1

Carabao Cup 1/2: Mauricio Pochettino hails Chelsea spirit after dramatic shoot-out win

Mykhailo Mudryk scored a stoppage-time equaliser before the Blues beat Newcastle on penalties to reach the Carabao Cup semi-finals.

Mauricio Pochettino said Chelsea are a “healthy group” after watching them edge beyond Newcastle on penalties at Stamford Bridge to book a place in the Carabao Cup semi-final.

Newcastle looked to have done enough to progress after holding Chelsea at arm’s length for much of the game following Callum’s Wilson’s first-half strike.

Then at the death, Mykhailo Mudryk appeared inside the box to nick the ball away from Kieran Trippier, clipping a finish inside the far post to rescue Pochettino’s side.

Chelsea were on target with all four spot-kicks as Trippier again was culpable for Newcastle, failing to hit the target before Matt Ritchie saw his effort saved by goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic.

Earlier, Wilson had given Newcastle a deserved lead, taking advantage of a calamitous mix-up between Thiago Silva and Benoit Badiashile and racing clear to score on the counter.

“To concede the way we conceded, when we didn’t deserve to, it can affect any team,” said the manager.

“But we reacted really well, dominated the game against a good team like Newcastle, kept pushing in the second half, made some changes and tried to provide the team some impact.

“The most important (thing) in football is to believe to the end. We kept believing. We know penalties are a lottery, but of course talent and quality (matter). Our objective before the game was to go through and now we’re in the semi-final.

“When you see the whole squad, players that weren’t involved or were injured, they wanted to share their happiness in the middle of the pitch. We’re a healthy group of players, but they need time. We create the platform for them to improve every day. We’re going to build a very good team that can compete.”

Pochettino gave a long-awaited debut from the bench to summer signing Christopher Nkunku after injury with 20 minutes to go, in place of the willing but largely ineffective Nicolas Jackson.

The manager reiterated the need not to lump too much expectation too soon on the 26-year-old’s shoulders after a lengthy spell out.

“We’re talking about players that are young, or who have arrived and suffered an injury, like Christopher,” he said. “They need game time to start to perform and to get their best form. Everyone can judge.

“The expectation is to see the best of Nkunku, but we need time for him to perform the way we expect. It’s one thing to be available, it’s another to perform in the way we expect.”

Pochettino confirmed Enzo Fernandez had been withdrawn in the first half suffering from stomach sickness while Levi Colwill, taken off at the break, was tired but not injured.

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe reflected on a missed opportunity for his team to reach the Carabao Cup last four for the second straight season.

“A tough ending to the game,” he said. “It was a really good away performance until the last moments. I didn’t see a goal coming at that stage.

“It’s just one of those things that can happen in a football match. We covered space well, limited them to half-chances. There are a lot of positives to take but we don’t feel that right now.”