Mauricio Pochettino has warned it will take time for leaders to emerge among Chelsea’s inexperienced squad and rejected comparisons with players who helped shape the club’s illustrious past.

With an average age of just over 23, the Argentinian has worked with the youngest group in this season’s Premier League, and accused his team of lacking maturity in the aftermath of last weekend’s 2-2 draw against bottom side Sheffield United.

Since taking over in May 2022, co-owner Todd Boehly and his Clearlake Capital consortium have pursued a transfer policy exclusively favouring players in their early 20s, while the squad’s more experienced members – many of whom won Chelsea’s last major silverware, the 2021 Champions League – have been moved on.

It has left a squad that has been accused of lacking balance, while at times this season there has been a notable absence of leadership on the pitch, as Chelsea have struggled to climb above mid-table.

But Pochettino, who has repeatedly defended the club’s recruitment strategy, called for perspective, singling out former stars who took time to mature into leadership roles.

“John Terry was young,” he said. “I don’t believe when he was 18, 19 he was already a leader. (Those players) were in a different situation. Maybe they had some help when they were young, maybe they were in another project.

“We are in a project where 80 or 90 per cent of the players are young. They need to grow all together. They need some help. That’s why we are here, to help them in this process to become leaders.

“We’re talking about too many players that only arrived this season at Chelsea and in the Premier League.”

An unbeaten run of seven games, their longest in the league for almost 18 months, has helped drag the team into contention for European qualification.

Victory over Everton at Stamford Bridge on Monday night will put them in a promising position to break into the top eight, likely to be sufficient to reach next season’s Conference League, though they could also seal a Europa League place by finishing in the top seven or by winning the FA Cup.

Nevertheless, Pochettino urged caution, suggesting it is unfair to expect players – such as striker Nicolas Jackson, who has led the line virtually all season despite previously having played only 34 league games for former side Villarreal – to instantly assume the mantel of Chelsea greats.

The 22-year-old has scored 12 goals in 35 appearances since his £32million move from LaLiga, and recent performances have marked a significant improvement on his early weeks in west London.

“We talk about Nicolas Jackson,” said Pochettino. “If we compare with (Didier) Drogba’s first season, there’s hope he can be a leader, but Drogba was a leader in his first season.

“People can find excuses and criticise, but I cannot pay attention. Sometimes you laugh about the opinions you receive from outside.”

Mauricio Pochettino said he doubts whether Chelsea could have handled a European campaign this season as he has grappled with an injury crisis.

The Argentinian could be without 11 players for Monday’s game against Everton, with Enzo Fernandez and Raheem Sterling the latest doubts for the meeting at Stamford Bridge.

It has been the club’s first campaign without European competition since 2016/17, and only their second since 1996/97, following a 12th-place finish in the Premier League last season.

An unbeaten run of seven games, their longest in the league for almost 18 months, has put them in contention to reach either the Europa League or Conference League, whilst they could also qualify by winning the FA Cup.

But Pochettino said the team’s injury problems will need to be addressed if they are to take on more games next season.

“Imagine if we had played in Europe this season, with all the circumstances (injuries)? Oh my goodness,” said the 52-year-old.

“With a squad that is always between eight and 10 players missing in every single game. If you add more games, we would struggle a lot.

“Now it’s about experience, to have all the information to try to help the club to take the best decisions to avoid things like happened this season.

“That is out principal focus, to try to define a squad that can be fit, or have more than 80 per cent availability.”

Teams in previous seasons have benefited from having a season without European competition, taking time to regroup before following up with much improved campaigns the following year.

Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers in 2013/14 came within two points of winning the title whilst not having to contend with a European schedule, whilst Chelsea were crowned champions under Antonio Conte in 2016/17 a year after finishing 10th.

Mikel Arteta led Arsenal to a fifth-place finish in 2021/22, the club’s first without Europe in 26 years, during which the team showed significant progress that has led to them challenging for the title in consecutive seasons.

Pochettino countered that the situation at Chelsea, whose owners have spent over £1billion on assembling a young and largely inexperienced squad, cannot be compared to previous examples.

