Chelsea finished strongly to win 3-1 at Crystal Palace, with Conor Gallagher punishing his former side at Selhurst Park.

The depleted hosts, who had lost the influential Michael Olise, Eberechi Eze and Marc Guehi to injury, took the lead via a Jefferson Lerma screamer – his maiden Eagles goal.

Gallagher equalised almost immediately after a delayed start to the second half, firing home his first of the Premier League season in the 47th minute.

Just as it seemed the relegation-threatened hosts were close to securing a valuable point, Gallagher struck in his second on the stroke of normal time, moments before Enzo Fernandez ensured Chelsea would end the evening in the top half of the table.

It was difficult to predict what kind of reception Palace would receive after the 4-1 loss at rivals Brighton, after which some players and fans in the away end exchanged heated words, and the frequent appearance of protest banners in recent weeks.

And though several were raised ahead of kick-off – “supporters ignored and taken for granted”  among them – the overall mood was perhaps less sour than boss Roy Hodgson, who had pleaded with supporters to back his diminished side, might have expected.

His players responded with an encouraging start, despite the visitors enjoying the lion’s share of possession, pouncing on loose balls with promising drives into Chelsea’s final third.

Palace took the lead at the half-hour mark, shortly after Jean-Philippe Mateta had missed a chance to fire the hosts ahead,  when Lerma managed to liberate himself from a quartet of tumbling and battling bodies and patiently took a few paces forward before blasting the ball high into the net from 25 yards out.

Former Eagles loanee Gallagher, who scored the winner in the October 2022 edition of this fixture, fired wide of Dean Henderson’s left post before the break, by which the Blues had completed 420 passes but not registered a shot on target.

The second period got off to a delayed start after referee Michael Oliver experienced technical issues, the stadium singing and laughing along as Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds (Everything’s Gonna Be Alright)’ was pointedly played in the pause.

It proved to be an ironic choice when Gallagher side-footed Malo Gusto’s delivery past Henderson in the 47th minute and the away end immediately began taunting the home support with their own version of the famous reggae refrain, including an emphatic “Chelsea”.

Although a livelier and more disciplined Blues side had emerged for the second half, the hosts were not without their chances. Thiago Silva slid to deny Mateta and Daniel Munoz, in his first home start, tested goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic from a tight angle.

Ben Chilwell cringed after blasting a good chance over the crossbar, close enough to lure Henderson into a leap as Chelsea continued to apply pressure.

With just under 15 minutes remaining in normal time, Matheus Franca forced Petrovic into a good diving save, before Cole Palmer was denied by Henderson soon after.

Palace survived another Chelsea set piece and, with less than 10 minutes to go, were able to crowd substitute Raheem Sterling, nearly set up for a dangerous chance from Palmer’s cross.

Both sides pushed for more and, just as it seemed like Palace had clung on for a vital point, Palmer picked out Gallagher who, in a deja-vu moment for the home support, swept Chelsea into a 90th-minute lead.

Any hope of a late Eagles reply was dashed in added time when Fernandez took his time before firing into the top left corner. Palmer again provided the assist.

Chelsea head coach Mauricio Pochettino repeated his call for patience as his inexperienced squad look to find their feet in the Premier League.

The Argentinian takes his side to Crystal Palace on Monday evening searching for a win which would lift the Blues into the top half of the table.

Hopes that the players might finally be ready to live up to the expectation raised by having a £1billion first-team squad were ignited by last Wednesday’s 3-1 victory at Aston Villa in their FA Cup fourth-round replay.

But in the league there has been little cause for optimism, with the most recent outing – last weekend’s 4-2 home defeat to Wolves, which saw angry supporters turn on Pochettino and his team – representing the low point so far of a turbulent campaign.

A win at Selhurst Park against Roy Hodgson’s men would be just their 10th of the season in 24 league games.

Pochettino said his team – on average the youngest in the top flight – will require more time than they have yet been given following the arrival of 12 new faces last summer.

“I’m not picking the team because they are young,” he said. “I don’t want to be the coach that picks the youngest team in England.

“We are a young team. We have a good balance. We have Thiago Silva who is 39, we have Raheem Sterling (29), we have (Christopher) Nkunku (26), and (Axel) Disasi (25). The problem is not that they are young. The problem is that the team is young.

