Mauricio Pochettino hailed a “needed” victory as Chelsea bounced back from Sunday’s Carabao Cup final extra-time heartbreak to edge past Leeds and reach the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Conor Gallagher, who missed two glorious chances in the closing stages of normal time in the Wembley loss to Liverpool, came off the bench to hit the winner at Stamford Bridge as the Championship side were dispatched 3-2 to set up a last-eight meeting with Leicester.

Axel Disasi and Moises Caicedo combined to gift Mateo Joseph an eighth-minute opener but the Blues turned it around before half-time as Nicolas Jackson equalised and Raheem Sterling set up Mykhailo Mudryk to make it 2-1.

Leeds levelled just before the hour mark when Joseph headed home his second but Enzo Fernandez set up Gallagher to avoid extra-time and put Chelsea through.

“We needed this result,” said Pochettino. “It wasn’t a great performance. (Leeds) were a team full of confidence, a very strong team, they are doing fantastic in the Championship.

“It was tough for us, when you concede after a few minutes. But the character we showed after in this situation, it’s a thing to learn from the team. I’m so happy. We avoided extra-time. We’re in the quarter-final which was our objective.

“It’s always tough when you lose a final in extra-time. We had 72 hours or less to recover, it’s always difficult. The effort was massive and I say thank you to the players because they made a fantastic effort.”

Pochettino reiterated his rejection of Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville’s jibe that Chelsea had “bottled” the Carabao Cup final against a Liverpool side bested by injuries.

“I cannot be angry about (Neville),” he said. “With all my love to Gary, it’s not fair to use this type of word for a team that is so brave, a club that always fights for big things.

“What can we do? Only with this type of performance show that we are brave and that we can win games. Nothing to say, only to keep moving.

“It’s not important for us. Because we know how we are and who we are, and how we behave. We know why we lost the game against Liverpool. It’s nothing to do with this.

“We know that we are brave and that we are working really hard, For us, it’s not an important comment.”

Leeds boss Daniel Farke reflected on a game that slipped away at the hands of clinical finishing from Chelsea.

“That second goal (from Mudryk), class finish,” he said. “The third goal, really good action of Gallagher.

“I’m disappointed because wherever we go, we want to win. I know it’s not realistic we will win the FA Cup, but I wanted to win this and go in the next round. We are a young side, without several key players.”

Chelsea survived an FA Cup scare as Conor Gallagher came off the bench to score a last-minute winner and seal a 3-2 victory over Leeds at Stamford Bridge.

The substitute lashed the ball past the visitors’ goalkeeper Illan Meslier to grab what had looked an unlikely victory for much of the game, never more so than when the Blues fell behind inside eight minutes to the first of two goals from Mateo Joseph.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side rallied and looked to have put their woeful start behind them when first Nicolas Jackson and then Mykhailo Mudryk netted to send them in 2-1 up at the break.

Leeds would not lie down easy though, and Joseph headed them level after evading Trevoh Chalobah at the far post on the hour mark.

The home support bubbled with disquiet, sensing another cup mishap after Sunday’s Carabao Cup final loss to Liverpool.

Then came Gallagher’s late intervention to keep hopes of a Wembley return in May alive.

The opening 10 minutes were dominated by Leeds. They might have taken the lead when Daniel James found space on the edge of the box and acrobatically lobbed an effort wide.

It was a let-off for Chelsea, but they did not heed their good fortune. From the goal-kick, Axel Disasi played a short pass inside the penalty area that left Moises Caicedo vulnerable. Leeds snapped at his heels, dispossessing him, and the ball broke to Joseph, who cracked it past Robert Sanchez as Chelsea’s defence pointed fingers.

The first mutterings of discontent among the home support started, but they were doused before they had time to take hold. Caicedo made partial amends for his earlier error, sliding a precise ball through that split Leeds’ defence. Into the space strode Jackson, and he placed it into Meslier’s bottom corner to ease Chelsea nerves.

Thereafter they settled, and deservedly took the lead after 37 minutes. Noni Madueke carried the ball up through midfield and poked it to Malo Gusto wide on the right. He fed Raheem Sterling, who crossed for Mudryk to cap the move with a delightful finish, glancing it with a deft right foot wide of the goalkeeper and in.

