Mauricio Pochettino praises ‘amazing’ Emiliano Martinez after goalless cup draw

By Sports Desk January 26, 2024

Mauricio Pochettino praised Emiliano Martinez after the Aston Villa goalkeeper produced a string of saves to deny his Chelsea side in their goalless FA Cup fourth-round meeting at Stamford Bridge.

Villa are five places and 12 points ahead of Chelsea in the Premier League table but there was little to separate them here, although the hosts will reflect on chances missed in the first half by Noni Madueke and Cole Palmer as a shot at settling the tie slipped away.

Martinez was the decisive actor on both occasions, spreading himself well and blocking in one-on-one situations.

John McGinn had Villa’s best opportunities, first when his clipped effort sailed inches over the bar on the stroke of half-time, then again when he stole in at the near post to meet Nicolo Zaniolo’s cross late on but guided it wide under pressure from Thiago Silva.

It is now three consecutive home games against Villa in which Chelsea have failed to score, as they struggled to capitalise on the momentum of Tuesday’s 6-1 Carabao Cup win over Middlesbrough that set up a final showdown against Liverpool at Wembley next month.

“This type of games are very even,” said Pochettino. “When you face a team like Aston Villa, always it’s difficult. We didn’t score but we created chances. I trust and believe in my players playing this way, we are going to score.

“We came from Tuesday, we scored six so today should be good. But their keeper is an amazing keeper, he’s really good. Sometimes you need some luck to score.”

Chelsea lost defender Levi Colwill to injury during the warm-up, with 20-year-old academy graduate Alfie Gilchrist drafted into the starting XI.

Pochettino confirmed Colwill’s injury is not serious and emphasised his belief in Gilchrist as a capable stand-in.

“It’s not so bad, it’s some small issue that maybe he didn’t feel comfortable,” he said. “We knew before we might not start with him. We hope he will train tomorrow.

“The most difficult thing (for young players) is to manage the stress. (Gilchrist) thought he wasn’t going to play. Sometimes with the young guys, you give the starting XI and they think too much, maybe they can’t sleep. The stress can affect them. But he got half an hour (to prepare), no time to think too much.

“The young players need time to be calm and relaxed, not to spend too much energy thinking on the game. But he was really good. He’s going to grow and be more mature in future.

“He’s showing, and we are giving the opportunity for him to build his career. It’s important for all of the academy players have ability to show they can cope with the pressure of playing for Chelsea. We’ll see if he can reach the level we expect.”

Villa boss Unai Emery reflected on a game in which side impressed with their competitive approach despite the stalemate.

“I have to accept this draw and that we will now play at home and be motivated with our supporters,” he said.

“We are going to be at Villa Park trying to enjoy this, because we showed tonight that we are competitive and we can be contenders as well for this competition.”

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