Mauricio Pochettino said he doubts whether Chelsea could have handled a European campaign this season as he has grappled with an injury crisis.

The Argentinian could be without 11 players for Monday’s game against Everton, with Enzo Fernandez and Raheem Sterling the latest doubts for the meeting at Stamford Bridge.

It has been the club’s first campaign without European competition since 2016/17, and only their second since 1996/97, following a 12th-place finish in the Premier League last season.

An unbeaten run of seven games, their longest in the league for almost 18 months, has put them in contention to reach either the Europa League or Conference League, whilst they could also qualify by winning the FA Cup.

But Pochettino said the team’s injury problems will need to be addressed if they are to take on more games next season.

“Imagine if we had played in Europe this season, with all the circumstances (injuries)? Oh my goodness,” said the 52-year-old.

“With a squad that is always between eight and 10 players missing in every single game. If you add more games, we would struggle a lot.

“Now it’s about experience, to have all the information to try to help the club to take the best decisions to avoid things like happened this season.

“That is out principal focus, to try to define a squad that can be fit, or have more than 80 per cent availability.”

Teams in previous seasons have benefited from having a season without European competition, taking time to regroup before following up with much improved campaigns the following year.

Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers in 2013/14 came within two points of winning the title whilst not having to contend with a European schedule, whilst Chelsea were crowned champions under Antonio Conte in 2016/17 a year after finishing 10th.

Mikel Arteta led Arsenal to a fifth-place finish in 2021/22, the club’s first without Europe in 26 years, during which the team showed significant progress that has led to them challenging for the title in consecutive seasons.

Pochettino countered that the situation at Chelsea, whose owners have spent over £1billion on assembling a young and largely inexperienced squad, cannot be compared to previous examples.

“Now, it’s completely different,” he said. “You cannot compare to Conte or Brendan Rodgers, it’s not fair. We are in a different Chelsea today.

“The conversation is always to win the next game, then the next and then the next, and see in which position we arrive.

“To have targets is always good. But to have a target it is to have all the elements on (your) side. With all the circumstances we are living (with injuries), it’s about trying to be competitive in the next game, not to put objectives that maybe you will get very frustrated if you don’t win some games that you are supposed to win.”

Mauricio Pochettino said it is time to stop talking about injuries and let Chelsea’s academy players show what they can do ahead of Monday’s meeting with Everton.

The Argentinian could have as many as 11 absentees for the game at Stamford Bridge, with Enzo Fernandez and Raheem Sterling amongst the latest doubts.

Training sessions this season have relied heavily on players called up from the academy, and several have been named in matchday squads as the injury crisis has deepened.

The 17-year-old defender Josh Acheampong and 20-year-old Finland youth international Jimi Tauriainen were amongst the substitutes during the 2-2 draw with Burnley at the end of March, whilst 20-year-old Alfie Gilchrist, who penned a new two-year deal this month, has made 13 appearances in all competitions.

Striker Deivid Washington, the 18-year-old signed from Brazilian side Santos last January, has also featured regularly on the bench, as has 21-year-old Cesare Casadei after his year-long loan at Leicester was cut short earlier this year.

Ahead of Everton, Fernandez and Axel Disasi will have their fitness assessed, whilst Sterling and goalkeeper Robert Sanchez are suffering from illness.

Ben Chilwell is training with the first team having not played since the international break but is unlikely to be fit enough to start.

“We need to stop talking,” said Pochettino. “People are waiting for me to talk (about injuries). We need to stop and we need to adapt, and accept the reality. We need to be positive with the players that we have.

“With the young kids that came through the academy, we are going to try to be competitive and to win the game on Monday. We need to accept the (injury) situation.

“If something happens, we need to take the positives. We’re going to have the possibility to train with young guys, players from the academy. Maybe they can step up and show their quality.”

Chelsea’s under-17 side beat Wolves 3-1 at Molineux to lift the Premier League Cup on Thursday, with the under-21s currently fourth in the league and the under-18s top of their division.