“We had (many) players that arrived new at the beginning of the season. You need to build a team. Always I talk about the team, it’s not about if you have 20 or 19-year-olds. We need to be consistent like a team.

“At the moment we have maybe not so good (balance), because we would be in another position.”

The defeat to Wolves brought the first signs of Chelsea fans’ patience with the former Tottenham manager being tested.

There was audible discontent aimed at Pochettino directly, while players were also booed and supporters sang the name of former owner Roman Abramovich.

The 51-year-old is not the only one under scrutiny, with Palace manager Hodgson also in the spotlight as his side sink down the table with just two wins in their last 12 games, but Pochettino has backed the 76-year-old to handle the pressure.

“It’s part of the game, it’s football,” the Blues boss said. “He has the experience to manage every situation. It’ll be good to see him, for sure we’re going to share a nice time together.

“We are not interested to talk about things that happen around us.”

Mauricio Pochettino expressed frustration that Chelsea’s injury problems are being unfairly ignored in assessments of his team’s poor performances this season.

The Argentinian has rarely had fewer than seven players unavailable to him during what has been at best a patchy campaign.

Results have fluctuated drastically and the last week has been a stark example, with Wednesday’s 3-1 win at Aston Villa in the FA Cup coming directly off the back of a 4-2 loss to Wolves at Stamford Bridge.

That defeat, the 10th of Pochettino’s 23 Premier League games in charge, left the team 11th in the table.

The manager is unhappy that the impact of absences on his team’s form is not being acknowledged by critics.

Chelsea could have as many as nine players out for Monday’s game away at Crystal Palace, with defender Benoit Badiashile the latest name added to the list after he was forced off with a groin problem against Villa.

Both he and Levi Colwill will be assessed ahead of the meeting at Selhurst Park, though Trevoh Chalobah could be in consideration after missing the entirety of the season so far.

Other players to have missed significant periods include summer signings Christopher Nkunku, who required surgery on a knee injury sustained in pre-season and was made to wait until December to make his debut, and Romeo Lavia, who has played just once since joining from Southampton.

Marc Cucurella, Robert Sanchez, Lesley Ugochukwu and captain Reece James are also out whilst Wesley Fofana, who the club paid £70million to sign from Leicester in 2022, has not played this season.

Ben Chilwell, Carney Chukwuemeka and Malo Gusto have also spent time out injured.

“The perception is one thing, but if you don’t have your best players, it’s difficult,” said Pochettino. “You’re judged on results, (but) circumstances are there. Always we play with different circumstances.

“When you only see the result, people criticise because you lose the game. But never you go into the analysis of why.

“Before, I was focusing on giving good information to (the media) to put it all in context, to provide the argument what is going on. But now, after seven months, I don’t say ‘I give up (with the media)’ but if people want to understand OK, if not (then) focus, move on and try to win games.

“After seven months, I need to still explain and explain and explain. Unless people want to listen, that’s it. I’m not going to spend too much energy in keeping going, explaining and explaining.

“If you want to understand, perfect. If you want to help Chelsea, perfect. I’m not saying you are helping me. It’s helping Chelsea.”

Pochettino offered his backing to under-fire Palace boss Roy Hodgson, with whom he has maintained a friendship during his years in the Premier League.

Hodgson was the England manager whilst Chelsea’s coach was at Southampton between 2013-14, with a number of Saints players called up to the national team in that period.

“Roy is my friend, I admire him,” said Pochettino. “He’s an unbelievable coach. When you lose one or two in a row, always arrives the pressure. No doubt he’s going to be successful with Palace.”

Mauricio Pochettino believes Chelsea’s 3-1 win against Aston Villa can be a springboard for his side to revive their ailing campaign.

The team gave arguably their best performance under the Argentinian in dispatching the Premier League high-flyers in Wednesday’s FA Cup fourth-round replay at Villa Park.

And it could not have come at a more opportune moment, arriving after the Blues were booed off by fans at the end of their previous outing, a 4-2 home loss to Wolves that left them 11th.

Chelsea have struggled to be consistent this season as a young squad have found expectations surrounding the club difficult to live up to, particularly in light of the £1billion transfer spend conducted by the ownership.