“Now, it’s completely different,” he said. “You cannot compare to Conte or Brendan Rodgers, it’s not fair. We are in a different Chelsea today.

“The conversation is always to win the next game, then the next and then the next, and see in which position we arrive.

“To have targets is always good. But to have a target it is to have all the elements on (your) side. With all the circumstances we are living (with injuries), it’s about trying to be competitive in the next game, not to put objectives that maybe you will get very frustrated if you don’t win some games that you are supposed to win.”

Erling Haaland added Luton to his collection to ensure he has still scored against every opponent he has faced in the Premier League.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the prolific Norway international’s Manchester City record.

Full house

Chelsea, Liverpool and Brentford were the only teams not to concede to Haaland in his astonishing debut season in England, when he won the Premier League Golden Boot with 36 goals in 33 games.

He ticked off Chelsea and Liverpool in successive league games either side of November’s international break and, having failed to score in this season’s first meeting with the Bees, had to wait until February’s postponed return fixture to complete the set of 21 opponents he had faced.

Having missed December’s fixture against Luton while injured, they were not among that number – despite February’s five-goal FA Cup onslaught – so his penalty in Saturday’s 5-1 win extended his perfect record to 22 opponents.

Haaland now has 56 goals in 61 Premier League appearances.

Favourite opponents

Haaland’s highest Premier League tally against any opponent is six goals, against derby rivals Manchester United. He followed up last season’s hat-trick at the Etihad Stadium with a double at Old Trafford and another home goal this term.

Fulham and Crystal Palace follow, with five goals in three games against each, with hat-tricks at home to Palace last season and Fulham this.

He has four goals in three games against each of Everton, Nottingham Forest, West Ham and Wolves, with hat-tricks against Forest and Wolves last season.

He has three against both Brighton and Southampton and has scored in every league appearance against Fulham, Everton, West Ham, Palace (three games each, with Fulham and West Ham still to play again this season), Saints (two games), Leicester and Sheffield United (one).

Record books

Harry Kane also scored against every Premier League opponent he faced, a total of 32 clubs, during his time with Tottenham – a brief loan at Norwich early in his career did not yield any of his eventual 213 goals in the competition.

Frank Lampard holds the record for scoring Premier League goals against the most clubs overall, with his 39 one more than Andy Cole, but neither player scored against every opponent they faced.

Third on that list with 37 opponents is the league’s record scorer Alan Shearer, whose 20 goals against Leeds is the most by one player against a single opponent.

Chelsea’s wage bill rose to more than £400million last season – the second highest in the Premier League, according to accounts published by Companies House.

The Blues finished 12th in the Premier League last term but their salary costs have risen by 18 per cent to £404m, with only treble-winning Manchester City paying out more (£422.9m).

In the first full season under the new ownership of Todd Boehly’s Clearlake Capital consortium, Chelsea paid £747m on transfers up to June 30, 2023. Since then, they have spent another £454m on transfers.

Players who had initially cost the club £592m were sold for £203m although accounting regulations allow the West London outfit a profit of around £63m.

Chelsea announced pre-tax losses of £90.1million in March, an improvement on the previous years’ loss of £121.4m, but Premier League rules state a club can have made a loss no greater than £105m over a three-year period.

While certain costs can be deducted, it means there are likely to be further player sales required in the coming months in order to remain within regulations, particularly with qualification for Europe via their league position looking unlikely this campaign.

The sale of Mason Mount to Manchester United in July last year for £55m, with a possible £5m in add-ons, will be in the 2023/24 accounts although so too will the signing of Moises Caicedo from Brighton for a fee that could rise to up to £115m.

On Friday, it was announced Chelsea spent £75.1m on agents’ and intermediaries’ fees in the 12 months up to February 1, having brought in players like Caicedo, Christopher Nkunku, Romeo Lavia, Nicolas Jackson and Cole Palmer over the period covered – which was almost £32m more than previously spent.

Despite the outlay Mauricio Pochettino’s expensively-assembled squad have endured an inconsistent Premier League campaign – and were branded “blue billion-pound bottle jobs” by Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville late on during their 1-0 extra-time defeat against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final.