“Maybe before the end of the season we can have some surprise from a player we didn’t count on, that can have a good profile for Chelsea,” said Pochettino. “When that happens, another door will be open.

“Chelsea have one of the best academies in the world. It’s our responsibility to pay attention and to care about these guys. Because of the situation, they’re going have the chance to be involved on Monday.”

Pochettino hinted at taking a more measured approach to his post-match media duties after he accused his players of lacking maturity following Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Sheffield United.

“I think I need to be more cautious with my words after the game,” he said. “It’s a fact that we have a young squad but also I need to adapt a different message.

“We are winners. We arrived here knowing Chelsea’s history is about winning. So when you don’t win like against Sheffield, we felt disappointed and frustrated. It’s not easy to face (the media) and be calm.”

Roy Hodgson struggled to find positives after Chelsea scored twice in stoppage-time to inflict a 3-1 home loss on his Crystal Palace team.

Conor Gallagher, who spent the 2021-22 season on loan with the Eagles, struck twice to complete the comeback, becoming the first Chelsea player to score a 90th-minute winner in the Premier League since he did precisely the same at Selhurst Park in October 2022.

Beleaguered boss Hodgson, whose side are once again mired in an injury crisis and remain just five points clear of the relegation zone, initially found it difficult to discuss the brighter elements of Monday’s contest.

Hodgson said: “I’m not really in the mood if I’m being brutally honest of (highlighting) positives and trying to find things to say that would cheer me up, because I don’t know what could be said that would cheer me up.

“What can I say that will cheer the players up? I could possibly say, well, with the players we’ve got coming back and these guys doing so well, it bodes well for the future with the 14 games we have left.

“But of course we still don’t know when (Michael) Olise, (Eberechi) Eze will be back, so we might be battling through like we’ve done tonight for a few more games before we can look at a team which will threaten the opposition a bit more than we did today.”

As has been par for the Palace course in recent weeks, before kick-off fans raised banners protesting about the direction of their club, with one reading “supporters ignored and taken for granted”.

A lacklustre start from Mauricio Pochettino’s men allowed the hosts to take the lead after 30 minutes through Jefferson Lerma’s screamer, but it was cancelled out less than two minutes after the break by Gallagher, his first of the campaign.

Hodgson did not feel a lengthy delay to sort out a technical issue with the referee’s equipment had an impact on the equaliser, pointing out it had equally affected both sides.

Just as it seemed Hodgson’s side – who rank below only Sheffield United in goals conceded in the last 15 minutes of the second half of Premier League matches – seemed like they would walk away with a point, Gallagher swept Chelsea into the top half of the table.

Hodgson felt his side might have had a chance to level things until, three minutes later, Enzo Fernandez ended any doubt about the outcome.

Pochettino, meanwhile, was pleased to secure all three points ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Manchester City and the Carabao Cup final later this month, but felt there was plenty of room to improve.

He said:  “I think (Gallagher) is a player that shows great commitment to the team, always tries to compensate in every situation, in offensive and defensive situations.

“It is priceless to have a player like him. I’m so happy for him and so happy for the team, it’s a victory, we needed the three points.

“I think if you ask me if I am really happy about the performance, I’m 50/50, because we cannot approach the game and start the game the way that we started.

“That is the consistency we need to build. We need to be more consistent, we need to start the game in a different way.

“But I’m very pleased in the end because we have the three points, and now we have to prepare for Manchester City, that is going to be a good test for us, before the final. I think we are going to prepare in a very good way.”

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.

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.

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 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.”

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.

Middlesbrough boss Michael Carrick has told his players to embrace the challenge of walking into the lion’s den at Chelsea with a place in the Carabao Cup final at stake.

Boro head coach Carrick saw his team secure a 1-0 first-leg lead at the Riverside Stadium on Wednesday evening, which will send them to Stamford Bridge on January 23 with something to defend.

The Sky Bet Championship promotion hopefuls had to endure a tide of pressure on their own pitch to emerge with a clean sheet, and they can expect an onslaught on a night when a repeat would send them to Wembley.

