Chelsea 1 (5) – 1 (4) City: City out of the U21 playoffs on penalties

Jan Kruger

Ruben Loftus-Cheek scored the winning penalty in the sixth round of the shootout after Chelsea goalkeeper, Jamal Blackman, denied Ntchm on what would be City’s final penalty attempt.

120 minutes of football wasn’t enough to determine the first of participant of the Premier League U21 final, as Ntchm’s second half goal cancelled out Chelsea’s opener scored in the first half by Islam Feruz.

In an incredibly entertaining game that could’ve seen several more goals than the scoreline suggests, City EDS manager, Patrick Vieira, made several decisive changes that turned the game in City’s favor. A double substitution in the 58th minute saw Devante Cole and Thierry Ambrose enter for Bytyqi (or BitCheeky, if you’d rather) and Hiwula. In truth, it was a straight swap, as Cole played on the right with Ambrose through the middle.

While Marcos Lopes may have been City’s biggest star, he lacked the influence that many likely would have expected. City’s best chances seemed to come from the wings, as right-back, Adam Drury (20), assumed the role of Zabaleta, arriving late on the right to swing in cross after cross. In the second half, it was Cole, this time on the left, who repeatedly got the better of Chelsea’s right-back, Fankaty Dabo.

Hard to look past the performance of both goalkeepers, too. While his future almost surely lies away from Chelsea, Blackman certainly impressed, coming up huge on a number of City’s better chances before making two wonderful saves in the shootout. City ‘keeper, Ian Lawlor, also had his moments, making an important save in the fifth round of the shootout against Palmer.

While it would have been wonderful to win, I think the finer lesson is that Vieira has the EDS squad playing the same type of football that we see in the senior squad; the overlapping runs down each flank looking especially similar to what we see from Pellegrini’s men.

While Marcos Lopes clearly has a future in the senior squad, there are others too who appear to be positioned to at least compete for a a place at the top level. Cole on the left wing is a player who reminds me of Danny Welbeck – he’s a speedy player who likes to put the ball behind the defender and chase after it and while he might lack end product at this moment, he looks to have a bright future ahead of him. The strikers, Ambrose (17) and Hiwula (19), both look like bright players, though based solely on age, it would seem like Ambrose would have a better chance of a future first team spot.

On the back end, right-back Adam Drury (20), seems to be the perfect age in the right position to at least be given a decent chance in the future. With Richards all but sure to leave in the summer, reports linking City to Arsenal’s 31 year old right-back, Bacary Sagna, and Zabaleta nearing thirty, a young, talented right-back like Drury might be primed for a senior level spot in the coming seasons.  

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