A £76.5m property deal with BlueCo, a subsidiary of the club’s holding company, helped to reduce Chelsea’s losses, while their turnover increased to £512m, up from £481m over the previous year.

Chelsea spent more than £75million on agents’ and intermediaries’ fees this season, according to figures released by the Football Association.

The data, which covered the 12 months to February 1 and therefore this season’s two transfer windows, showed the total spend by top-flight clubs was £409.59m – an increase from £318.2m for the 2022-23 campaign.

The Blues head the list paying £75,140,524 – having brought in players like Moises Caicedo, Christopher Nkunku, Romeo Lavia, Nicolas Jackson and Cole Palmer over the period covered – which was almost £32m more than previously spent.

Despite the outlay Mauricio Pochettino’s expensively-assembled squad have endured an inconsistent Premier League campaign – and were branded “blue billion-pound bottle jobs” by Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville late on during their 1-0 extra-time defeat against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final.

Elsewhere Manchester City – the biggest spenders in the previous list – ranked second on £60.63m.

Rivals Manchester United spent £34.05m, while Liverpool paid £31.50m in fees and Arsenal a total of £24.76m.

At the other end of the spending list, Luton – promoted to the Premier League via the play-offs in May last year – paid the least at £2.02m.

Chelsea’s total exceeded the overall spending on agents’ fees in the Sky Bet Championship of £61.34m – with Leeds top of the list at £13.28m as they push for a swift promotion.

Mauricio Pochettino said it is time to stop talking about injuries and let Chelsea’s academy players show what they can do ahead of Monday’s meeting with Everton.

The Argentinian could have as many as 11 absentees for the game at Stamford Bridge, with Enzo Fernandez and Raheem Sterling amongst the latest doubts.

Training sessions this season have relied heavily on players called up from the academy, and several have been named in matchday squads as the injury crisis has deepened.

The 17-year-old defender Josh Acheampong and 20-year-old Finland youth international Jimi Tauriainen were amongst the substitutes during the 2-2 draw with Burnley at the end of March, whilst 20-year-old Alfie Gilchrist, who penned a new two-year deal this month, has made 13 appearances in all competitions.

Striker Deivid Washington, the 18-year-old signed from Brazilian side Santos last January, has also featured regularly on the bench, as has 21-year-old Cesare Casadei after his year-long loan at Leicester was cut short earlier this year.

Ahead of Everton, Fernandez and Axel Disasi will have their fitness assessed, whilst Sterling and goalkeeper Robert Sanchez are suffering from illness.

Ben Chilwell is training with the first team having not played since the international break but is unlikely to be fit enough to start.

“We need to stop talking,” said Pochettino. “People are waiting for me to talk (about injuries). We need to stop and we need to adapt, and accept the reality. We need to be positive with the players that we have.

“With the young kids that came through the academy, we are going to try to be competitive and to win the game on Monday. We need to accept the (injury) situation.

“If something happens, we need to take the positives. We’re going to have the possibility to train with young guys, players from the academy. Maybe they can step up and show their quality.”

Chelsea’s under-17 side beat Wolves 3-1 at Molineux to lift the Premier League Cup on Thursday, with the under-21s currently fourth in the league and the under-18s top of their division.

“Maybe before the end of the season we can have some surprise from a player we didn’t count on, that can have a good profile for Chelsea,” said Pochettino. “When that happens, another door will be open.

“Chelsea have one of the best academies in the world. It’s our responsibility to pay attention and to care about these guys. Because of the situation, they’re going have the chance to be involved on Monday.”

Pochettino hinted at taking a more measured approach to his post-match media duties after he accused his players of lacking maturity following Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Sheffield United.

“I think I need to be more cautious with my words after the game,” he said. “It’s a fact that we have a young squad but also I need to adapt a different message.

“We are winners. We arrived here knowing Chelsea’s history is about winning. So when you don’t win like against Sheffield, we felt disappointed and frustrated. It’s not easy to face (the media) and be calm.”

What the papers say

Manchester City will be hoping to stave off competitors Liverpool, Barcelona and Paris St Germain for 21-year-old Bayern Munich forward Jamal Musiala according to the Independent. The 21-year-old from Germany has scored 10 goals in 23 matches in the Bundesliga this season.

