London derbies are usually set in the cold and wet, surrounded by polluted air and the luring smell of greasy burgers. Not today though as Arsenal took on Chelsea in the beautiful region of Lake Como for a place in the finals of the NextGen Tournament on Monday.
The unchanged Arsenal team came out fighting from the start and with a few strong chances in the first 8 minutes put a nervous looking Chelsea on the back foot. The attacking force of Akpom and Gnabry instantly caused problems for the Chelsea back four.
16 minutes in and it was only a matter of time. With some simple passing and controlled play, the ball was well placed into the six yard box by Bellerin, and Chuba Akpom put his name on the score sheet with an easy tap in.
Although Chelsea had some opportunities, their attacking force came mainly from Boga, making it near impossible to break through the red line of defence. There were a few testing moments for the Arsenal keeper from Baker's powerful right foot but his safe hands and positioning protected the ball well and eluded the Chelsea attack once more.
Chelsea's' mind drifted late in the first half allowing more Arsenal time on the ball. Luckily for them it was only a few minutes before the half time whistle blew.
More urgency was required if Chelsea were going to get on the scoreboard and the start of the second half showed glimmers of a Chelsea fight. In the 53rd minute, Gnabry's miss-timed tackle in the box offered a chance for Baker to level the match from the penalty spot. Iliev saved well stretching to his bottom right, though Feruz's quick reactions saw him score from the rebound.
Instantly both teams picked up the pace and both created good chances, including a sitter for Eisfield who skied from close range. Chelsea seemed a revived team and with a fantastic solo effort from Boga passing 4 players, eventually set up a long range shot for Baker which somehow managed to bobble its past the keeper.
It didn't stop there. As Arsenal began to crumble, Chelsea seized the moment and a Kiwoyma run down the wing was followed by a gem of a pass, crossing past the keeper and allowing Boga in for a deserved goal. Under pressure all the way he did well to connect and score in the 65th minute. 3-1.
The Arsenal comeback looked as if it came too close to the end. Substitute Ansah skilfully evaded Chelsea's defence to cross for Akpom who claimed his second. Minutes later Gnabry, determined to make amends for giving away the penalty, dribbled round his opponent giving just enough time to place an inch perfect shot and level the score. A nail biting end to the 90minutes, which then led to the inevitable extra time.
From the start of extra time Chelsea looked hungry, but the game began to slow as the inevitable tiredness took effect. Both teams fought it out in the middle of the pitch and the few attempts at goal were easilly dealt with.
Arsenal put the pressure on in the second period, pushing for the winning goal but it was Chelsea who came through in the dying moments as Swift produced cut across the goal for Baker to smash in the winner.
Chelsea deserved the win after a determined performance in the second half which kept them in the game, and then patiently waiting for the right time to pounce in extra time. Man of the match goes to Gnabry who was relentless throughout the game, setting up one goal and scoring another. Regrettably, we won't be able to see what he can do in the final on Monday.