Regardless of what happens in the last two games of the Premier League season, Fulham’s long-term future looked bright last night as they won the first leg of their FA Youth Cup final 3-2. Fulham came from behind and scored three goals in nine second-half minutes to take a vital lead with them to Stamford Bridge next Monday.
At 1-0 down, Fulham were struggling and regretting Moussa Dembélé’s missed penalty in the first half. But the French striker, who has already played for the first team this season, never let his head drop and started their thrilling comeback. He made amends after 70 minutes, escaping the marking of Andreas Christensen to head home powerfully Dean O’Halloran’s corner-kick.
This enlivened the 4,500 crowd and minutes later Fulham were ahead. Emerson Hyndman, the talented Texan midfielder, broke through the middle evading challengers and shot from the edge of the box. Christenson is highly rated at Chelsea but he could only turn his back as the shot deflected off him and flew into the bottom corner.
Chelsea were struggling to cope with the onslaught of Fulham’s movement, and eight minutes later Fulham had their third. Another corner flew in, Liam Donnelly headed it back across the box and Cameron Burgess, barely picked up by Chelsea’s panicked defence, met the ball emphatically to make it 3-1.
The visitors pulled a goal back, through Charly Musonda, beating Marek Rodak powerfully with four minutes left, but Chelsea could not find an equaliser and now need a win in the second leg.
All this drama came after the second half had started perfectly for Chelsea. They had had most of the chances in the first half, but could not convert, until Jay Dasilva broke the deadlock just four minutes after the restart. Isaiah Brown ran inside from the right wing and passed across to Dasilva, cutting in from the opposite wing and hammering the ball into the far bottom corner.
Fulham’s best chance of the first hour, with not much competition, came from the penalty spot after Patrick Roberts burst into the box and was tripped by Ola Aina. Dembélé stepped up to take the penalty and decided to attempt a “Panenka chip”. Goalkeeper Bradley Collins fell for it but Dembélé got it just wrong, the ball clipping the top of the bar and sailing over. Fulham might have thought that was it for them but they fought back with impressive spirit.
Fulham (4-4-1-1) Rodak; Sheckleford, Donnelly, Burgess, Evans (Baba, 87); Smile (O’Hallaron, 63), Sambou, Hyndman, Williams; Roberts (Walker, 90); Dembélé.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Collins; Ssewankambo, Chistensen, Clarke-Salter (Dabo, 78), Aina; Houghton (Palmer, 59), Loftus-Cheek; Brown, Colkett, Dasilva; Solanke (Musonda 73).
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