UYL reaction: Disciplined and decisive

It was a winning return to the UEFA Youth League for our Under-19s as they stayed patient and disciplined to run out 5-0 victors against their counterparts from Qarabag at Cobham.

A frustrating first period saw the contest remain deadlocked at the break before an early red card for the visitors opened the door, with Callum Hudson-Odoi bending in a brilliant free-kick to open the scoring a few moments later. Luke McCormick followed with an 11-minute hat-trick before Charlie Brown came off the bench to head in a fifth with 10 minutes remaining.

HIGHLIGHTS: Qarabag U19s UYL

After the game, manager Joe Edwards had words of praise for the maturity and discipline displayed by his young charges in the face of gamesmanship and graft from our Azerbaijani visitors.

‘We talk about the boys getting different experiences in Europe and sometimes that’s different styles of football from a tactical approach,’ Edwards told the official Chelsea website. ‘Teams sitting off and blocking the pitch in deep areas is not too unusual for us to come up against but the level of discipline we had to show was the biggest surprise.

‘Qarabag clearly came to try to upset our rhythm and it was a stop-start game in the first half. They were happy to keep fouling which broke the game up from a technical point of view and it’s difficult to keep your composure and keep your standards high in those situations. We were drawn into a few physical and verbal confrontations after some bad challenges but the boys did great not to cross the line.’

With the score still 0-0 at the interval, the coaching staff were quick to encourage the players to stay patient and calm, both in their build-up play and individual duels. The numerical advantage was a useful, if not unexpected, aid for the hosts alongside a tactical change designed to gain ground down the flanks. The tweaking paid dividends as Reece James in particular caused damage down the right, supplying for headed goals from McCormick and Brown. 

‘Red cards are sometimes part of the game but the first point I made at half-time to the players was that we had to make sure it wasn’t a part of this game for us,’ Edwards continued. ‘It looked like Qarabag were trying to draw us into that so our priority was to finish with 11 men.

‘We tweaked things slightly and went to 4-3-3 because we wanted to double up in high areas. We felt we could get Reece James higher with Dujon Sterling, and Cole Dasilva higher with Callum Hudson-Odoi because it was clearly difficult to break them down in the central areas. That worked for us slightly but from the effort we put in during the first hour, they were always going to hit a wall and it was comfortable for us in the end.’

Atletico’s 2-1 victory away at Roma means the youngsters from London and Madrid have the early advantage in Group C, with the leaders meeting in the Spanish capital in a fortnight. Edwards knows more difficult challenges lie ahead for his side but was pleased with their start as they extended an unbeaten run in the competition to 15 matches.

‘With the chances we missed, 5-0 probably flatters them,’ noted the manager. ‘We missed some good chances but you make your own luck at times and our quality was there in the second half. Some of Reece James’s deliveries were excellent from out wide and the finishing from outside the box, from Luke in particular, meant we got no more than we deserved.

‘Without being disrespectful to Qarabag, there’s three big teams competing to get out of this group. It’s good for us to start with a clean sheet and five goals on the board in the first game because that might be important later on in the competition.’

MCCORMICK AND HUDSON-ODOI: It was a good win for us