 

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However Carrick, whose side lost 1-0 to Chelsea’s Premier League counterparts Aston Villa in the FA Cup third round at the weekend, said: “It’s embracing it.

“The last two games the boys have coped very, very well with Villa at the weekend and tonight, this being different because it’s obviously a lot further on in the competition and there was much more of an opportunity in this one with the expectations, the hope, the challenge that they faced.

“I couldn’t have hoped or asked for anything more. I keep saying the next one is a totally different one, it’s a new challenge totally.

“The boys will be ready for it and we’ll be ready to perform. We’ll look forward to it and embrace the challenge because it’s an unbelievable challenge and position that we find ourselves in.”

Hackney’s 37th-minute strike, which came after Isaiah Jones had made the most of Dan Barlaser’s fine through ball, ultimately settled a game in which Mauricio Pochettino’s expensively-assembled side dominated possession, but failed to make the most of the chances they created with Cole Palmer passing up no fewer than three himself.

Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo alone cost in excess of £220million, but along with Conor Gallagher, got little change out of a Boro midfield of Hackney, Barlaser and Jonny Howson to leave Carrick purring.

Asked if it was his best night yet as a manager, the 42-year-old former Manchester United and England midfielder said: !It’s as proud as I’ve been, I have to say again, of the players.

“Knowing what they’ve put in and how close a group they are and seeing the stadium supporting the lads right to the end when they needed that bit of help for the last 10 minutes or so, standing there and seeing that made me hugely proud, so it was a good night for that, a really good night for that and hopefully we can create some more of them in the future.”

Pochettino was measured after a disappointing night on Teesside, during which he admitted the Blues had been punished both for their mistakes and their profligacy in front of goal.

The Argentinian said: “I am disappointed because I think we deserved a different result, but sometimes you don’t play well and you win.

“For us, it’s like we need to play well, we need to score goals. We play well, but sometimes we are not clinical enough and sometimes we are punished. That is the process in this moment we are in.

“Always when you are building a team, this kind of scenario is tough because you not only need to play well, but you need to deserve and have some luck.”

Middlesbrough boss Michael Carrick believes his side had to “suffer” to earn a 1-0 win against Chelsea in the Carabao Cup semi-finals.

Hayden Hackney capitalised on missed Chelsea chances, scoring in the 37th minute to hand Boro a valuable advantage going into the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge on January 23.

His goal came after already-depleted Boro were forced into two early changes, with Emmanuel Latte Lath and Alex Bangura taken off with injury in the opening 20 minutes.

They defended well to ensure they are now one leg away from the final of the competition they won back in 2004 and Carrick urged his side to enjoy the victory.

He said post-match: “Listen, it’s very special.

“There’s totally two sides to this one: there’s the game tonight and what we had to go through and suffer a little bit to find a way to win, and there’s obviously the fact that there’s another game.

“I have to credit the players and celebrate their performance and effort, because it’s not easy at all to beat a team like that with the quality that they’ve got and to suffer the kind of injuries that we had as well early on – as if we didn’t have enough injuries to start with.

“Tonight was a really special night, the atmosphere, Hayden scoring, it was such a good night for us, so we’ve got to take that as a one-off and enjoy that to be honest. The second leg is a whole new ball game and we know what we’re walking into and he challenges we face.”

Dan Barlaser’s long pass played Isaiah Jones in behind Levi Colwill to cross into Hackney, who stuck out a leg to stab past Djordje Petrovic.

Carrick said: “Honestly, it couldn’t happen to a nicer lad.

“He’s everything we could ever hope for in a player – he’s humble, he’s hard-working, he’s hugely talented, obviously, and great to work with.”

Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino believes his side were “not clinical enough” as they wasted a trio of brilliant chances in the first half.

Cole Palmer fired wide just before Hackney put Boro ahead then had two more chances, firing over the bar after Tom Glover spilled Enzo Fernandez’s effort before failing to beat the keeper after cutting in from the right.

