Report from FA Youth Cup as Dons exit competition
A crowd of 3,455 watched AFC Wimbledon Under-18s threaten to pull off another FA Youth Cup shock, before late Chelsea goals made it a harsh scoreline on the night.
A 4-1 victory for Chelsea only told half the story as Wimbledon struck back through Alfie Egan to go in 1-1 at half-time and even threatened to take the lead. However, holders Chelsea showed their quality in spades near the end with goals that emphasised they could go all the way in the competition once again.
Chelsea had produced an accomplished start that showed just why Mark Robinson rates them as the best Under-18 side in Europe, but the Dons bounced back with spirit in abundance. Wimbledon struggled to get the ball in the first 10 minutes and it needed Toby Sibbick to make a fine clearance to deny them early on. Chelsea dominated possession, but a superb run from Toyosi Olusanya, who was full of confidence after signing a pro deal on Friday, had the Wimbledon crowd roaring their approval. His cross was good, but no one was able to reach it in the middle.
minute when Chelsea opened the scoring. A cross was headed back across goal by Tammy Abraham and though Wingate saved well from Ugbo, Fikayo Tomori left the Dons goalkeeper with no chance. At this stage, it looked a particularly tough task for the Dons, but they were defending like lions with Sibbick and Kalambayi getting in vital tackles.thJack Wingate, who had been drafted in between the sticks for Will Mannion, made his first save when he reacted well to deny Ike Ugbo. However, Wingate’s best efforts proved in vain in the 15
Chances to get on the ball for Wimbledon were scarce in the first half an hour, but Neset Bellikli showed classy touches in possession and he looked for the pace of Olusanya at every opportunity. At the other end, Jay Dasilva was a constant threat for Chelsea on the left, but Emmanuel Mensah showed plenty of tenacity to get in last-ditch tackles.
However, as the first-half wore on Wimbledon began to get back into the game, the pace and skill of Olusanya leading the charge. Wimbledon’s spirit lifted the home crowd and Chelsea’s players appeared visibly shaken, certainly they had been knocked out of their stride. A sign of Wimbledon’s improvement was a well worked move through the middle that ended with Seanan McKillop finding Bellikli and the wide midfielder firing just wide.
It was no surprise that Olusanya was the instigator, the speedy forward beating his man again and standing up a cross that Chelsea goalkeeper Nathan Baxter could only parry and Alfie Egan followed up to head home. A familiar celebration followed as Egan – so often the goalscoring hero in this FA Youth Cup run – showed his delight once again. An equaliser subsequently followed, a reward for Wimbledon’s perseverance against a classy Chelsea side.
Chelsea responded and they should really have regained the lead when Charlie Wakefield got down the left and crossed for Abraham just a few yards out, but he shot over from close range. The half-time whistle signalled a job well done from Wimbledon in the first 45 minutes, the Dons having recovered superbly after a difficult start.
The second-half opened with Chelsea on the front foot with Dasilva again showing plenty of class on the left, in particular when his cross bounced off the crossbar. However, Wimbledon had their own star performers showing up well on the night and Bellikli again demonstrated his quality with a lovely turn and cross to pick out Olusanya, but he was crowded out by the Chelsea defence.
As we approached the hour mark, Chelsea had regained their composure and were dominating possession again. Wimbledon needed to once again show their tenacity and hang in there against a side with plenty of skill. Full-back Mensah summed up what was required as he recovered superbly to stop Dasilva latching onto a pass from Abraham. Mark Robinson made a double change with Nathan Wood and Reece Williams-Bowers entering the fray for Bellikli and Egan, who had been struggling through injury.
Midway through the second-half Chelsea regained the lead, but it was hardly down to any deficiencies from Wimbledon as it needed a brilliant strike to do it. Chelsea substitute Jacob Maddox cut inside and unleashed a superb effort that left Wingate with no chance as it arrowed into the top corner. There was almost an instant response as substitute Nathan Wood made a shooting chance for himself and fired just wide with Baxter beaten.
With 14 minutes to play, Mark Robinson made his final change with Jayden Antwi added up front and captain Jason Stripp making way. Dan Ano and Olusanya had produced tireless performances up front with their non-stop running and just maybe another attacker would conjure up the equaliser. It so nearly followed when Dan Ano sent over a dangerous cross that Tomori almost diverted into his own net, the ball drifted agonisingly wide.
However, it was effectively all over four minutes from time as Chelsea struck through a breakaway goal. With Wimbledon pressing for an equaliser, Wakefield drove forward, before picking out Maddox and he produced a clinical finish over Wingate to notch his second.
Mukhtar Ali made it four in injury-time with another fine strike, the three-goal winning margin particularly harsh on the Dons. There was still time for Toby Sibbick to strike the bar with a late free-kick, but a consolation was not to be. Late goals failed to take the shine off a superb FA Youth Cup run for Wimbledon and it would be no surprise if it was a defeat to the eventual winners.
AFC Wimbledon: Jack Wingate, Emmanuel Mensah, David Omperon, Toby Sibbick, Paul Kalambayi, Jason Stripp (Jayden Antwi), Neset Bellikli (Nathan Wood), Seanan McKillop, Daniel Ano, Alfie Egan (Reece Williams-Bowers), Toyosi Olusanya.
Picture credit: Michael Hulf, Pro Sports Images.