Manchester City and Chelsea played out a 1-1 draw in the FA Youth Cup final first leg.
In a repeat of last year’s fixture, Chelsea went ahead in second half when Mason Mount fired home after a clever cut-back from Trevoh Chalobah.
And though the visitors frustrated City for large spells, the Blues displayed great character to get back into the game courtesy of Aaron Nemane’s curling finish from the left flank.
With the Manuel Pellegrini and first-team in attendance, many City youngsters showed plenty of promise against a strong Chelsea side who have been the elite side in youth competitions.
They recently went all the way in the UEFA Youth League and overcame PSG in the final to win the trophy back-to-back. Yet City were no pushovers here on home soil and were much-improved from last year’s cup final first leg – where they were swept aside by a Chelsea side packed with power and physicality.
Here are four findings from the game.
Brahim Diaz is a real talent
Granted the Spaniard didn’t have his most productive evening but when he gets going, he is a joy to watch. He possesses a wonderful left foot and his shoulder drop regularly leaves defenders on their backsides.
And what is also particularly pleasing is that he has a tremendous work ethic for someone so gifted.
If nurtured correctly, City could have an elite player on their hands.
A clash of styles
City and Chelsea are the two major forces at youth level and so it’s no surprise to see them squaring off in the FA Youth Cup final once again. But the visitors made it very difficult for City with their pressing and high energy. They were also more purposeful in possession than Jason Wilcox’s men, but again it’s all about development at this level.
Tactical switch pays off for City
As previously mentioned, City often found themselves hounded by Chelsea players and struggled to find their rhythm. But that changed when Isaac Buckley-Ricketts entered the fray in place Manu Garcia, who had a difficult outing.
Ricketts provided extra support for Lukas Nmecha in attack, and his introduction also freed up Brahim Diaz – who really grew into the game.
The trio brought about the equaliser; Aaron Nemane curling in a superb leveller after a flowing team move.
Nicely poised for the second leg
In last year’s FA Youth Cup final first leg, Chelsea emerged victorious with a 3-1 win going into the second leg. This time, the scores are level and that sets up an appealing fixture at Stamford Bridge.
Last year, the sky blues were out of sight yet now they go to the second meeting in good spirits with a good chance of lifting the trophy.