Pochettino said: “I think we made some mistakes in the first half and we were punished for that.

“We created big chances and we didn’t score, we were not clinical enough, that is so clear.

“We have to credit of course Middlesbrough, it’s the first 90 minutes in the first half of the tie.

“We are losing 1-0 but in two weeks we are going to have the second tie and we need to be positive we can win the game and go to the final.”

Pochettino also refuted suggestions Chelsea players had been booed off the pitch by their visiting fans.

“The fans were reacting with the fans, with Middlesbrough fans, not with our players,” he added.

“Our fans were fantastic as they support us but I think it was Thiago (Silva) and some players, what I hear is they were trying to calm our fans because I think there was a problem between the fans, not between our fans and our players.”

Mauricio Pochettino admits midfield duo Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo need to improve after Chelsea’s poor start to the Premier League campaign.

The Blues’ recent 2-1 defeat at Manchester United kept them in 10th place, five points behind West Ham in ninth.

And Pochettino believes big-money signings Fernandez and Caicedo need to up their levels but acknowledged the two 22-year-olds’ development is a “process”.

Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s Premier League clash with Everton on Sunday, he said: “The relationship between them needs to improve of course, between them and individually also.

“They are young, the expectation is massive when you arrive.

“Caicedo had one season in Brighton and Enzo after three months in Europe, he was in Benfica before arriving to the Premier League. Arriving not in the best place to perform quick because they need to be part of the solution.

“They are not the cherry of the cake. When you arrive in a team that is in a building process and you’re young with not too much experience, even if you have good quality and people can see the club paid big money and only for that you need to perform, it is not like this in football.

“Some people think in this way because they don’t know about football. It’s a process.

“It’s going to be a process for different reasons. Chelsea are in a completely different reality in the last years and we need to attack this. We can’t live only thinking in the past.

“We need to keep the culture and understand we are in Chelsea and always it’s about winning, but the reality is completely different.”

Sunday’s opponents Everton are on a high after Wednesday’s 3-0 victory over Newcastle at Goodison Park.

And Pochettino identified Everton’s physical presence from set-pieces and called for his Chelsea players to play more cleverly.

He added: “It can be a problem, yes. But we need to be more aggressive and try to avoid conceding chances like corners or wide free-kicks.

“We need to be clever in the way we are going to work and try to stop them.

“Yes, it can be a problem but maybe no. In football, it’s the way you approach the game, the attitude and then being clever, trying to avoid giving the possibility to the opponents to use their strengths.”

Pochettino highlighted the challenges of keeping his players motivated after their inconsistent start to the campaign.

He said: “When you win it is easy, you jump to train.

“But when you have ups and downs it is really difficult to keep your balance because to translate the capacity to a player to keep pushing and assimilate and to keep the good mood around the training ground is the most difficult thing.

“Because the frustration, disappointment, sometimes in the way we concede, you become upset, angry. “

Mauricio Pochettino admitted Moises Caicedo’s international commitments with Ecuador have complicated the midfielder’s early Chelsea career.

The club paid a British record £115million to sign the 22-year-old from Brighton in August but frequent trips to South America to play for his country have limited the time he has been able to spend working with coaching staff at Cobham.

He has played 14 times in all competitions since his arrival, recovering from a red card on his first appearance against West Ham to become a steady if not yet spectacular performer in the heart of midfield.

Since joining Chelsea he has been called up three times by Ecuador and played in six matches, with each international window requiring a more than 11,000-mile round trip, sometimes not arriving back in London until the early hours of the day before Chelsea’s next game.

He revealed in an interview with the club’s website this week that he spent much of his first 10 days in England alone in a hotel room in tears and suffering from homesickness, after joining the Seagulls from Independiente del Valle in his home country in January 2021 during the Covid pandemic.

Restrictions on movement for people arriving into the UK meant he was unable to meet his Brighton team-mates until completing a period of quarantine, during which he phoned his parents in Ecuador asking to return home.