Yet they comprehensively defeated a Villa side currently in the top four and that recently enjoyed an unbeaten home run of almost year.

“Before (Villa) we had some good performances, but we are not consistent enough,” said Pochettino. “Maybe it could be the starting point for us, starting to be consistent and to show more often this type of performance.

“Always we believe (we can find) momentum and be consistent. Many things from the players and from the team (show we can be consistent).

“I hope it’s going to be a very good thing for us. I think the players deserve, they’re working hard from the start of the season. This type of game showed our capacity and our talent. We have a very good squad.

“We need to put it all together, behave the way that we behave, approach the game in the way that we approach. There are many good things we need to keep for the future.”

Chelsea beat Villa with three outstanding goals, two in the first half from Conor Gallagher, who drilled left-footed into the top corner after 11 minutes, and Nicolas Jackson, whose strike was his first since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations.

Enzo Fernandez capped a brilliant win with a free-kick into the top corner beyond his Argentina team-mate Emiliano Martinez shortly after the break.

“It was only a matter of time,” said Pochettino. “I think Conor and Enzo, they are so good. They work a lot, always committed to the team and to the club.

“Great for Conor, great for Enzo also. They deserve to feel this way, to feel happy, to enjoy playing football. These two guys, they’ve worked so hard to try to perform. I’m so pleased with the performance from them.”

Chelsea will be without defender Benoit Badiashile for Monday’s meeting with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, after he went off with a groin injury at Villa Park.

Levi Colwill’s fitness will be assessed ahead of the game, although Pochettino confirmed summer signing Romeo Lavia is not yet close to returning.

The manager said it was “impossible” the Belgium international would be available before the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool on February 25.

Conor Gallagher says Chelsea set the standard they have to reach with their FA Cup win at Aston Villa.

The midfielder scored his first goal of the season in Wednesday’s 3-1 fourth-round replay win.

Nicolas Jackson’s header and Enzo Fernandez’s sensational free kick helped the visitors to victory, despite Moussa Diaby’s injury-time consolation.

Chelsea, 11th in the Premier League, came into the game in disarray after 4-1 and 4-2 defeats to Liverpool and Wolves respectively and Gallagher knows they cannot let things drop.

“There was a lot of hunger and that’s what we need every game,” he said, with Chelsea hosting Leeds in the fifth round. “I think before the game you could sense that because the last two games have not been good enough by our standards.

“Everyone was really up for it and raring to give our fans a good performance and we did.

“We know how we can play – we showed that. A lot of times this season we haven’t been good enough, but also a lot of times we have been really good against the top teams so we know how good we can be.

“We’re really buzzing and Villa are a top team so to beat them, and the way we did it, was brilliant so we will take a lot of confidence from that, and hopefully take it into the next game.”

Gallagher’s 11th-minute opener was his first goal of the season, and first since last May.

“Obviously, I like to score goals and I want to score more,” he said. “This season I haven’t done so and hopefully I can get a few more.

“It was nice to get my goal and with it being my first of the season, it was really important to me. I think it helped us gain confidence in the game which helped us win, so I’m really happy.”

Villa suffered a second straight home defeat and boss Unai Emery is aiming for consistency with his side still challenging for Champions League qualification and in the Europa Conference League.

He said: “We had an opportunity in the FA Cup. It’s not easy and we are trying to be consistent, to increase our level and be a contender in each competition.

“We are facing matches like Chelsea and have to understand we are in our process. Our process is try to be consistent and get some regularity in our way. My objective is we have to feel confidence and comfortable at home even when we are not getting a good result.”

Mauricio Pochettino came out fighting after Chelsea outclassed Aston Villa to breeze into the FA Cup fifth round.

Enzo Fernandez’s stunning free kick sealed a 3-1 victory and set up last-16 tie against Leeds at Stamford Bridge.

First-half goals from Conor Gallagher and Nicolas Jackson put Chelsea in control of the fourth round replay and they cruised to victory, despite Moussa Diaby’s injury-time consolation.

Chelsea had come to Villa Park in disarray on the back of 4-1 and 4-2 defeats to Liverpool and Wolves – leaving them 11th in the Premier League.

