Mauricio Pochettino said Chelsea proved they are united as the players eased the pressure on their manager by stunning Aston Villa in the FA Cup.
Chelsea will now host Championship Leeds United in the fifth round – setting up a rematch of the famous 1970 final and replay – as Pochettino heaped praise on £106.8million signing Enzo Fernandez for how he has handled the criticism of him.
His fantastic free-kick and passionate celebration came after goals from Conor Gallagher and Nicolas Jackson, and Pochettino said: ‘We are all together.
‘I saw the team free, enjoying playing football, and that is important. We were united.
‘We fought for each other. We fought for our fans, for our badge, for the coaching staff. That is the connection we need. Now the challenge is to be consistent.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino said Chelsea proved they are united on Wednesday night
Chelsea put in a superb performance as they toppled Villa 3-1 in a shock result at Villa Park
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‘We are living in an era where it is easy to abuse. The players are human. They are not robots. It is so easy today to abuse. We need to understand that we are playing football.
‘Enzo showed why he is here. He showed his quality. But we did not have any doubt about him, about Moises Caicedo, about any young player who arrived here with an expectation to win titles and score in every single match.
‘It is so important about creating a good energy between our fans and the club because the players need help. Today, the fans were fantastic.
‘With this connection, with this energy, with the players on the pitch showing they care about the club, only good things can happen. We need to stop thinking that we are Chelsea from the last 20 years, because we are not. We need to move on. I don’t care if people is happy or unhappy with my speech. It is only I care for the club, I care for my players. We are going to fight.’
Winning the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool later this month would take Chelsea into the Europa Conference League, but triumphing in the FA Cup would secure Europa League football.
Thiago Silva was dropped for this fourth-round replay – days after his wife, Belle, called for Pochettino’s sacking on social media following the 4-2 Premier League defeat by Wolves. Captain Ben Chilwell admitted their opponents ‘wanted it more’ in an honest appraisal of that loss.
Yet on Wednesday night, Chilwell said: ‘It was exactly the reaction we wanted and needed. We wanted that pressure. We thrived off it.
Conor Gallagher scored his first goal of the season to give the Blues an early lead at Villa Park
Nicolas Jackson doubled Chelsea’s advantage with the striker heading in Malo Gusto’s cross
Enzo Fernandez curled a free kick over the wall and into the top corner of the Villa net
‘The confidence before the game in the changing room was the best I have seen it – the togetherness. We delivered. It wasn’t just the manager.
‘Everyone associated with the club needed that.’
Gallagher added: ‘The boys were up for it. That’s been our problem this season – we’ve had games where we’ve been brilliant. We need to find consistency.’
Villa boss Unai Emery said: ‘Congratulations to Chelsea. We were excited. We were motivated. But they were clinical. They were so, so clinical. We competed but we were sometimes underperforming with their players. We have to accept the defeat and move on to Manchester United (at Villa Park on Sunday).’