The Mirror says Arsenal are now rethinking their plans for Brentford striker Ivan Toney due to the form of German forward Kai Havertz. The 24-year-old has scored five goals in his last seven matches, with the club now considering looking for a younger forward.

Chelsea could let 11 players leave the club this summer, the Sun says, with 24-year-old midfielder Conor Gallagher expected to be one of those players.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Viktor Gyokeres: The 25-year-old Sporting Lisbon forward is a top transfer target for Arsenal, but they will have to pay £85million to match the club’s release clause.

Piero Hincapie: Tottenham could look to sign the 22-year-old Bayer Leverkusen defender as manager Ange Postecoglou has made a defender one of his priorities in the summer, Teamtalk says.

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino was frustrated after seeing his side twice surrender the lead to draw 2-2 against bottom side Sheffield United.

Thiago Silva and Noni Madueke scored either side of the break to put Chelsea 2-1 up, with Jayden Bogle scoring for the Blades just after the half-hour mark.

Just when it looked as though Chelsea were on course to claim all three points, McBurnie struck in the third minute of stoppage time.

Pochettino said: “It is very frustrating because when you concede in the last few minutes you feel very disappointed and frustrated because you should win the game.

“We had the possession but didn’t create enough. I think in the first part of the season we were a little bit more solid. We were creating but we weren’t clinical. Now we are scoring more but we are conceding more.

“The difficult thing is to find the balance. The team is not showing in the last few months the capacity to be solid.

“We score goals but we are conceding. We need to be positive. We are trying to find solutions about being more solid and not conceding too much.

“The process to build a team always takes time – it is not a magic thing.

“I think it is the normal process that this happens. We need to work and try to fix this type of problem.

“We need to analyse the squad at the end of the season and see what we are missing and try to add people with the capacity to improve next season.”

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder felt his side deserved a point.

He said: “I think everybody in the ground would have been disappointed if we’d not got a result from that effort.

“I didn’t like the first 15 minutes. I thought we looked leggy and we looked like it was that third performance in a week.

“But we got ourselves going and the midfield got us passing it and moving it forward. The midfield three was really good.

“I’m delighted with the last 75-80 minutes. I thought it was really good.

“The only time I can be super-critical is their second goal.

“The press was good in the second half. The mentality of the team was to go and win the game from 1-1.

“We’re slightly disappointed that we’ve not got a couple of more points on the board.

“When you look at the league table and the position we’re in, it never looked like that today. It doesn’t have that feel, really. We’re in decent nick.

“I think everybody would have been really disappointed if we’d not got anything out of the game.

“I can’t be too critical when they’re giving everything. We had a better bench today and we understand the demands of the Premier League and a three-game week.

“You’ve got to really dig in and find that little bit extra. There’s enough character in the team.”

Oli McBurnie grabbed a stoppage-time equaliser as struggling Sheffield United twice came from behind to snatch a point in a 2-2 draw with Chelsea.

Thiago Silva’s opener was cancelled out by Jayden Bogle’s equaliser, but it looked like the Blues would come away with maximum points when Noni Madueke put them 2-1 up, only for McBurnie to level at the death.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder restored McBurnie and Ben Osborn to his starting line-up, while Ivo Grbic kept his place in goal despite an error which resulted in a goal at Liverpool on Thursday night.

Chelsea made three changes to the one that started their 4-3 midweek victory over Manchester United, with Silva, Madueke and Trevoh Chalobah all recalled.

Silva marked his 100th Premier League start with the opening goal in the 11th minute. It was a far from convincing strike as he met Conor Gallagher’s corner on the volley, but the ball crept just inside Grbic’s right-hand post.

The home side had their first chance when McBurnie intercepted Silva’s attempted pass and played the ball back to Ben Brereton Diaz, whose effort from inside the area was blocked by a defender.

Gustavo Hamer then forced a save from Djordje Petrovic, firing in a shot which had the keeper scrambling down low to his left to keep the ball out.

