Defending champion Chelsea edge Arsenal in FA Youth Cup final first leg
LONDON -- Chelsea are on course to win a fifth consecutive FA Youth Cup after coming from behind to beat Arsenal 3-1 in the first leg of the final at Stamford Bridge.
Two goals from substitute Daishawn Redan either side of Marc Guehi's header cancelled out Xavier Amaechi's opener for the visitors, who were forced to defend for long spells after taking the lead and ultimately defeated in spite of an impressive performance from goalkeeper Joao Virginia.
Chelsea, aiming to become the first team since Manchester United's legendary Busby Babes to win five consecutive FA Youth Cups, began brightly and Charlie Brown should have given them the lead when he blazed over from George McEachran's cushioned pass.
Virginia then produced a brilliant flying save to parry away a curling Callum Hudson-Odoi free kick that was bound for the top corner and Arsenal, who had begun to gain a foothold between promising Chelsea attacks, soon made their opponents pay for their lack of ruthlessness.
Emile Smith-Rowe slipped Amaechi through on goal behind Tariq Lamptey and the Arsenal striker kept his cool, lifting the ball over the onrushing Jamie Cumming and in off the far post. It was the first goal Chelsea had conceded on this year's FA Youth Cup run.
Arsenal protected their lead with discipline in the face of sustained Chelsea pressure until the introduction of Redan, who raced onto McEachran's through-pass in the 67th minute and poked the ball between the legs of Virginia.
Chelsea kept pushing in search of a second goal and were rewarded 11 minutes later when Guehi, who made a decisive mistake in Monday's 3-0 defeat to Barcelona in the UEFA Youth League final, rose highest to nod in an inviting Reece James cross at the back post.
Arsenal's concentration wavered in the final minutes and Redan lashed in his second after Zech Medley had failed to clear a cross from Juan Castillo.
The Dutch striker missed a gilt-edged chance to get his hat-trick in the final minutes, but Chelsea will take a significant lead to the Emirates Stadium for the second leg on Monday.
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.