He recovered to become one of the standout successes of the team that Roberto De Zerbi led to a club-best sixth-placed Premier League finish last campaign, sparking a bidding war between Liverpool and Chelsea in which Pochettino’s side were victorious.

The manager reiterated a call for patience as Caicedo navigates life at Chelsea amid a hectic World Cup qualifying schedule internationally.

“When we signed him we knew what is going to happen,” said Pochettino. “He’s an emotional guy, an emotional player that needs time to recover.

“It didn’t help also the international games, travelling to Ecuador, to South America. That is really tough every single month, two or three weeks then go 10, 12 days away, then come back sometimes with some injury.

“It’s not an excuse but it’s the reality. Now we need time. Of course I say (the team) always need to perform. That is our mentality. But in some situations like his, we need to give time and not to be unfair in the way that we assess him.”

Caicedo has formed a reliable partnership in midfield with Enzo Fernandez, who the club paid a then-British record £107m to sign from Benfica in January while Graham Potter was in charge.

Pochettino revealed that the Argentinian World Cup winner asked for extra time off during the summer due to fatigue and was granted permission to join up late with the squad on their United States tour.

“It’s different because Enzo arrived last January, he was with different coaches here,” said the manager. “He asked when we arrived for a period of holiday because he was tired after the World Cup and everything. He joined us in North Carolina.

“I cannot judge the past. Only I can talk from when we arrived (at Chelsea). We expect all, not only (these two), all the players, even the ones not too much involved, to push their level.”

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg said Tottenham went down with “the flag held high” in their 4-1 loss to Chelsea and has backed the squad to cope with the absence of key personnel.

Spurs lost their unbeaten start to the Premier League season in a pulsating London derby in which five goals were disallowed and the hosts played the final 35 minutes with nine men.

To add salt into fresh Tottenham wounds, Micky van de Ven was forced off with a hamstring injury and James Maddison had to be withdrawn due to an ankle knock, while Cristian Romero and Destiny Udogie, who were both sent off, will sit out this weekend’s trip to Wolves.

Ange Postecoglou’s side battled admirably, first with 10 men from the 35th minute and then when down to nine early in the second half, but Nicolas Jackson grabbed the first of his three goals with quarter of an hour left to finally break the hosts’ resolve.

Hojbjerg said: “I think we went down with the flag held high. We gave it our all but the result hurts a lot.

“We showed what we had in our hearts but the result hurts.

“Tuesday we have a day off and when we see each other on Wednesday, we’ll gather the pieces and focus on the next game, as we have to.

“Everyone has to show their availability and show they are prepared to do what it takes.

“A good squad is not 11 players. It is 18 or 25 players and this is what we have to show. The result hurts a lot but we have to keep going.”

Mauricio Pochettino’s first return to Tottenham had initially started in the worst possible fashion when Dejan Kulusevski’s curled effort deflected off Levi Colwill and beyond the helpless Robert Sanchez after six minutes.

The wheels started to fall off during a 57-minute first half where four goals were chalked off by video assistant referee John Brooks at Stockley Park, who decided that Romero’s tackle on Enzo Fernandez was worthy of a red card and a penalty in the 33rd minute.

Spurs’ uphill task increased further when Udogie was shown a second yellow after 10 minutes of the second period, but Postecoglou deployed a high line and Guglielmo Vicario starred in the sweeper-keeper role before Jackson made it 2-1.

Tottenham remained resolute and started to create chances with substitute Eric Dier marginally offside when he volleyed home soon after Jackson’s first goal before Rodrigo Bentancur and Son Heung-min squandered opportunities.

 

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Jackson made the points safe in stoppage time when he lashed in from Conor Gallagher’s pass, but Spurs supporters greeted the goal with a standing ovation for their crestfallen players.

Kulusevski said: “It was unbelievable, honestly. Some things are bigger than life, bigger than football, bigger than the wins.

“Honestly I was really proud of that moment and the fans. I was grateful and it makes me want to give more back.

