Chelsea win FA Cup but fans slammed Mauricio Pochettino; here’s why

Chelsea win FA Cup but fans brutally slammed Mauricio Pochettino – See the 5 talking points

Carney Chukwuemeka and Noni Madueke scored in injury-time as Chelsea recovered from surrendering a two-goal lead to beat Leicester and reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

Chelsea went into the break 2-0 up, but should have put the game to bed with four goals. Nicolas Jackson charged down the right and set up Marc Cucurella to open the scoring with a tap-in before Raheem Sterling spurned two glorious chances, sending a dreadful penalty straight at Jakub Stolarczyk and missing a one-on-one.

Sterling make some sort of amends by setting up Cole Palmer to score with a cool near-post finish, but his misses were to prove costly. Axel Disasi inexplicably smashed an own goal past the wandering Robert Sanchez to let Leicester back into it and Stephy Mavididi then curled in a stunning finish to level the tie in the 62nd minute.

After a VAR review, Callum Doyle was shown a straight red card in the 73rd minute for bringing down Jackson just outside the box while through on goal. Stolarczyk kept out a low shot from Noni Madueke before Jackson fired over, but Palmer produced a beautiful pass for substitute Chukwuemeka to slot in and Madueke added another at the death.

Sterling is not having a good season for Chelsea and looks very unlikely to earn a place in England’s squad for Euro 2024, having missed out on selection for the upcoming friendlies. “It’s the area of the pitch where we have the highest level of competition for places,” Gareth Southgate explained. “We’ll never close the door because we know he can perform in our environment in the games that really matter. But, at the moment, we see him behind those guys.”

Those guys include Sterling’s team-mate Cole Palmer, who stepped aside to allow him to take the Blues’ first-half penalty. Chelsea’s penalty stemmed from a poor first touch from Sterling, who allowed Fatawu in to foul him. That was the second of two dreadful touches inside the Leicester box.

His penalty was a clear sign of a scrambled mind – a weak side-footed effort down the middle – and he put a one-on-one chance wide before teeing up Palmer to make it 2-0 with the kind of cool finish currently alluding Sterling. He came into this game on the back of one goal in the last 13 matches. Sterling is working hard, but at the moment it won’t come, and his own fans booing him after he ballooned a free-kick over the bar in the second half said a lot.

Leicester exploited

Enzo Maresca has the best squad in the Championship and, at the time of writing, they remain top of the table, although Leeds can change that against Millwall on Sunday afternoon. The Pep Guardiola acolyte has installed a free-flowing and exciting style of play, but there have been some wobbles of late.

Watching them play higher quality opposition, it is clear that, if they are promoted, they will need to add some pace in the backline. Jannik Vestergaard is excellent in the air and a good passer, but he is vulnerable to quick forwards, while I am not convinced Hamza Choudhury is a right-back, nor that Callum Doyle is best suited to left-back. Cucurella scored the opener after arriving at the back post without Choudhury’s knowledge and Malo Gusto and Mykhaylo Mudryk were continual threats to Doyle.

Blues find some balance

Mauricio Pochettino laid his cards on the table before kick-off. “We are going to be very offensive, four offensive players with Mudryk,” he said. And they were: faced with a wide-open and ambitious Leicester defence, Chelsea set up to exploit the gaps.

Chelsea’s game plan was obvious – and extremely effective. They played the ball into the channels as quickly as possible in order to exploit the sluggishness of the Foxes’ backline. The Blues’ four attackers had far too much pace for their Championship opponents and they should have been 4-0 up at half-time, if Sterling could finish. Such a set-up might be a bit gung ho against stronger Premier League opposition, but Pochettino can use some of the learnings in upcoming matches.

Calamity defending

Robert Sanchez had a near miss in the first half when he allowed Patson Daka to charge down a kick he took an age over. And there were a few other moments of shakiness from the Chelsea keeper, who flew out and got nowhere near a cross.

But he was outdone by his team-mate for Leicester’s opening goal, which came out of nowhere and was absolutely calamitous. Under a bit of pressure, Disasi decided to smash his backpass in the general direction of Sanchez without looking. All he succeeded in doing was scoring a shocking own goal, for which Sanchez rewarded him with a kiss. The chaotic energy exuding from Chelsea’s backline was reminiscent of Sideshow Bob stepping on rake after rake in the Simpsons.

Pochettino backlash

The mood inside Stamford Bridge was not a joyous one. Sterling was booed after shanking a free-kick miles from goal, having pulled rank to take it ahead of Palmer. And things got even worse when Pochettino hauled off Mudryk for Chukwuemeka.

Immediately the decision was met with outrage from the stands, with fans then turning on their own manager. Chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” were followed by less polite ones of “you’re f***ing s***”. Sterling was brought off for Madueke minutes later and after some boos, he was applauded off, making it clear the problem is with the manager, not the player. Pochettino always faced an uphill struggle to win over the Blues fans due to his Tottenham association – and he is nowhere closer to winning the battle, despite victory and his two substitutes making the difference.

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