James skied one over the bar from six yards as Leeds threatened an instant reply. Jaidon Anthony went closer when he curled wide from outside the box, a reminder that a stiff challenge might await Chelsea in the second half.

Daniel Farke’s team had won nine in a row in the league. Here they went up against Premier League opponents with the courage and skill to suggest they would fare well should they return to the top flight, but their hosts were giving ample encouragement.

The equaliser was straight forward and entirely avoidable from Chelsea’s point of view. Anthony was given space on the right to assess options and size up a cross. Stealing away at the far post was Jospeh, and his marker Chalobah paid him little heed as he stepped outside the defender and nodded past an exposed Sanchez.

The murmurs of disapproval began again from the stands, though they were largely drowned out by the away fans’ vocal support. They deserved better than the heartbreak that came as the clock ticked over to 90 minutes.

Enzo Fernandez was the architect of the winner, darting infield and through the heart of the defence and finally finding the pass that Chelsea had craved throughout the half. Gallagher, with fresh legs from the bench, let the ball run across him and with a swing of his right boot lashed Chelsea into the quarter-finals.

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.”

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.”

Mauricio Pochettino is looking to “build a team that can match the mentality” of Chelsea after his side reached the Carabao Cup final with a 6-1 semi-final second-leg victory over Middlesbrough.

Jonny Howson’s own goal settled the Blues’ early nerves as further strikes from Enzo Fernandez, Axel Disasi, Noni Madueke and a Cole Palmer brace booked their place at Wembley on February 25 against either Liverpool or Fulham.

Boss Pochettino said: “The most important thing is keeping the focus, seeing reality in the way we need to see the reality and see the difference between what is Chelsea and what is the team we are building.

“They are two different things. Our challenge is the history of Chelsea, the capacity to win titles and build a team that can match the mentality of this club.”

Ben Chilwell started for the first time since recovering from a hamstring injury and impressed at left-back.

Pochettino felt Chilwell and goalscorer Disasi set a standard with their performances and now wants to see such displays consistently.

“They were important today but we need to be consistent,” Pochettino added.

“Players like Chilly could do 65 minutes but the objective is to arrive at 80 minutes, hopefully do the 90 minutes, and then be consistent playing every two or three days. That is the most important thing.

“Now we need to help players like him to get their best form, but at the same time we are competing. We can think we are going to play with Chilly or Reece (James), but we know then after 10 or 15 minutes of the second half we have players that we need to change.

“They were important but with Chilly it is after five months we couldn’t use him. We were using different players like Levi Colwill or Marc Cucurella, who is also injured. We have two right-backs that today we couldn’t count on in Reece James and Malo Gusto, so we are using Axel.”

Chelsea’s recent upturn in form has seen them pick up three successive Premier League wins and they now have a cup final to look forward to.

Pochettino has seen a marked improvement in his side since the beginning of the season and said reaching Wembley was an objective from the start.

“The results are good, we are improving since the beginning of the season,” Pochettino added. “In all the circumstances we need to be happy because we are competing with a lot of things going on again and to reach the final was the first objective from the beginning.”

Mauricio Pochettino said he is desperate to win the Carabao Cup in his first season at Chelsea after watching his team sweep aside Middlesbrough 6-1 to reach next month’s final at Wembley.

Stamford Bridge has suffered from a quiet atmosphere in recent months, often exacerbated by Chelsea failing to break teams down early, but a repeat here never looked like being a risk as they booked a meeting with either Liverpool or Fulham on February 25.

“I’m desperate to win a trophy here,” said Pochettino. “We won in three trophies in one and a half years at Paris (St Germain) and we want to win here.

“I’m desperate to win. That is the headline.

“It’s really important for us, we’re going to have Fulham or Liverpool, two amazing teams, it will be difficult. But now is the moment to believe we can win.”

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg at the Riverside Stadium, the hosts tore into their Championship opponents and banished memories of a chastening loss on Teesside.

Boro’s captain Jonny Howson inadvertently got the ball rolling by diverting past his own goalkeeper after 15 minutes, though Armando Broja was poised to tap home had the defender not intervened.

