Barclays Premier League Final
Manchester United vs. Chelsea
Venue: Old Trafford
Date: Wednesday, 14 May 2014
Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Manchester United U21s failed to retain their crown as they crashed to a 1-2 defeat to Chelsea despite taking the lead in the Barclays Premier League final.
Tom Lawrence’s goal was cancelled out by Charly Musonda in the first half, before Lewis Baker won the contest for the Blues with less than 15 minutes remaining.
Having won this competition in three of the last four years and playing at Old Trafford, United had a case to be classed as favourites, but they were up against a Chelsea side fresh from winning the FA Youth Cup just last week with some of these players, and who had finished top of the regular season, losing just three times along the way.
Chelsea’s top scorer Baker had the first effort of the game, and forced a good save out of Ben Amos, as his strike from distance had to be turned behind the post.
A short corner routine saw Baker’s shot held, before James Wilson’s shot at the other end hit his own man, as Lawrence got in the way of the rising star’s effort.
A surging run down the right-hand side by Saido Janko saw his pull back fall to the feet of Wilson, whose first time lay off teed up Lawrence, before his dummied shot committed two Chelsea defenders as he shifted onto his left-foot, before placing a finish into the far corner to give United the lead.
But Chelsea were behind for just eight minutes as Musonda received the ball from captain Nathan Ake and turned Varela with his first touch, before gliding past Charni Ekangamene and striking the ball past Amos with a right-footed effort.
Musonda was then involved in the next best chance of the game as his ball across the edge of the box was cleverly dummied by Islam Feruz and picked up by John Swift, whose curling effort narrowly went past the left-hand post.
Referee Paul Tierney waved away a United penalty appeal after Ola Aina appeared to nudge Paddy McNair over inside the box, before the last action of note of the half came when Baker dragged his shot wide of Amos’ goal.
Play resumed after the interval and Wilson carried the ball towards the halfway line but his pass to Janko was too short as Adam Nditi intercepted the ball, before he ran at the United defence and produced a dipping shot that took an awkward bounce but was safely held by Amos.
Isak Ssewankambo did enough to put Lawrence off from directing his header goal wards from Guillermo Varela’s diagonal ball, before a succession of Chelsea opportunities arose at the other end.
Ruben Loftus Cheek’s pull back was skied high, wide and handsome from 10 yards by Baker, before the former’s shot was well saved by the feet of Amos five minutes later.
Musonda’s cross was volleyed wide by Feruz, before Nditi wandered forward from left-back and was allowed to shoot, with his deflected effort coming off of McNair and wrong-footing Amos, but the ball fell behind for a corner to the relief of United.
A rare chance for United saw Ben Pearson pick up the ball from substitute Kasey Palmer’s mistake, and his surging run into the box ended with a shot, but that was comfortably held by Jamal Blackman.
Chelsea took the lead a minute later after an uncharacteristic mistake by Ekangamene.
The number six attempted to bring the ball under control from the heavens, but unfortunately for him and for United it didn’t come off, as Baker intervened before curling a fine finish into the bottom corner past Amos from the edge of the box, to send the south Londoners into jubilation.
As comes to expect at United, a late siege on the opposition goal came, as the Reds looked to get back on level terms.
Andreas Pereira’s cross was headed over by Michael Keane, before the former’s free-kick was held firm by Blackman.
Amos took a leaf out of Peter Schmeichel’s book by causing havoc inside the penalty area for a melee of corners, as substitute James Weir saw a deflected shot held, and Pereira’s deflected shot fell wide.
The final chance of the game fell to another substitute as Tyler Blackett – back from his loan spell at Birmingham City – hit a superbly struck volley towards goal, only for Blackman to be on hand to turn the ball behind.
The referee blew the whistle for the final time as Chelsea celebrated, leaving United to reflect on what might have been.
Their efforts weren’t helped by Wilson and Lawrence’s withdrawal with injury during the second half, with last week’s first team debutants looking sharp until they were replaced.
Nevertheless, with 42 different players utilised by Warren Joyce this season, and 10 points off the play-offs with just four games remaining, United can be proud of their achievements, only falling short at the final hurdle.
They go again next season, looking to go one better than this time around.
Manchester United: Amos; Varela, McNair, M. Keane, James (Blackett 82); Ekangamene, Pearson; Janko, A. Pereira, Lawrence (Harrop 85); Wilson (Weir 68).
Subs: Weir, J. Pereira, Harrop, blackett, Willock.
Manager: Warren Joyce
Chelsea: Blackman; Ssewankambo, Aina, Christensen, Nditi; Loftus-Cheek (Palmer 78), Ake, Baker; Swift, Feruz, Musonda (Colkett 86).
Subs: Davey, Beeney, Palmer, Dabo, Colkett.