Hamer was the architect of the Blades’ equaliser, playing a superb ball to find Bogle whose shot from a tight angle on the right-hand side of the area went in off Petrovic.

Brereton Diaz threatened shortly after the restart, running at the defence before seeing his shot blocked.

The Chile international then created a great chance, sending over a cross which was headed wide by his strike-partner McBurnie under pressure from Chalobah.

As the hosts continued to enjoy a good spell, Hamer sent a drive narrowly wide of Petrovic’s right-hand post.

Madueke restored Chelsea’s lead in the 66th minute, receiving the ball from Cole Palmer and cutting inside before firing past Grbic.

Palmer then saw a dipping effort turned over the crossbar by Grbic.

Nicolas Jackson threatened to put the visitors further ahead before a last-ditch tackle from Anel Ahmedhodzic inside the area snuffed out the danger.

Petrovic had to be at full stretch to keep out Jack Robinson’s looping header in the closing stages.

But an equaliser came in the third minute of time added on when Hamer’s header was knocked on by Cameron Archer into the path of McBurnie who fired into the net from close range.

Mauricio Pochettino said Chelsea’s status as a big club dictates the style that has helped them loosen their goalscoring inhibitions this season.

With nine Premier League games still to play the team have already scored 15 more goals than they managed in the entirety of the last campaign, when they recorded the club’s lowest return in almost a century.

After failing to find the net in three of Pochettino’s first six games in charge, including consecutive blanks against Nottingham Forest, Bournemouth and Aston Villa, there has been a significant change in the Argentinian’s approach, favouring a more fluid, open style that has seen goals conceded as well as scored.

The 4-3 win against Manchester United on Thursday means there have been a combined 33 goals for and against Chelsea in their last six games in all competitions at Stamford Bridge.

In total there have been 10 games this season in which the team has either scored or conceded four or more goals – or both, in the case of their 4-4 draw with Manchester City – whilst the swashbuckling style has also seen 13 penalties awarded in their favour.

By contrast, the team went the entirety of the 2022-23 campaign without scoring four in a match.

“The quality is our philosophy,” said Pochettino, who takes his team to Bramall Lane to face the league’s bottom side Sheffield United on Sunday.

“We are always thinking to go forward, to create chances. We are in the top four in the Premier League at creating big chances.

“It’s about philosophy. We see different clubs that try to get goals or chances through set-pieces, but we are Chelsea. We are a big club. A big club is about creating a philosophy to play good football, and play in the opposite half.

“It’s about ideas, about how we taste football. We have a lot of attempts in the last third. It’s why we get (so many) penalties. That is a good quality of the team, and of the football we want to apply here at Chelsea.”

Chelsea have forced themselves into the reckoning for European qualification off the back of their longest unbeaten league run in almost 18 months.

Despite not playing they climbed to ninth in the league on Saturday courtesy of Brighton’s 3-0 defeat to Arsenal.

They have games in hand which if won would see them overtake the two teams directly above them, Newcastle and West Ham, and draw to within two points of sixth-place Manchester United, who play Liverpool on Sunday.

Sixth is almost certain be a Europa League qualifying spot, though they could also reach the competition by winning the FA Cup.

Pochettino will lead his team out in the semi-final against City at Wembley on April 20.

Mauricio Pochettino admits it was a risk to join Chelsea given his Tottenham connections but remains determined to build a “genuine relationship” with supporters following the stunning 4-3 win over Manchester United.

Cole Palmer’s strike in the 11th minute of stoppage time was the latest winning goal on record in the Premier League and sparked an eruption of joy around Stamford Bridge, previously the scene of seething discontent as home fans have watched their side plummet down the table.

Pochettino and his players have been booed off more than once this season, with the worst reaction coming after they were beaten 4-2 by Wolves early in February, though there was also audible disquiet as they struggled to overcome Championship sides Leeds and Leicester in the FA Cup.

However, the team are unbeaten in the league since that loss to Wolves, and on top of progressing to the cup semi-final where they will face Manchester City, on Thursday they gave supporters surely their most memorable moment since Todd Boehly’s Clearlake Capital consortium bought the club almost two years ago.