From there on, Chelsea steamrollered Michael Carrick’s side. Enzo Fernandez scored after being set up by good link-up play from Axel Disasi and the excellent Raheem Sterling, then Sterling feeding the surging Disasi to sweep home the third.

Boro caused problems for themselves trying to play out from the back, the match-winner from the first leg Hayden Hackney losing possession and gifting Cole Palmer Chelsea’s fourth before half-time.

Palmer, the top scorer for Pochettino’s side since his move from Manchester City, made it five late on before substitute Noni Madueke curled home via a deflection.

Morgan Rogers’ goal was greeted with a roar from travelling fans who had long since their Wembley dream slip away.

Pochettino added: “Now we need to prepare for Friday against Aston Villa (in the FA Cup), but this is an important step for us. The confidence and the belief in ourselves is so important.

“That is going to help because of the motivation. Players who are so close to coming back (from injury) – tomorrow, maybe a few injured players will want to come for training, seeing that the final is close.”

Boro manager Carrick reflected on a tie that ultimately proved too great a hurdle for his side despite heroics on Teesside two weeks ago.

“(The players) will learn from that after they have gotten over the disappointment,” he said.

“We had a big night at the Riverside where we managed to beat a really good Chelsea team. We just couldn’t get it done here unfortunately.”

Mauricio Pochettino said he is desperate to win the Carabao Cup in his first season at Chelsea after watching his team sweep aside Middlesbrough 6-1 to reach next month’s final at Wembley.

Stamford Bridge has suffered from a quiet atmosphere in recent months, often exacerbated by Chelsea failing to break teams down early, but a repeat here never looked like being a risk as they booked a meeting with either Liverpool or Fulham on February 25.

“I’m desperate to win a trophy here,” said Pochettino. “We won in three trophies in one and a half years at Paris (St Germain) and we want to win here.

“I’m desperate to win. That is the headline.

“It’s really important for us, we’re going to have Fulham or Liverpool, two amazing teams, it will be difficult. But now is the moment to believe we can win.”

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg at the Riverside Stadium, the hosts tore into their Championship opponents and banished memories of a chastening loss on Teesside.

Boro’s captain Jonny Howson inadvertently got the ball rolling by diverting past his own goalkeeper after 15 minutes, though Armando Broja was poised to tap home had the defender not intervened.

From there on, Chelsea steamrollered Michael Carrick’s side. Enzo Fernandez scored after being set up by good link-up play from Axel Disasi and the excellent Raheem Sterling, then Sterling feeding the surging Disasi to sweep home the third.

Boro caused problems for themselves trying to play out from the back, the match-winner from the first leg Hayden Hackney losing possession and gifting Cole Palmer Chelsea’s fourth before half-time.

Palmer, the top scorer for Pochettino’s side since his move from Manchester City, made it five late on before substitute Noni Madueke curled home via a deflection.

Morgan Rogers’ goal was greeted with a roar from travelling fans who had long since their Wembley dream slip away.

Pochettino added: “Now we need to prepare for Friday against Aston Villa (in the FA Cup), but this is an important step for us. The confidence and the belief in ourselves is so important.

“That is going to help because of the motivation. Players who are so close to coming back (from injury) – tomorrow, maybe a few injured players will want to come for training, seeing that the final is close.”

Boro manager Carrick reflected on a tie that ultimately proved too great a hurdle for his side despite heroics on Teesside two weeks ago.

“(The players) will learn from that after they have gotten over the disappointment,” he said.

“We had a big night at the Riverside where we managed to beat a really good Chelsea team. We just couldn’t get it done here unfortunately.”

Chelsea put defeat in their Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Middlesbrough behind them to book a first Wembley appearance since 2022 with a ruthless 6-1 win at Stamford Bridge.

Four first-half goals for Mauricio Pochettino’s side effectively ended the tie as a contest as a Jonny Howson own goal and strikes from Enzo Fernandez, Axel Disasi and Cole Palmer showed a clinical side to Chelsea rarely seen this season.

Noni Madueke and a second from Palmer wrapped up an emphatic comeback late on before Morgan Rogers gave travelling Boro fans a reason to cheer two minutes from time.