But Pochettino insists they cannot be compared to the dominant side from the Roman Abramovich era which won five Premier League titles – despite spending over £1billion under owner Todd Boehly.

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.”

Just as the Chelsea fans sung for former owner Abramovich the visitors took the lead after 11 minutes.

Jackson and Noni Madueke combined to tee up Gallagher to find the top corner for his first goal of the season.

Ten minutes later it was 2-0 as Chelsea tore Villa apart down the right and Malo Gusto’s perfect cross was nodded in by Jackson.

There was barely a response from the hosts – who lost their 11-month unbeaten home league run to Newcastle last week – and Emi Martinez saved Cole Palmer’s effort as Chelsea looked for a third.

They found it nine minutes after the break when Fernandez, having been lucky to earn a foul off Youri Tielemans, curled a brilliant 25-yard free-kick into the top corner.

Villa were beaten but managed a consolation in stoppage time when Diaby’s strike went in off both posts and they now welcome a resurgent Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday.

Boss Unai Emery said: “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.”

Chelsea stunned Aston Villa with a 3-1 win to march on in the FA Cup and ease the pressure on Mauricio Pochettino.

Enzo Fernandez’s sensational free-kick added to first-half goals from Conor Gallagher and Nicolas Jackson.

Moussa Diaby’s injury-time strike failed to ruin Chelsea’s night and the Blues now host Leeds in the fifth round.

Having been humbled 4-2 by Wolves and thumped 4-1 by Liverpool in their two previous games there was an expectation Chelsea would lurch further into crisis in their fourth-round replay at Villa Park.

Instead, while fans sung for former owner Roman Abramovich, their side rolled back the years with a dominant performance akin to those during the Russian’s reign.

With progress in the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool to come at the end of the month, despite a wretched Premier League campaign Chelsea could still salvage success.

For Villa, Unai Emery had already labelled this week – with Manchester United visiting on Sunday – as crucial to their hopes as they challenge for the top four.

But with a second straight home defeat – coming after inconsistent home displays against Sheffield United and Burnley – there will be rightful questions over Villa’s staying power.

Initially, the hosts listened to the manager’s words and there were alarm bells for Chelsea in the opening three minutes when John McGinn roughed up Axel Disasi before Alex Moreno fluffed his lines.

Half chances for Cole Palmer and Fernandez hardly hinted at what was to come and it took just 10 minutes for the Chelsea fans to chant Abramovich’s name – yet a minute later the visitors struck.

Jackson teased his way into the area to find Noni Madueke, a constant bright spark for the visitors, and the forward had enough presence of mind to hold the ball up for Gallagher.

There was still plenty for the midfielder to do but he avoided the massed ranks to pick out the top corner from 16 yards.

Villa sought an instant reply and Leon Bailey shot at Djordje Petrovic, with the goalkeeper also turning Ollie Watkins’ drive over.

The hosts’ 11-month unbeaten home league run ended last week, a 3-1 defeat to Newcastle, but they would have expected better against a fractured Chelsea who had lost six of their last seven away outings.

Yet, with the lead, Pochettino’s side came to life and doubled their advantage with an excellent, flowing, move after 21 minutes.

It was built down right with Disasi and Madueke involved before Malo Gusto was released to brilliantly cross for Jackson, who directed a precise header into the corner.

As against Newcastle, Villa were falling apart with Chelsea exploiting the flanks. Madueke continued to taunt the hosts and his strong run ended with Emi Martinez pushing away Palmer’s effort.

Petrovic tipped McGinn’s drive over in stoppage time after Ben Chilwell’s foul throw saw Villa break but it was a rare moment of concern for the visitors.

The hosts needed a response but – just like against Newcastle – they conceded a third soon after the break.

Fernandez may have been fortunate to earn a free kick while being shadowed by Youri Tielemans but there was nothing lucky about his 25-yard strike which arched into the top corner.

With a cushion Chelsea eased off which gave Villa brief cause for optimism but they never launched a recovery, despite Diaby’s stoppage time consolation.

Mauricio Pochettino has called for perspective on the struggles of his Chelsea team, insisting “I cannot lose my hair” over recent poor results.

Sunday’s 4-2 loss at home to Wolves was the 10th in the league since the 51-year-old arrived in the summer and triggered the first audible signs of discontent from fans towards the manager.

