualify from respective quarter-final ties being played this week.
After despatching of Barcelona and now Juventus it would take a brave person to bet against Chelsea being in the final of the competition on April Fool’s Day regardless of who they have to meet in the final-four.
Here are some Tweets from the Chelsea youngsters…
To everyone that showed us support today thank you was a great performace from the team #OnToTheNext— lewis baker (@lew_baker) March 17, 2013
Boys played ledge! Through to semi-final in lake como! #nextgenseries— Ruben Loftus-Cheek (@RubeLoftusCheek) March 17, 2013
image: © Ben Sutherland