By then, the hosts had long since ensured their place in the final, a 6-2 aggregate win ensuring they will face either Liverpool or west London rivals Fulham on February 25.

Chelsea dominated possession early but took until 11 minutes to fashion their first chance, Ben Chilwell appearing unmarked inside the box and heading fractionally wide from Thiago Silva’s drilled ball over the top.

And it was the returning Chilwell whose vision and delivery fashioned his side’s opener. The ball through the middle for Raheem Sterling cut Boro’s defence in two and Sterling, foregoing the chance to shoot, looked up and fed Armando Broja – but before he could knock it past Tom Glover, Boro captain Howson inadvertently diverted it beyond his own goalkeeper.

Rogers fired towards Djordje Petrovic’s bottom corner from a clever corner routine as the visitors sought an instant response, the keeper saving at the foot of the post.

But the game was looking increasingly like Chelsea’s to lose, and just before the half-hour mark they led for the first time in the tie.

Sterling manoeuvred out of a cul-de-sac via a delightful back-heel to feed Disasi, who sprinted up on the overlap. Charging into the box, he cut the ball back for Broja whose scuffed shot diverted into the path of Fernandez for the simplest finish guided into the corner.

Sterling and Disasi combined again minutes later to make it 3-0, the England forward sliding in his team-mate to sweep home first time as the visiting supporters behind the goal saw dreams of reaching Wembley evaporate.

Boro bravely sought to play their way out from the back despite the torrent of Chelsea goals that threatened to wash them away but their hero from the first leg, Hayden Hackney, had a hand in gifting Chelsea their fourth, leaving Dan Barlaser exposed with a catastrophic pass that let in Palmer to finish inside the post with typical cool.

The hosts were looking to reach a first major final since Todd Boehly’s Clearlake Capital consortium completed its buyout of the club in May 2022 and with the job all but done by the break, a sense of ease rarely observed this season passed around Stamford Bridge.

Carrick’s side still looked to get on the ball and play in the second half, an approach that did them credit if at times it seemed like inviting a fifth Chelsea goal.

It arrived with 15 minutes to play. Substitute Conor Gallagher ran the ball to the byline and cut back for Palmer to open up his body and score beyond the exposed Glover.

Madueke, sent on at half-time, danced through and made it six via a deflection off Ray van den Berg minutes later.

Rogers’ goal at the death brought a roar of approval from the visiting fans. In truth, their side had never looked like earning the win they craved on their long journey south.

Mauricio Pochettino believes Chelsea’s struggles last season are responsible for the apathy observed at Stamford Bridge during home games under his tenure.

The team won just three Premier League games at home in the first 11 months of 2023 under managers Graham Potter, Bruno Saltor, Frank Lampard and Pochettino.

Between January and the beginning of December they scored 18 goals in 19 games, though four came in a single, frenetic draw with Manchester City in the final match of that run.

Since then their form in west London has improved markedly. They are unbeaten since losing to Brentford on October 28 and have won four consecutive games, their best run at home in the league since winning six in a row during Lampard’s first spell, either side of the 2020 Covid shutdown.

Despite this, the atmosphere around the ground has been noticeably subdued, with recent victories against Fulham, Preston and Sheffield United, in which the team lacked creativity for long periods, particularly quiet.

Chelsea host Middlesbrough on Tuesday needing to win by two goals to overturn a 1-0 first-leg defeat at the Riverside two weeks ago and progress to the Carabao Cup final.

“We’re paying now for the effect of the last 18 months,” said Pochettino. “We (he and his coaching staff) are here for six months, sometimes for us it’s difficult for us to compare. We’re getting better results now, but the disappointment from the fans is coming from last season.

“Now people can give their opinion, it’s a bit flat. There’s been disappointment for a long period. But how we feel at Stamford Bridge is very good.

“OK, in a few periods in some games, maybe against Nottingham Forest (a 1-0 loss in September) or Brentford the energy was down because the team didn’t engage the fans. That’s our mistake.

“But against Arsenal (a 2-2 draw), City, Brighton (a 3-2 win), Liverpool (1-1), the fans were really good.