Afterwards Pochettino appeared to suggest he believed the players were not good enough to arrest the club’s slide, though he has since clarified he was referring only to the performance in the defeat to Gary O’Neil’s side.

Chelsea were outrun and out-thought by Wolves who, despite seeing their hosts enjoy greater ball possession, were conformably the more threatening team and they cut through the Blues with relative ease en route to a first win at Stamford Bridge since 1979.

It drew an angry response from supporters near the dugout who booed the players off at half-time and again at the final whistle as the Blues dropped into the bottom half of the Premier League table.

It followed a meek 4-1 collapse away to Liverpool in their previous fixture.

However, Pochettino insisted it was important for a coach in his position to retain a sense of enjoyment in the job even in trying times.

“Football is my passion, not my job,” he said. “Sometimes we say ‘job’ but it’s the wrong word. Football is entertainment.

“If I don’t think like this, I need to go in another position, being a sporting director or CEO or president.

“Being coach, I need to keep a sense of why I am here. We cannot suffer because of business and other things. We need to be focused to play football.

“To be focused in football, you need to feel free in your mind. You cannot be affected because the stock in New York or Tokyo, or the weather or because the farm doesn’t grow.

“That’s why I keep my hair like this, because I don’t suffer from things that I am not in charge of. I only suffer for football, to try to improve the players, to provide them a good platform to win games.

“If there is no rain on my farm, you kill the business of my farm. That is a stress. You can lose your hair. But I cannot lose my hair because we’re not winning because the opponent was better than us.”

With 15 league games to go, Chelsea are just one place higher in the table than they finished last season in what was wildly acknowledged to be an appalling campaign.

They travel to Aston Villa on Wednesday for an FA Cup fourth-round replay.

“I didn’t finish 12th last year, Chelsea did,” said Pochettino. “It is a different squad to last year, many changes. If you want to compare to damage us, to compare things I think is impossible.

“You can compare to try to damage, if you want to make a problem. But to analyse and put all the circumstances, I don’t think that before was better or was worse. It’s difficult to compare because we are in another project.”

Mauricio Pochettino has rejected suggestions he said Chelsea’s players are not good enough, claiming his words following Sunday’s defeat by Wolves were taken out of context.

Immediately after the 4-2 loss at Stamford Bridge that left his team in the bottom half of the Premier League table, the Argentinian appeared to say he did not have the squad to significantly remedy the club’s plight.

Chelsea were booed off at half-time and again at the final whistle, with audible anger directed against both the players and Pochettino personally, while the name of former owner Roman Abramovich could also be heard being sung.

A visibly emotional Pochettino said at the time he understood supporters’ fury in the aftermath of a 10th league defeat in the 23 games of his tenure, and intimated neither he nor the team have been good enough this season.

He has now, before Wednesday’s FA Cup replay at Aston Villa, moved to clarify his position, criticising reports which he felt deliberately took his words not in the spirit in which they were meant.

“Now (when) I’m watching TV and media, some guys take advantage of some situations to take my words out of context,” he said. “That question came from my post-match press conference – are the players good enough to be in the top four or top six? I said, ‘today, we were not good enough, and me the first’.

“Then they said, ‘Pochettino said the players aren’t good enough’. What? It’s taking it out of context, my words. In that game, we were not good enough. I don’t want to hide the reality.

“Be careful. Some people take advantage, when we lose a game, to say things that never appeared in my mouth. That upset me a little bit.

“The most difficult thing is to explain to my wife. ‘Why did you say the players are not good enough?’ I never said that. You know what I had to do last time? To show her the press conference. That is not a joke. It is the reality we live in.”

Pochettino also defended Ben Chilwell, who captained the side in Sunday’s defeat, after he appeared to suggest in a post-match interview that Wolves had shown more desire for the victory than Chelsea.

The defender told Sky Sports: “I think they probably showed that they wanted it more than us.”

However, Pochettino contested that Chilwell intended to question his team-mates’ will to win.

“He said, ‘we didn’t win the 50-50 duels’. That was my interpretation. The result we suffered against Wolves, we are Chelsea and everything is bigger than normal. I was talking with him and it was never his intention to say we didn’t show desire.”

