Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Norwich City 1 Chelsea 0

As football anthems go, it’s a bit of a strange one:

‘Kick it off, throw it in, have a little scrimmage,
Keep it low, a little rush, bravo, win or die,
On the ball, City, never mind the danger,
Steady on, now’s your chance,
Hurrah! We’ve scored a goal.
City! City! City!’

The lyrics of Norwich City’s trademark song, believed to be the oldest still to echo around a football stadium anywhere in the world and certainly the only one to contain the world ‘scrimmage’, certainly belong to a bygone age. But in this match, they proved quite apt. 

For there was plenty of danger provided by a young Chelsea side drenched in class in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup final, but City didn’t mind. Then suddenly, and you might have had to steady yourself because it was practically the last kick of the game, they had their chance.

Nobody likes to see a captain, however young, shirk his responsibilities, and Norwich’s Cameron McGeehan didn’t. The lifelong Chelsea fan, who played for his club between the ages of 10 and 14, and who was playing against a number of his mates, was presented with the chance to sink them from 12 yards in the third minute of stoppage time. 

There must have been some conflicting loyalties in that young head, but you wouldn’t have known it. With a hammer shot in to the roof of the net, he blasted Norwich into a slender lead entering the second leg at Stamford Bridge in a fortnight. Hurrah! Hurrah indeed. 

On the ball, City? Not so much. Chelsea, the defending Youth Cup champions and, as regular readers know, the second best youth team in Europe, had dominated possession and created all the noteworthy chances in my hastily-rewritten match report. But they paid the price for not taking them. 

It was a suitable reward for the magnificent Carrow Road crowd of 21,595, who had come from far and wide to see their future stars compete in their first Youth Cup final for 30 years and only the second in their history. There were a few rousing renditions of that aforementioned anthem, but none shook the stands like the one at the final whistle, approximately 20 seconds after McGeehan settled it. 

He’s a well-spoken and charming lad too, talking about how he’d tried to model his game on Frank Lampard and how, in this crazy modern football, he had a price tag of £80,000 on his head when Fulham sent him to Stamford Bridge at the tender age of 10. If I were to be hit by a bus tomorrow, I doubt any insurer would pay out eighty grand for me even now!

Having watched Norwich get past Forest in the semi-finals after playing an hour of the second leg with 10 men, I had no doubts about their resolve and so it proved again here. As they like to do, Chelsea stroked the ball about with comfort and ease, especially at the back, where Nathan Ake was the constant outlet for the keeper. 

They were not quite as devastating as against Liverpool in the last round, but still had ample chances to take a comfortable lead back to home territory. They should have led within 60 seconds as Jeremie Boga was set free by surprise attacking midfield inclusion Charlie Colkett, only to forget his concentration and curl over the bar.

Twice in the first half, the ever-dangerous Alex Kiwomya broke free of Ben Wyatt down the right and crossed for Islam Feruz. Feruz seems more comfortable scoring in the NextGen than the Youth Cup for some reason and he missed both openings.

But as the night drew on, Norwich sensed their chance. They were much better after the break and started to create the odd half-chance. Still, as is common with such two-legged affairs, it was most definitely fizzling out into a goalless draw and I’d written 600 words saying as much. 

Then, Joshua Murphy, who was the better of the Murphy twins on this occasion, broke into the box and was bundled over by Alex Davey. It was a slight shame for Davey, who had been brilliant on the night, when Neil Swarbrick pointed to the spot, but the game had been screaming out for a goal. 

On the spot, City, and now in the lead. But you’d still fancy Chelsea to prevail if I’m brutally honest. 

Next Match: Hoping to make the Ryman League play-off semi-final between Wealdstone and Concord Rangers on Wednesday night.