“People believed that Fulham would be easy, but Fulham wasn’t easy for Liverpool. They beat Arsenal. We played Preston, it’s difficult, (their) motivation, the beauty of the cup. The inferior team can match you in different aspects and you can suffer.

“When you feel so disappointed because of last season, you lose too many games at home, the energy is a little bit down.”

Pochettino will be without Christopher Nkunku who continues to be plagued by a hip injury, though the manager reiterated the problem is not serious.

Defender Malo Gusto, who has proved an able deputy for sidelined captain Reece James, is the latest addition to an absentee list currently standing at nine names.

Nevertheless, Pochettino is happy with recent progress.

“In December we were one of the best teams in England,” he said. “Now (but for) the defeat against Middlesbrough, the results are not too bad, they are good. The problem is the feelings (from last season), because we lose the first leg against Middlesbrough, there was a bit of a strange feeling.

“The results are good and we need to keep doing well and improving.”

Chelsea striker Cole Palmer squandered a hat-trick of chances as Hayden Hackney handed Sky Bet Championship Middlesbrough a priceless first-leg lead in their Carabao Cup semi-final.

The England international, who had earlier been denied by Boro keeper Tom Glover, passed up three opportunities either side of Hackney’s 37th-minute strike, which ensured Michael Carrick’s men will head for Stamford Bridge in a fortnight’s time with a 1-0 lead.

On a night when the 2004 winners managed to frustrate the side who beat them in the 1998 final for long periods, the big-spending Premier League club failed to find top gear despite boss Mauricio Pochettino naming Thiago Silva, Levi Colwill, Enzo Fernandez, Moises Caicedo, Conor Gallagher, Raheem Sterling and Palmer in a strong starting line-up.

For their part, the Teessiders were organised, dogged and a threat on the break, and reaped the rewards three days after suffering a heartbreaking late defeat by top-flight Aston Villa in the FA Cup.

The visitors’ goal came under threat within seconds of kick-off when Colwill’s poorly-directed header delivered the ball straight into the path of Emmanuel Latte Lath, although the striker scuffed his shot straight at keeper Djordje Petrovic as defender Axel Disasi tried desperately to close him down and caught him in his follow-through.

The Boro frontman struggled on after treatment, but eventually limped off to be replaced by Josh Coburn with just five minutes gone.

Palmer forced Glover into a full-length save as Chelsea responded, but with widemen Isaiah Jones and Alex Bangura – whose evening was ended prematurely minutes later by a hamstring injury – enjoying the space afforded to them, the Teessiders made early inroads.

The occasional flurry from Noni Madueke aside, neither team was able to create a chance of note until Colwill headed over from Palmer’s 29th-minute cross, but Jonny Howson was fortunate to get away with a dreadful crossfield pass which put Palmer in on goal two minutes later, only for the 21-year-old to drag his shot wastefully wide.

Chelsea were made to pay with eight minutes of the first half remaining when Dan Barlaser played Jones in behind Colwill and he crossed to Hackney at the near post to stab past Petrovic.

Palmer had two glorious opportunities to level in stoppage time when he spooned the ball over the top after Glover had spilled Enzo Fernandez’s shot from distance, and then failed to beat the keeper after cutting inside from the right.

The visitors remained patient on their return but largely played in front of Boro, who looked comfortable in their shape as they protected a precious advantage with little fuss.

Madueke headed straight at Glover from Fernandez’s 53rd-minute cross and then flashed the ball dangerously across goal after worming his way in from the right, and Gallagher fired wide on the turn eight minutes later amid relentless pressure.

Mykhailo Mudryk and Armando Broja were introduced with little sign of an equaliser imminent and after Barlaser had shot high and wide from a pacy counter-attack, Glover needed two attempts to collect Mudryk’s 73rd-minute attempt.

However, that was as good as it got for Pochettino’s misfiring side, who have work to do on home soil in the deciding leg.

Mauricio Pochettino warned his Chelsea players they will come unstuck in their Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Middlesbrough if they begin the game as they did Saturday’s FA Cup meeting with Preston.