Pochettino added that Thiago Silva had met with him privately to discuss a post sent by the defender’s wife on social media on Sunday that appeared to call for the manager to be sacked.

“He came today to talk with me. I’m not going to talk about (what we said). He came and wanted to talk with me.

“That was private. That’s it.”

Chelsea will play Ajax in the Women’s Champions League quarter-finals, with defending champions Barcelona potential opponents in the semis.

Emma Hayes’ side will play the first leg of the last-eight tie in the Netherlands on March 19 or 20 before hosting the second the following week.

The winner will then over two legs in April face the victors of the quarter-final between Barca – 3-2 winners against Wolfsburg in the 2022-23 final for their second title – and Norwegian outfit Brann.

Chelsea, whose best run in the competition came when they were runners-up in 2021, losing 4-0 to Barca in the final, are aiming for glory in what is the final season of Hayes’ lengthy tenure before she steps down as boss to take charge of the United States national team.

The Blues were unbeaten as they topped Group D, which also featured Hacken, Paris FC and Real Madrid, while Ajax were second in Group C.

The other quarter-finals see record eight-time champions Lyon face Benfica and Paris St Germain take on Hacken.

The final is set to take place at Athletic Bilbao’s San Mames on May 25.

Mauricio Pochettino called for support from fans after Chelsea were booed off at the end of Sunday’s 4-2 defeat to Wolves.

The Argentinian, who apologised for the manner in which his team capitulated after taking the lead in the first half at Stamford Bridge, said his young side need backing if they are to turn around what until now has been another woeful Premier League season.

The Blues are 11th after losing to Gary O’Neil’s side, with 10 defeats from their 23 league games.

Supporters responded by singing the name of former owner Roman Abramovich, and jeered Pochettino and his team off the field at half-time and again at the final whistle.

Matheus Cunha’s hat-trick had earned Wolves their first win at Chelsea since 1979 and was well deserved, with the visitors the more inventive and clinical in possession while Pochettino’s side suffered from a familiar lack of creativity.

Yet it was a perceived absence of fight that most angered supporters.

“We apologise to the fans,” said Pochettino. “The perception is one thing, another is the reality. The perception is Chelsea should be in a different position, but for different circumstances we are not there. Maybe because we are not good enough. But what can we do?

“The most important thing now is to feel the responsibility. We need to accept that is the organisation and of course the players that we have.

“To understand the fans is really important. We want to apologise and feel sorry. We are disappointed like them, but until the end we need to fight all together. If we want good results in the future, we need to stay together. During 90 minutes, we need to try to work together.

“With the capacity, the fans will be right to criticise and be angry if the performance is not good. But it’s important (to remember) the players are young. They need support.”

Much of the fury was directed at Pochettino personally, the first clear sign of his tenure that backing for the manager is under strain.

“During the moment, it’s not nice,” he said. “But I think we have to move on. You need to convince the players, push them to never give up and be brave and to recover. It’s the leader that needs to be there, to have the composure to push them.

“We can talk, but we are in the dugout. The players need to feel the confidence, to feel fresh to compete again.

“They feel the pressure and they need the help from the fans during 90 minutes. It’s not to demand nothing. But it’s easy to be outside watching. When the stress arrives, sometimes it’s not easy. We need to be behind them.”

Matheus Cunha’s hat-trick helped Wolves claim a 4-2 comeback victory at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea dropped into the bottom half of the Premier League table.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side were booed off by home fans at the end of a second loss in four days, whilst the name of former owner Roman Abramovich could be heard ringing around the ground.

Cole Palmer’s goal had seemed to have his side on their way to a fifth home league win in a row when he slotted in after 19 minutes.

Thereafter however, Gary O’Neil’s team dictated everything, with Cunha leading the way, although Chelsea will deem themselves unfortunate to have conceded from two big deflections in the first half, one of which was given as an own goal against Axel Disasi.

Thiago Silva headed a consolation near the end before home supporters let the depth of their anger be known.

The sides exchanged half-chances during the opening 15 minutes, Cunha and Pedro Neto drawing decent saves from Djordje Petrovic in Chelsea’s goal, whilst at the other end Palmer saw a left-footed shot deflect wide from outside the box and Christopher Nkunku was blocked by Jose Sa as he ran through on goal.

