Mauricio Pochettino says Chelsea are not the same team they were from 20 years and people must “move on” after he lauded “one of the best” performances of their season.
The Blues were 3-1 winners against Aston Villa in their FA Cup fourth-round replay at Villa Park, which set up a home time against Leeds in the fifth round in the week commencing February 26.
After scoring a stunning free-kick, Enzo Fernandez took off his match shirt and displayed his name and number to the crowd. The reasoning is unclear, but the game overall marked a clear improvement from Chelsea
And in his post-match press conference, Pochettino launched a staunch defence of his players after he was questioned about Fernandez’s goal celebration.
He said: “We need to stop this thing that we are Chelsea from 20 years ago. We are not this type of Chelsea anymore. Now we need to move on and we need to create this project.
“We need to move on, I don’t care if people are happy or not happy with my speech. I care for the club, I care for my players, I want to help the players.
“We are going to fight, I don’t care what the people say. I’m not more sad or happy today after a win because we have experience, this type of project needs time and trust.
“We cannot build a team to challenge because you need to fix too many things, you need to observe, analyse and compete.
We are building a project which may be one year, two years, three years. Today you can see we were ready to fight. We fight for the fans, the badge, the coaching staff. Now the challenge is to be consistent.”
Pochettino: One of our best performances of the season
The replay was a game that flipped performance and form on its head. Aston Villa had thrashed Sheffield United at the weekend, while Chelsea had conceded four goals in each of their last two matches.
But the Blues dominated the first half against a lacklustre Villa, with Conor Gallagher (11) – scoring his first goal of the season – and Nicolas Jackson (21) seeing them into a 2-0 lead.
Fernandez’s stunning 54th-minute free-kick was the pick of the goals though. Moussa Diaby’s stoppage-time consolation made things nervy for the visitors, but Aston Villa were unable to complete an unlikely comeback.
When asked by ITV Sport if it was one of Chelsea’s best performances of the season, Pochettino replied: “I think so… it is one of the best or maybe the best of the season.
“It is a very good moment for us and I’m so happy with performance. The players were enjoying their football and that is what pleased me the most.”
How Chelsea found their form
Despite a positive opening from Aston Villa, it was Chelsea who dominated the encounter and went ahead inside 11 minutes.
Jackson found the impressive Noni Madueke in the middle with his left-wing cross, with the latter pulling it back to Gallagher. It was then a delightful, curling effort from the midfielder into the top left corner.
Chelsea soon took a commanding 2-0 lead. Malo Gusto sent in a peach of a delivery for the waiting Jackson, who was unmarked as he nodded home past Emi Martinez.
- Aston Villa made one change from their win against Sheffield United. Matty Cash came in for the injured Ezri Konsa.
- Chelsea made three changes from their defeat against Wolves. Nicolas Jackson, Noni Madueke and Benoit Badiashile came in for Raheem Sterling, Christopher Nkunku and Thiago Silva.
Aston Villa’s best chance came on the stroke of half-time. A Ben Chilwell foul throw gifted the hosts their own, which they took quickly. However, the opening came to nothing as John McGinn lashed an effort into the stands.
Ten minutes into the second half, Fernandez added Chelsea’s third with a stunning free-kick. He won it after he was fouled by Youri Tielemans just outside the area, and curled a world-class effort through Martinez’s outstretched hands.
Aston Villa’s performance did improve from then on – although it was a bit too little, too late. McGinn had a few openings, while Alex Moreno nodded wide, but they did score a late consolation through Diaby.
His shot through the area fizzed through legs before nestling into the net via the goalpost. But despite the nervy ending, it was not enough to force extra-time as Aston Villa exited the FA Cup.
Chilwell: We needed that reaction
Chelsea defender Ben Chilwell to ITV Sport:
“It was exactly the reaction we wanted and needed. It wasn’t about wanting a reaction. We needed it. Fair play to all of the boys.
“We wanted that pressure. We thrived off it. The confidence before the game in the changing room was the best I have seen it – the togetherness. We delivered on the pitch today.
“As a club, the players, manager, the staff, the fans everyone involved in the club. It wasn’t just the manager. Everyone associated with the club needed that today.”
Emery: Chelsea were more clinical
Aston Villa manager Unai Emery:
“We were excited and motivated and we started well, we didn’t score but we were feeling good.
“When they were getting in our box we were not being strong and they were affecting us. They got into our box with some crosses and were clinical. I was more or less feeling the difference was the clinical way for them.
“We scored a little bit late and had no time to score the second goal. We have to accept and analyse the match. To beat them is not easy when you’re not being clinical.”
Aston Villa’s next game is at home to Manchester United in the Premier League, live on Super Sunday; kick-off 4.30pm.
Unai Emery’s side then travel to Fulham on Saturday February 17; kick-off 3pm.
Chelsea’s next outing is at Crystal Palace in the Premier League, live on Monday Night Football; kick-off 8pm.
The Blues then head to the Etihad Stadium to take on Manchester City on February 17, live on Saturday Night Football; kick-off 5.30pm.
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