The Sky Bet Championship side did a comfortable job of containing the Blues during the first half at Stamford Bridge, with the hosts displaying little attacking threat against a team currently 14th in the second tier, before clicking into gear after the break to claim a 4-0 win.

Three goals in 11 second-half minutes from Armando Broja, Thiago Silva and Raheem Sterling ultimately broke the resolve of Ryan Lowe’s side, before Enzo Fernandez added a fourth in the final moments.

It was a far cry from the stolid performance given in the first 45 minutes, with home supporters forced to endure another listless display in the final third, where Chelsea’s build-up play typically broke down.

And Pochettino said a repeat performance at the Riverside against Michael Carrick’s team on Tuesday could see his side miss out on the opportunity to claim their first trophy since 2021.

“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “Middlesbrough is a very good team that we need to respect. (Saturday) was a great example that we need to respect the opponent if we want to beat them.

“If we start the game like (against Preston), we will find it difficult. We need to use this as an example that we need to start like we played the second half.

“We need to be respectful, not to approach the game showing not the right attitude. (The first half) upset me, but the players were disappointed also at half-time. The attitude was completely different in the second half.”

Chelsea last lifted silverware in December 2021 when they beat Brazilian side Palmeiras to win the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, seven months after victory in the Champions League final against Manchester City in Porto.

Pochettino said he is not allowing his players to think about the Carabao Cup final at Wembley while there is still a final hurdle to clear.

“I don’t want to think on (the final),” he said. “I prefer to think only about Middlesbrough. I know that it’s important for the club and for this team because it’s going to be a boost of energy if we get to the final.

“But we need to go step by step because if we think too much long-term, even if it’s only two months, I think we will expend energy and we will be not right.

“What the group needs is to build their confidence step by step. (Saturday) is a good example, in a good way but also not in a good way. We need to realise that on Tuesday we need to play 90 minutes like we played in the second half.”

Mauricio Pochettino praised Armando Broja as one of the most promising young strikers in Europe after his goal helped Chelsea to a 4-0 FA Cup third-round win over Preston.

The 22-year-old started in place of Nicolas Jackson, who is away at the Africa Cup of Nations, and netted his team’s opening goal early in the second half at Stamford Bridge.

Preston had done a fine job in the first period of containing Chelsea, who lacked cutting edge to go with their domination of the ball, but Broja’s strike was the first of three in an 11-minute spell in the second half.

Will Keane was hounded off the ball inside his own box by Mykhailo Mudryk, who laid it back for Malo Gusto to cross and Broja headed in.

Thiago Silva then nodded in a second before Raheem Sterling quickly lashed a free-kick beyond goalkeeper Freddie Woodman.

Enzo Fernandez knocked in a fourth near the end as the gulf to Ryan Lowe’s side – 14th in the Championship – finally showed.

Pochettino praised the contribution of Broja, who returned to fitness in September after nine months out with an ACL injury, and hinted there is more to come from the Albanian striker.

“It was really important for him,” he said. “I need to be honest, he needs to use this type of game to score and to feel the net and to improve. Improve not only in his fitness but his body language also. He needs to step up and to go forward and to move. He needs to smile more and be more positive.

“The potential is amazing. We’re talking about one of the young strikers in England and in Europe with most potential. But the problem now is he needs to push himself, and we’re going to try to help him to realise that never it is enough.

“He was nearly one year away (injured) and of course now he needs time. It’s not easy for him to perform and to be at the level we expect. Our expectation is massive and we really believe in him. We’re going to push him to improve every day.

“I said to him smile. Always we joke about how he needs to smile, to laugh, to put inside himself more good energy and be more happy, a happy boy.”

Preston boss Lowe reflected on a game that got away from his side in the second half after a promising start.

“The three goals in (11) minutes really hurt us,” he said. “I think for large parts of that game, before the 58th minute when they scored, we were fantastic.

“It is disappointing to lose and I don’t think the result reflects the performance, but the fact is they have good quality players who can put the ball in the back of the net.

“I thought our lads were excellent. They gave it their all and that’s the biggest thing I am pleased about.”

Noni Madueke believes Chelsea have finally found answers to the goalscoring problems that plagued them last season.