The game needed a spark of inspiration, and it came from Moises Caicedo. Chelsea’s record signing collected the ball centrally midway inside the Wolves half and with slid-rule precision found the run of Palmer. Caicedo’s pass did the hard part for him, and Chelsea’s top scorer placed it first-time into the corner with a cool flick of the boot.

It was a worthy assist, but the Ecuadorean undid his good work almost instantly. It was he who dallied on the ball in midfield, gifting it back to Wolves. From there, the visitors broke forward, working it up to Cunha who cut in onto his right and hit a shot that deflected off Silva and in as Petrovic scrambled to recover.

Chelsea laboured to impose themselves but O’Neil’s side had been the better team on the ball throughout the half, despite the hosts’ superior possession statistics. Wolves moved the ball with more intent, their attacking players making the more inventive runs. Chelsea by contrast, save for Caicedo’s moment of magic, were running into walls.

The pattern of the half was encapsulated by the goal that put Wolves in front. One ball from Nelson Semedo released Neto down the right, who carried it and crossed low. Chelsea were unfortunate to suffer another critical deflection as Rayan Ait Nouri’s shot bounced off Disasi and in, rounding off an efficient, clinical Wolves counter.

Chelsea supporters near the dugout were angry with their team’s slow pace and a perceived lack of fight, making their feelings known at half-time in a furious chorus of boos. But things were only to get worse.

Raheem Sterling dragged wide from Ben Chilwell’s clever cut-back at the start of the second half as Pochettino’s side sought a response. At the other end, frustrations spread from the crowd to the pitch as Caicedo gave away two free-kicks in as many minutes on the edge of his own box, the second earning him a booking.

Wolves’ third goal came from more crisp, incisive counter-attacking. Enzo Fernandez tried to cut out Semedo’s ball down the line but helped it only into the path of Neto, who ran it deep into the box and laid off for Cunha to batter it past Petkovic. Cue another rally of bitter discontent from home supporters.

Malo Gusto’s foul handed Cunha the chance to seal his hat-trick from the penalty spot, an opportunity he took with a neat finish into the corner.

Thiago Silva’s late headed consolation could not take the sheen off a stunning Wolves win.

Mauricio Pochettino admitted Chelsea lacked experience during Wednesday’s 4-1 hammering at Liverpool.

The Blues’ three-match winning run in the Premier League came to an abrupt end at Anfield, with Pochettino’s young side falling well short.

Despite the £1 billion-plus investment at Stamford Bridge since Todd Boehly’s Clearlake Capital consortium took over the club in 2022, Pochettino highlighted the difference in quality between Chelsea and Liverpool’s team.

“We need to improve as a team. During the game I think we showed a lack of experience as a team,” Pochettino told a press conference ahead of Chelsea’s match against Wolves at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

“We showed that we are capable of playing in a different way and to do the things we practice, but sometimes you prepare for the game and you need to arrive and show the right energy, the right attitude, be brave and to show personality and character. Football is that.

“It wasn’t a reality check. But it was the difference between a team who is solid and consistently play together in the last four or five years and a team who want to reach that same level.”

British transfer record signing Moises Caicedo, who joined from Brighton for £115million in August, was substituted in the second half when Chelsea were 3-0 down.

Pochettino refused to single out the 22-year-old’s performance, insisting the squad overall need to improve their levels.

He added: “I think collectively we all need to improve. It’s not just him or it’s not just him and Enzo (Fernandez). I think we all need to improve as a team.”

Christopher Nkunku came off the bench to score Chelsea’s goal at Anfield.

The France international has played four Premier League matches after he sustained a knee and hip injury earlier in the season.

And Pochettino, who was happy with the striker’s impact, wants to be careful in how he builds Nkunku’s fitness when reintroducing him into the starting XI.

“It’s good to see him. Forty-five minutes was enough for him and we need to assess if he can start the next game,” Pochettino said.

“We hope he can cope with the demand of the next game. I think he’s started to show that he’s an option. He had one chance and was able to score a great goal and able to show his quality.

“We need to take care of his situation and to build his confidence and fitness. We are happy in the way he’s helping the team but we need to be careful.”

Former England and Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard retired as a player on this day in 2017 after a stellar 21-year career.

