Fulham vs Chelsea, Ones to Watch: 5 Stars of the FA Youth Cup Final, First Leg
Monday night's FA Youth Cup Final, First Leg was played out at Fulham's Craven Cottage. It turned out to be a hotly-contested affair between two determined sides: Steve Wigley's well-drilled Fulham side took on Adi Viveash's Chelsea.
A first-half penalty miss from Fulham's Moussa Dembele was the closest either side got before the break. However, the second half opened up play, with a 49th-minute goal from Chelsea' Jay Dasilva cancelled out by three in quick succession from Fulham's Dembele, Emerson Hyndman and Cameron Burgess.
Forward Charly Musonda scored in the 83rd minute to give Chelsea a glimmer of hope for the following leg.
In a well-balanced tie, a large slice of talent was on show and here are five ones to watch in the future, taken from both sides.
Moussa Dembele (Fulham)
Fulham's French forward—signed from Paris Saint Germaine in 2013—put a risible first-half penalty attempt behind him to complete a solid performance in his side's 3-2 first leg victory.
Attempting to chip Chelsea goalkeeper Bradley Collins on the half-hour mark—and only managing to graze the top of the crossbar—would likely have affected the confidence of the 17-year-old, but Dembele performed admirably in the second half.
Heading in Fulham's initial equaliser in the 67th minute, the Frenchman exuded class throughout proceedings, and with first-team manager Felix Magath looking on, he would likely have enhanced his chances of another stint in the senior squad with a cultured display.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea)
Chelsea captain Ruben Loftus-Cheek was one of the players to lose out to Norwich City's youth side in last year's final, and this year he spoke of his desire to do one better this year, as per Jamie Reid of TheFA.com:
I really want to lift it, I can’t tell you how determined I am to get there this year. I don’t think I’ve lifted a trophy before, so to make the Youth Cup my first would be very special...I have so much hunger to win it this year – it would be amazing.
In turn, Loftus-Cheek played with a consummate maturity in midfield; he remained solid in the tackle, with some great movement and an eye for the key pass.
If Chelsea are going to turn this deficit around in the second leg, they will require another commanding performance from their captain.
Jay Dasilva (Chelsea)
Brothers Cole, Rio and Jay Dasilva caught the attentions of the media following their transfers from Luton Town to Chelsea in 2012, per the Daily Mail.
The oldest of the trio, Jay, starred in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup final on the left wing of Chelsea's midfield; Dasilva bamboozled the Fulham defence time and again with some mazy runs, and he opened the scoring with a finessed shot.
Normally operating as a left-sided defender, Dasilva's ability to deliver in both halves of the pitch would likely pique the interest of Chelsea's senior manager, Jose Mourinho, and any move up to the senior team would likely benefit former club Luton, as Chris Parsons of the Daily Mail reported.
Andreas Christensen (Chelsea)
Chelsea's official website, ChelseaFC.com, describes 18-year-old Dane, Andreas Christensen as "A tall, ball-playing centre-back whose game is similar in style to Ricardo Carvalho," and these attributes were duly on show in this first leg.
The defender made an impressive last-ditch block to deny Fulham forward Dembele in the first half and looked comfortable in possession throughout, belying his young years.
His club may have to be wary as to how they approach his future, however, as Christensen's father is reported to be critical of Chelsea's loan-happy treatment amongst their youth squads, as per Charlie Skillen of the Daily Mail:
From our point of view, something needs to happen after the summer. Whether it is in the first-team squad or something different, we have to consider. He should not spend one or two years where he stagnates. Andreas will not go on loan.
On this showing, and the impressive debut of Tomas Kalas in the Premier League against Liverpool on Sunday, Christensen could comfortably force his way into the thoughts of Chelsea's manager next season—if not, he wouldn't be short of suitors.
Cameron Burgess (Fulham)
Lofty defender Burgess is very much of the traditional Scottish centre-half mould: tall, robust and highly-determined.
His blocks in the first half of proceedings kept Fulham in the game, particularly so with an agile double shut-out to deny both Dominic Solanke and Isaiah Brown the chance to put Chelsea ahead.
When in possession, the former ECU Joondalup defender looked assured and was always willing to offer an outlet when his teammates were under pressure from a blue shirt.
The 18-year-old was also on hand to support his teammates in the opposition's penalty area, and he added a third for the club on 79 minutes to give Fulham an aggregate lead going into the second leg of this hotly contested final.