“It has to give us fuel. We lost the game, we hate to lose, it was the first of the season, but we have to make sure this doesn’t happen again and play 11 v 11 because then it is much harder to beat us.”

The consequences of this defeat could be long-lasting with Romero set for a three-match ban, which will rule him out of matches with Wolves, Aston Villa and Manchester City.

Of bigger concern is centre-back partner Van de Ven after he pulled up at the end of the first half in a sprint with Jackson, which saw him helped off the pitch and he was later seen on crutches.

Udogie will also miss Saturday’s clash at Wolves and with Ben Davies nursing an ankle knock, Postecoglou could use Under-21 defenders Ash Phillips or Alfie Dorrington this weekend.

“It will be a test for sure. They (Van de Ven and Maddison) are amazing players and I hope they are back very, very soon, but as you saw the players that came in were amazing,” Kulusevski said.

“We train really hard every day and everybody is ready. You saw Eric Dier, he came in, did his first appearance and was unbelievable. The guys are ready.

“Everybody wants to play and it is so high level the training. So, if (Phillips) will be called, he will be ready.”

Ange Postecoglou lamented that VAR has diminished the authority of referees after he watched nine-man Tottenham lose for the first time in the Premier League against Chelsea.

It was a frenetic meeting between the two rivals that saw five disallowed goals, two red cards, a penalty and two Spurs players forced off during the first half with injury, as Mauricio Pochettino marked his return to north London with a memorable 4-1 victory.

But the match was dominated by VAR’s involvement with the red cards two of nine decisions referred to the video referee.

Even with nine men the hosts continued to take the game to Chelsea and were well in the contest before Nicolas Jackson twice sprung their high line in stoppage time to add his team’s third and fourth goals and complete an unlikely hat-trick.

Postecoglou’s team had been comfortably on top in the first half before Cristian Romero’s red card in the 33rd minute, dismissed for a dangerous challenge on Enzo Fernandez and conceding the penalty from which Cole Palmer equalised Dejan Kulusevski’s deflected goal.

Destiny Udogie was also dismissed on 55 minutes, receiving a second yellow card for a foul on Raheem Sterling, but it took a further 20 minutes before Chelsea finally took the lead for the first time through Jackson.

Spurs’ night was compounded by the loss of James Maddison and Micky van de Ven to injury on top of what is likely to be a three-game ban for Romero.

But it was VAR’s impact that dominated Postecoglou’s thoughts after the game after a total of 21 minutes were added on at the end of each half.

“It’s hard to analyse from a football perspective,” he said.

“We’re left with a result which is disappointing, but super proud of the players’ efforts and will and desire to get something from the game.

“(Lengthy VAR pauses) are going to become the norm, I think it’s where the game is heading. Unfortunately it’s how we’re going to have to watch and participate in football from now on.

“I don’t like it. I don’t like the standing around, the whole theatre around waiting for decisions. But I know I’m in the wilderness on that.

“In my 26 years, I was always prepared to accept the referee’s decision, good, bad or otherwise, and I’ve had some shockers in my career. I’ve had some go my way as well.

“I’ll cop that because I just want the game to be played. But when we’re complaining about defections every week, this is what’s going to happen.

“People are going to forensically scrutinise everything to make sure they’re comfortable it’s right, and even at the end of that, we’re still not happy.

“It’s just diminishing the authority of the referee. You can’t tell me referees are in control of games. They’re not. Control is outside of that, but that’s where the game’s going. You have to accept it and try and deal with it.”

Pochettino reflected on a game in which, despite a host of contentious decisions, he felt his team were deserved victors.

“I think we deserved to win,” he said.

“We forced them to make too many mistakes. Tottenham were better in the first 15 minutes but then we matched the game. Our performance was good.

“Everything you can see during the game I think was fair. We compare to the Tottenham Liverpool game, a similar game like today. Liverpool complained. But today, everything that happened was fair. That’s why I think 4-1, the performance was good.”

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