Palmer’s winner, his third goal of the night and just seconds after he had levelled the game at 3-3 from the penalty spot, triggered a release of emotion shared by Pochettino and home fans, and was reward for a performance in which Chelsea had shown moments of great attacking promise.

“I arrived to Chelsea in a different project than in the previous 10 years,” said Pochettino, who took over from caretaker boss Frank Lampard in July last year.

“I played with my reputation to come here, in a project to build a team with young players, talented players.

“We knew it was a massive challenge to build a team, win games and to be competitive, to take the risk with the fans.

“I said from the beginning, I want to build a genuine relationship. Not kissing the badge or doing stupid things on the touch line to win the (favour) of the fans.

“I want to prove the team the tools to win games, to make them believe in ourselves and to build a relationship. I’m not here to be a populist and a hypocrite and say ‘I love the fans’, because I know it’s about time to build this relationship.”

Pochettino spent more than five years in charge of rivals Spurs, who he guided to the Champions League final in 2019 before being sacked less than six months later.

One of his most famous games in charge came in May 2016 when his team threw away a 2-0 lead against Chelsea in a bad-tempered game in west London to hand Leicester the title, a match which became known as the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea have looked a long way from hitting such heights under the Argentinian, but by maintaining their unbeaten streak with the late drama against United, victory at Bramall Lane against Sheffield United on Sunday would place them in touching distance of qualifying for next season’s Europa League.

“We have nine games to play still,” said Pochettino. “If we win them all, for sure we will be in Europe.”

Cole Palmer insists he wants the responsibility of scoring penalties after he netted a hat-trick in Chelsea’s 4-3 thrilling victory over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.

Palmer’s stunning season continued as he took his league tally to 16 goals on the night. After he scored from the spot on 19 minutes, he converted another spot-kick in the 10th minute of second-half stoppage time after Diogo Dalot brought down Noni Madueke.

Palmer completed his treble just a minute later with a deflected strike off Scott McTominay following a short corner to seal a dramatic win in west London.

The 21-year-old, who joined from Manchester City for a reported fee of  £42.5 million last summer, wants to maintain his 100 per cent record from 12 yards.

“I’ve had a few penalties this season and when they’re in front of me, I just want to continue to try and score them,” he told Chelsea’s official club website.

“I want to keep my focus and strike the ball clean.”

The late turnaround has seen Chelsea close the gap on teams above them in their bid for European football next season.

Palmer said he and his team-mates were spurred on to grab another goal after their added-time equaliser.

“It was a crazy game,” he added. “To go from 2-0 up to 3-2 down was a bit of a blow, but when we scored in the 98th minute we knew there were two more minutes – we saw the gaffer say it. I looked over when I scored. We thought ‘let’s go for it’.

“I didn’t know what to do when I scored, but I was buzzing. My first hat-trick. It’s my first one and I’m really happy about it. It was madness at the end.”

Chelsea were held to a 2-2 draw by 10-man Burnley last week and Palmer talked up the importance of responding with victory against the Red Devils.

“After last week we needed to come and get three points,” he added. “And to do it this way was probably the best way to do it.

“It’s a big win and it’s a massive momentum boost for the fans and the team. It’s put everyone in a good mood.”

Mauricio Pochettino hailed a “turning point” in Chelsea’s strained relationship with their fans after Cole Palmer’s stoppage-time double completed a hat-trick and sealed an unlikely 4-3 win against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.

United looked to have the match won until, in the seventh minute of stoppage time, Diogo Dalot fell into Noni Madueke to concede a penalty from which Palmer scored to seemingly rescue a point.

But there was more drama to come. With almost the game’s final kick, Palmer blasted at goal and, via a deflection from Scott McTominay, scored to bury Erik ten Hag’s side and spark joyous scenes amongst home supporters.

Relations between fans and the club have soured as Chelsea’s fortunes have plummeted, but the response at the end was one of unbridled delight, with Pochettino predicting a fresh start off the back of this win.

“It was amazing,” he said. “We were the better team today and it was fair we scored in the the last minute.