The England Under-21 international came off the bench to fire Mauricio Pochettino’s side to a 2-1 win at home to Crystal Palace on Wednesday, slotting the winner from the penalty spot in the 89th minute after being fouled by Eberechi Eze.

Earlier Michael Olise, who nearly became a Chelsea player in the summer, had equalised on the stroke of half-time after the hosts had failed to build on Mykhailo Mudryk’s 13th-minute opener.

There were chances for Mudryk, Nicolas Jackson and Ian Maatsen on his first start to add to the hosts’ tally but a combination of wayward finishing and Palace goalkeeper Dean Henderson kept Roy Hodgson’s side in it, until Madueke’s late intervention.

Chelsea netted only 38 Premier League goals last campaign, their lowest in the league in almost a century, but already have 31 at the halfway stage this time around.

They have been boosted by the return to fitness of last season’s Bundesliga top-scorer Christopher Nkunku who made a full debut against Palace and was a threat at number 10.

And Madueke feels confident that a corner has been turned.

“We play good football and are scoring goals now,” said the 21-year-old. “I remember last season we weren’t scoring those goals.

“We’re probably conceding a few too many, but I just feel it’s that consistency we need to get down. Once we do, we’ll be a really good team.

“We’ve had some very good performances this season where we haven’t got the rub of the green. It’s a process and where we are now will not define us come the end of the season.”

It was Chelsea’s third league win in a row at home and their fourth in all competitions, though that run has been cut with a streak of four consecutive away losses.

It is their longest sequence of victories at Stamford Bridge since October 2022 and saw them climb back into the top half of the table.

“(This) was a must-win game,” said Madueke. “There have been similar games in the season that we should have won and haven’t quite got the rub of the green, so I’m happy we’ve done the business and got the three points.”

Madueke also reflected on his impact from the bench having been handed just his eighth league appearance or the season, of which only one has been from the start.

He added: “It’s been a stop-start campaign for me. I’ve had little niggles, little injuries, things that haven’t quite gone my way.

“I’m happy to have an impact off the bench (against Palace) and whether I start the next game or have the same impact off the bench is up to the manager.”

Mauricio Pochettino praised match-winner Noni Madueke’s determination to prove his Chelsea worth after he came off the bench to score a late penalty in his side’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge.

Roy Hodgson’s side looked like they had done enough to earn a deserved point as the game ticked into its final moments, until the result turned after a clumsy challenge made by Eberechi Eze, leaving a leg out on the edge of the box for Madueke to tumble over.

A pitch-side VAR review was required but it seemed a straightforward call for referee Michael Salisbury, who awarded a penalty from which the substitute Madueke, who had previously made only seven league appearances under Pochettino, coolly stroked home the winner.

Earlier, Michael Olise had scored a goal worthy of a claiming a draw, lashing home on the half-volley from Jordan Ayew’s pinpoint ball on the stroke of half-time.

Mykhailo Mudryk’s 13th-minute strike, his fourth of the season and second in eight days, had given Chelsea a lead for which they were good value, and the Ukrainian could have extended it had he not shot straight at Dean Henderson from Nicolas Jackson’s clever backheel.

Pochettino’s side looked more dangerous in attack than in recent weeks, finally turning possession into clear chances, and afterwards the manager pointed towards the impact of Madueke in turning frustration at a lack of game time into affirmative action.

“He (Madueke) played free,” said the manager. “He did what we needed in this moment. I liked it because he showed he was upset with me, disappointed with me because he didn’t play too much. (He thought) ‘Now I’m going to show the coach he can trust in me’.

“We are not a charity, we are a football club. We need to perform. We are here to try and help the players to perform.

“Sometimes we need to be tough. We need to show the reality. Sometimes we need to put (the players) in front of the mirror and say ‘come on, that is not the player that is going to perform’.

“We have an amazing group, but they need to realise that to compete at Chelsea is not (the same) as to compete at another club.

“It’s about winning, about lifting trophies and making history. It’s about respecting the history of the club.

“They need to show me that I can trust them. The mentality is really important. You can not only play with you quality. You have to have quality, but if you don’t have the right mentality and approach every single day, it’s difficult to perform.”

