Conor Gallagher hits last-minute winner as Chelsea scrape past Leeds in FA Cup

By Sports Desk February 28, 2024

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.

Related items

  • 'Maybe we can change that' - De Roon believes Atalanta can end Leverkusen unbeaten run 'Maybe we can change that' - De Roon believes Atalanta can end Leverkusen unbeaten run

    Atalanta captain Marten de Roon believes they have what it takes to end Bayer Leverkusen’s unbeaten season in the Europa League final.

    De Roon will not be available for La Dea in Dublin on Wednesday due to injury but has joined up with the squad to offer his support.

    Atalanta have had a memorable campaign, reaching their first European final and qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

    Leverkusen, meanwhile, claimed their first-ever Bundesliga title without losing a single game and are aiming to complete a treble.

    Despite coming up against a tough opponent, De Roon is confident that his side will be able to end their 61-year drought without a major trophy.

    "Every team is beatable. At the moment, [Leverkusen] seem unbeatable, but maybe we are the ones who can change that," he said in the pre-match press conference.

    "We have to believe in our philosophy, play attacking football and try to beat them. You don't win a trophy if you don't beat the best.

    "We have had a great campaign, and we fully deserve to be here. Both sides deserve to be playing this final. Let's see who will manage to lift the trophy.

    Atalanta narrowly missed out in the Coppa Italia final to Juventus earlier this month, and Gian Piero Gasperini is now preparing to manage his first-ever European final.

    The Italian praised Leverkusen but stressed the belief he has in his own team after an impressive campaign.

    He said: "We are aware that we are facing a great team. We know that they are undefeated, and we know that they have had an amazing season.

    "Our journey, however, was also very good as we beat very strong teams to reach the final, and we also have belief.

    "Leverkusen are a complete team; extremely organised. They are versatile, they can defend and recover the ball well.

    "The results they have achieved this season are not an accident. Certainly, small details can make the difference in a final. We have to respect them and try to adapt quickly to the opponents we are facing."

  • Alonso: Self-confidence is driving Leverkusen forward Alonso: Self-confidence is driving Leverkusen forward

    Xabi Alonso says Bayer Leverkusen are driven by self-confidence in their ability to win games ahead of the Europa League final.

    Leverkusen are chasing the second trophy in a potential treble against Atalanta in Dublin on Wednesday, with the DFB-Pokal final against Kaiserslautern to follow on Saturday.

    The Bundesliga champions became the first German team to go unbeaten on their way to the title and are currently on a 51-match run without defeat in all competitions.

    Alonso is taking charge of his first European final as a manager, but he believes his team will draw on the experience they have already gained this season.

    "Our self-confidence keeps driving us on. We know that we can produce goals until the final minute," he said in his pre-match press conference. "That's a huge development that the team has made this season.

    "From the start of the campaign, we believed in our brand of football and that's right at the heart of this successful run.

    "We'll prepare like we did for all the games before. We haven't lost in 51 games, so my boys know how to adapt to different situations. That also applies to the final.

    "What matters above all tomorrow is mentality. We have a game plan, but the players still have that wonderful atmosphere from the title celebrations on Saturday, and we want to tap into that."

    Alonso is the youngest coach to manage a men’s European final since Roberto Di Matteo oversaw Chelsea’s Champions League victory in 2012.

    He will also become just the fourth person to play in and manage a major European final this century after also playing in the 2005 and 2007 Champions League finals with Liverpool.

    Reflecting on his time at Leverkusen, Alonso said: "I was so young in this coach career, so when I was offered the Leverkusen job, so it was 'let's go, let's see what happens'.

    "In one year and a half, so much has happened; it has been a great experience, and it has only been a year and a half, but we have made so many right decisions.

    "I think we have great chemistry.  The mentality we have shown throughout the year has been fantastic. I am really enjoying it."

  • Liverpool have to expect change under Slot, says Zenden Liverpool have to expect change under Slot, says Zenden

    Former Liverpool midfielder Boudewijn Zenden admits there will be a change for the Reds under Arne Slot but says the club should be ready to buy into his philosophy.

    Liverpool confirmed on Monday that Slot would take over from Jurgen Klopp, who managed his final game at Anfield against Wolves on Sunday.

    The Dutchman had already announced that he would be taking the job in a press conference, with Klopp then leading a chant of Slot’s name in his farewell speech.

    Slot has reportedly signed a three-year deal and will officially take charge from June 1.

    Asked if the former Feyenoord manager can avoid a painful transition when he begins his new job, Zenden said Liverpool need to be prepared for any outcome.

    "Well, let's put it this way. Someone said life is like a box of chocolates, you know, you never know what you're going to get until it's there, and it's the same with Slot," he told Stats Perform.

    "You know, there's going to be a change. You never know what the change will be like. As I said, there will be a change, that's for sure.

    "For example, if you look at Arsenal, what I admire about the Arsenal people in charge is that the beginning of Arteta at Arsenal. I'm sure you remember well, it was painful for the fans, for the people that had the love for the Gunners.

    "They stuck to Arteta, they stuck to his vision, his way of playing, and gradually the team that he built, with his philosophy and the players that he took in, that go with that philosophy.

    "For me, it's a huge pleasure to see that if you stick to someone, if you stick to the manager, and you're convinced of his ideas, that you see where this will get you.

    "There will be a change. Am I afraid? Well, of course, I'm not afraid, concerned, no, I think you have to just live with it.

    "I'm sure in Liverpool, they'll keep their head up high when they go through that storm if it's there. But no, it's going to be a change, of course, but when Slot takes over, I hope that it'll go down well."

    Slot led Feyenoord to the Eredivisie title in 2023 and was named Eredivisie Manager of the Year on two occasions, while also winning the KNVB Beker this season.

    While some have questioned if Slot will be able to deal with the big stars at the club, Zenden does not believe that will be a problem.

    "Yeah, but listen, it is what it is. Of course, Feyenoord this is nowhere near the magnitude of Liverpool. Feyenoord is a big club, but Liverpool is a massive club. So, there's certainly the expectations that come with the club," he added.

    "Also, when you are in a big club, there are big players with big egos and I think what could help Slot as well is that he used to play himself.

    "He knows what's happening in the mind of a player, he knows what happens in the dressing room. So, he knows a little bit about how these things can be done can work out how it works out, but it definitely will be interesting to see how he deals with these different situations.

    "I think Jurgen Klopp over the years also had a few, I'm not going say run-ins, but of course, there's been issues, but they've all been solved and taken care of, one or the other."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.