“We started really well, 2-0 (up), the game was under control, then we made a mistake and suffered an emotional impact. It wasn’t easy to deal with. In the second half we controlled the game (but) conceded in transitions.

“It was important to finish like that, creating the connection between our fans and players. It’s a very good thing that happened today. It should be a turning point for the fans’ trust in the team.”

It had all looked like being a far simpler affair when his team raced into a two-goal lead inside 20 minutes, Conor Gallagher squeezing a shot beneath Andre Onana’s dive, then a penalty clipped into the corner by Palmer.

United were overwhelmed by Pochettino’s side attacking ferociously, but an error by Moises Caicedo changed the nature of the game as a loose ball straight to Alejandro Garnacho saw the forward race away to score.

The game was level minutes later as Bruno Fernandes stealed away at the far post to nod Dalot’s cross beyond Djordje Petrovic.

Garnacho’s header from Antony’s superb ball midway through the half looked like being the winner.

Then came Palmer’s crazy intervention at the death, as Chelsea breathed life into their bid to qualify for Europe.

“It was really unfair (to be losing),” said Pochettino. “Why were we losing the game. Football is like this. But we always kept believing.

“We were saying to the players ‘two minutes, two minutes’. (At 2-2) we believed we could score the winning goal.

“It was a must-win game if we wanted to reduce the gap above us. It was so, so important.”

A visibly downcast Ten Hag reflected on poor decision-making that led to his team’s defeat.

“We started poor, making individual errors,” he said. “But I had the feeling we were dominating and we fought ourselves back.

“We were in a winning poison with very good football and scoring great goals. Then in stoppage time, we didn’t bring the win over the line.

“You have to do your job, you have to make the right decisions, and we didn’t react quick enough to avoid this situation.

“We dominated the game, especially our wide players were a danger: Garnacho, Antony.

“We have to make better decisions. You saw how we score from counters. We can be such a massive threat and we’ve seen again today an example.

“But we have to read when to keep the ball, especially when you are winning. Keep the ball, pass and move and switch the play instead of giving it way.”

Mauricio Pochettino hailed a “turning point” in Chelsea’s strained relationship with their fans after Cole Palmer’s stoppage-time double completed a hat-trick and sealed a 4-3 win against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.

United looked to have the match won until, in the seventh minute of stoppage time, Diogo Dalot fell into Noni Madueke to concede a penalty from which Palmer scored to seemingly rescue a point.

But there was more drama to come. With almost the game’s final kick, Palmer blasted at goal and, via a deflection from Scott McTominay, scored to bury Erik ten Hag’s side and spark joyous scenes amongst home supporters.

Relations between fans and the club have soured as Chelsea’s fortunes have plummeted, but the response at the end was one of unbridled delight, with Pochettino predicting a fresh start off the back of this win.

“It was amazing,” he said. “We were the better team today and it was fair we scored in the the last minute.

“We started really well, 2-0 (up), the game was under control, then we made a mistake and suffered an emotional impact. It wasn’t easy to deal with. In the second half we controlled the game (but) conceded in transitions.

“It was important to finish like that, creating the connection between our fans and players. It’s a very good thing that happened today. It should be a turning point for the fans’ trust in the team.”

It had all looked like being a far simpler affair when his team raced into a two-goal lead inside 20 minutes, Conor Gallagher squeezing a shot beneath Andre Onana’s dive, then a penalty clipped into the corner by Palmer.

United were overwhelmed by Pochettino’s side attacking ferociously, but an error by Moises Caicedo changed the nature of the game as a loose ball straight to Alejandro Garnacho saw the forward race away to score.

The game was level minutes later as Bruno Fernandes stealed away at the far post to nod Dalot’s cross beyond Djordje Petrovic.

Garnacho’s header from Antony’s superb ball midway through the half looked like being the winner.

Then came Palmer’s crazy intervention at the death, as Chelsea breathed life into their bid to qualify for Europe.

“It was really unfair (to be losing),” said Pochettino. “Why were we losing the game. Football is like this. But we always kept believing.

“We were saying to the players ‘two minutes, two minutes’. (At 2-2) we believed we could score the winning goal.

“It was a must-win game if we wanted to reduce the gap above us. It was so, so important.”