Chelsea have now won three in a row in all competitions at home, though that run has been cut with four consecutive defeats on the road.

Victory meant the team climbed back into the top half of the table, however, there remains a 14-point gap to the Champions League places.

Palace boss Roy Hodgson reflected on a game that slipped away from his side after what he deemed a controversial late penalty decision.

“I’ve got to be honest, I have no real interest in discussing referees and VAR,” he said.

“I thought we played very well. It should have got us three points, but it’s got us nothing.

“Am I frightened to death about being three points ahead of the relegation zone? No. What bothers me is 38 games.

“I’m sad at the moment because I think I should be sitting here with at least one point more.”

Chelsea needed an 89th-minute penalty from substitute Noni Madueke to edge past Crystal Palace 2-1 at Stamford Bridge and climb back into the top half of the Premier League table.

It had looked like being another frustrating home outing for Mauricio Pochettino’s side for most of the second half, after Michael Olise had cancelled out Mykhailo Mudryk’s early goal with a brilliant finish on the half-volley on the stroke of half-time.

Nicolas Jackson missed a superb chance to win it, slotting the ball wide after being set up by Conor Gallagher.

But with the game drifting towards what would have been a deserved point for Palace, there was a final twist, Eberechi Eze tripped Madueke as he sought to control the ball on the edge of the box, and the England Under-21 international won the match from the spot with his first league goal of the season.

Chelsea opened the scoring after 13 minutes, and it began with Malo Gusto slipping his man in midfield with a smart shimmy and turn.

Driving over halfway, his pass forward was wayward, but interest in Chelsea’s attack was revived by a critical slip by Nathaniel Clyne whose stumble let the ball run on. That allowed it to reach Christopher Nkunku, who fed the galloping Malo Gusto on the overlap and his centre was gratefully turned home first time by Mudryk.

The Ukraine international had made an electric start and would have made it two shortly afterwards but for a smothering block by Palace goalkeeper Dean Henderson, closing the angle well after Mudryk had been slipped in by a deft Jackson back heel.

There was a fluency about Chelsea that has rarely been seen in recent weeks. Nkunku on his long-awaited first start was at the heart of things. Fresh from his role in the opening goal, he played a wonderful ball in for Jackson, whose low drive was aimed fractionally wide of Henderson’s far post.

The France international might then have had his first Stamford Bridge goal after 25 minutes had he not kicked the turf when clean through on goal, under pressure from defender Chris Richards.

Chelsea were industrious with the ball, racking up 323 passes during the first half and recording 63 per cent possession and – unlike so often this campaign – they had created gilt-edged chances to go with it.

And yet, in the final seconds of the half, a familiar sinking feeling for home supporters. Richards went in strong on Levi Colwill to win the ball in midfield and it broke out wide to Jordan Ayew.

Palace had men in the box and the one picked out by Ayew’s laser-like aim was Olise, who brought it down confidently on his chest, took a momentary glance at Djordje Petrovic and lashed it inside the Chelsea goalkeeper’s near post to make it 1-1.

Palace were without a win in seven games but the goal, though against the run of play, brought belief.

Eze whistled a free–kick past the post as the visitors registered the first chance of the second half, as Roy Hodgson’s side went toe-to-toe with their hosts.

Pochettino left Thiago Silva on the bench for only the second time in the league this season, but called on the 39-year-old just before the hour mark, alongside Romeo Lavia, who finally made his Chelsea debut.

Armando Broja was also sent on as the spectre of another disappointing home result loomed.

Minutes later, their moment looked to have arrived. Moises Caicedo scooped a pass forward to Gallagher who had found space centrally and the captain showed a keen awareness of space to find Jackson running through, but – with only Anderson to beat – he clipped the ball agonisingly wide.

That was followed by a fine, prodded finish from Axel Disasi’s pass that VAR rightly ruled out for offside.

Broja took one down and well drilled into the side netting, after Olise had drawn a smart near-post stop from Petrovic at the other end.

Chelsea thought two more points had slipped away at home. Then with two minutes to go, Madueke went over Eze’s leg, a VAR review yielded a penalty and the substitute picked himself up knock home the winning goal.

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