Lampard, then 38, widely regarded as one of the Premier League’s all-time greats, announced his decision on social media after spending the previous year at Major League Soccer side New York City.

He said: “After 21 incredible years, I have decided that now is the right time to finish my career as a professional footballer.

“Whilst I have received a number of exciting offers to continue playing at home and abroad, at 38 I feel now is the time to begin the next chapter in my life.

“I’m immensely proud of the trophies I’ve won, of representing my country over 100 times and of scoring more than 300 career goals.”

Lampard is the Premier League’s fourth-highest appearance maker (609) and sixth-highest goalscorer (177). He is also fifth on the all-time assists list with 102.

After starting his career at West Ham, Lampard spent 13 years at Chelsea and became part of his country’s ‘golden generation’ despite failing to win major honours with England.

The former midfielder is Chelsea’s all-time record goalscorer (211) and only three players have made more than his 648 appearances for the club.

He added in his retirement statement: “The largest part of my heart belongs to Chelsea, a club which has given me so many great memories. I will never forget the opportunity they gave me and the success that we managed to achieve together.”

Lampard won 11 major trophies at Stamford Bridge – three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League in 2012.

He made his senior England debut in a friendly win against Belgium in 1999 and went on to win 106 caps in total, placing him eighth on the all-time appearances list, and scored 29 goals.

After moving into management, he took Derby to the Championship play-off final and Chelsea to an FA Cup final, losing both games.

He avoided relegation with Everton in 2022 but was sacked the following January with the club 19th in the Premier League, and won just one of 11 games after returning to Chelsea in a caretaker capacity.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says it is a credit to their academy players that his side have emerged unscathed from a difficult January to lead the Premier League by five points.

The 4-1 victory over Chelsea was the Reds’ sixth win in seven matches in the month, with the other a draw in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final at Fulham having gone into the game with a lead from the home tie.

During that period the side have been without three senior full-backs, as well as the likes of midfielders Dominik Szoboszlai and Alexis Mac Allister at varying times and, of course, Mohamed Salah.

Deputy right-back Conor Bradley has impressed hugely and put in his second successive man-of-the-match display with his first Liverpool goal and two assists in the victory.

But with Trent Alexander-Arnold close to full match fitness after two substitute appearances, it has given Klopp a decision to make ahead of Sunday’s trip to Arsenal.

“There is no situation. It is just how it is,” said Klopp.

“We had seven games in January with 11 days off in between. We couldn’t have put the string of results together without the kids, (Jarell) Quansah, Conor and we had midfielders out so we played with James McConnell at six.

“These boys used this situation. I am happy they all could perform the way they did. The academy is doing an incredible job.”

Striker Darwin Nunez had one of those games where he did everything but score, becoming the first player since Opta records began in 2003 to hit the woodwork four times, once from the penalty spot.

It was at the extreme end of what has become a frequent trademark from the Uruguay international, who set up the fourth goal for Luis Diaz, but Klopp is not concerned.

“Insane first half, unbelievable. Outstanding. Why do we speak about Darwin? Obviously because he has so many situations where he missed,” he added.

“The first time since we count a player hits the woodwork four times in a game. Think you are in his boots and how that feels. Missing a penalty you could see at half-time he was really upset with himself.

“It’s just crazy that he creates that many. Imagine for a second he would take them all. The numbers would be absolutely insane, to an extent where we wouldn’t understand it any more so it’s normal.

“For us, it’s unimportant. We scored four goals, who cares if we could have scored a fifth or sixth?”

It would not have flattered Liverpool to have added two or three more such was their dominance over opponents who they will meet again in the Carabao Cup final in a month’s time.

Chelsea head coach Mauricio Pochettino admitted his side were second best and even penalty shouts in the first and second halves would not have done much to alter the direction of travel.

“I think it is not to find excuses. The performance was not good enough from us. They deserved to win, they were better than us,” he said.

“We didn’t perform in the way we wanted to. In this type of game you need to say ‘well done Liverpool’.

“In the final (next month) we need to compete in a different way. If we compete the same way as today for sure it is going to be the same result.

“For us it is about learning. We are competing against a team that is on the top and is consistent to always be challenging for the big trophies.”

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