A visibly downcast Ten Hag reflected on poor decision-making that led to his team’s defeat.

“We started poor, making individual errors,” he said. “But I had the feeling we were dominating and we fought ourselves back.

“We were in a winning poison with very good football and scoring great goals. Then in stoppage time, we didn’t bring the win over the line.

“You have to do your job, you have to make the right decisions, and we didn’t react quick enough to avoid this situation.

“We dominated the game, especially our wide players were a danger: Garnacho, Antony.

“We have to make better decisions. You saw how we score from counters. We can be such a massive threat and we’ve seen again today an example.

“But we have to read when to keep the ball, especially when you are winning. Keep the ball, pass and move and switch the play instead of giving it way.”

Cole Palmer scored a sensational hat-trick as Chelsea struck twice in the final minutes of stoppage time to beat Manchester United 4-3 at Stamford Bridge.

United were 3-2 up and seemingly home and dry when Noni Madueke was felled by Diogo Dalot in the seventh minute of added time. Palmer scored from the penalty spot to seemingly rescue a point – but a stunning finale awaited.

The former Manchester City player – a United fan as a youngster – was given space inside the box and lashed it beyond Andre Onana with virtually the final kick, with the aid of a slight deflection off United’s Scott McTominay.

Their side had looked like running away with the Premier League contest in the first period, Conor Gallagher and Palmer from the penalty spot putting them into a 2-0 lead inside 20 minutes.

But a horrendous error from Moises Caicedo gifted United a way back, Alejandro Garnacho netting his first before Bruno Fernandes nodded unmarked past Djordje Petrovic to level before the break.

A breathless second half could have seen either side win it, and Garnacho looked to have done it for United when he headed in a brilliant cross from Antony midway through the half.

Then came scarcely believable drama at the end, with Palmer’s double sparking joyous scenes among home supporters.

Chelsea had looked irresistible for much of the first half and raced into a deserved lead.

First, Enzo Fernandez scooped a delicious ball into the right channel for the overlapping Malo Gusto. His low cutback pinged off the heel of Raphael Varane, spinning favourably into the path of Gallagher whose first-time drive slithered beneath Onana’s outstretched hand and into the net.

The second goal came from a similarly neat move down the other flank, this time Marc Cucurella feeding Mykhailo Mudryk who bolted onto it and flicked the ball back inside to Cucurella. Across to challenge came Antony, felling the Chelsea defender with an artless trip. Palmer dinked his penalty into the bottom corner with consummate ease.

United struggled with the pace and directness of Chelsea’s transitions but the hosts’ control of the game was punctured on 34 minutes.

Caicedo sensed Antony lurking on his shoulder and played a hurried, careless ball square that sold Benoit Badiashile short. Garnacho was onto it like a flash, tearing clear of the hapless Chelsea pair and slotting past Petrovic.

Onana pushed out Fernandez’s low hit and had to be bailed out by Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who shovelled the rebound away from Mykhailo Mudryk as Chelsea quickly resumed their assault.

But the goal had swung the game towards United and they were soon level. Antony swept the ball wide to Garnacho, who stood up Cucurella and knocked it back for Diogo Dalot. His cross whizzed across the box to Fernandes, arriving unmarked at the far post, to wipe out Chelsea’s lead.

Gallagher rattled the post when set up by Palmer late in the half, though they were clearly stunned by United’s rapid double and looked grateful to go in level at the break.

The second half was a gung-ho battle between defence and attack. At times, the midfield simply vanished as both sides ripped into each other, and by the hour mark either could have led, Fernandes and Palmer with the clearest chances lashed over as the game hummed with energy, coaxing a winner.

It looked to have arrived from Garnacho. Antony’s cross, whipped with the outside of his left boot, was elegant and pinpoint. Chelsea had two defenders back but neither tracked the run of Garnacho, who stooped bravely to reach the ball before Petrovic and guide it into the corner. The United fans, including new Kansas City Chiefs recruit Louis Rees-Zammit, were delighted.

It looked like staying that way until the final minute of stoppage time, when Palmer’s dramatic double sealed an astonishing turnaround.

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