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Thomas Tuchel conceded there was more than an element of fortune to victory in his first FA Cup tie, with Tammy Abraham saving him at both ends of the pitch to avoid an upset.
The Chelsea manager had a look at his fringe players on the boggy pitch at Oakwell and it was Abraham who seized his chance with the winner and a decisive goalline clearance. Kepa Arrizabalaga’s close-range save from Callum Brittain was also a key moment.
But this was a hard-fought and tense win to set up a quarter-final against Sheffield United at Stamford Bridge, with Valerien Ismael showing the progress he has made at Barnsley in the last few months.
“We can clearly play better but we can stop the analysis. Chelsea through to the quarter-final. Full stop,” Tuchel said. “We were lucky twice when Kepa saved us and when Tammy saved us with the header on the line. We were lucky but in the cup it is sometimes like this but I don’t want to be too harsh with the guys. To cope with the difficulties was hard for us.
“I have to be honest, I’m relieved. We struggled to cope with the first challenges and second balls. So, in the end, we were way too deep for too long.”
Tuchel will also point to the changes he made at half-time as having an effect. Reece James came on and set up the winner, with his system changing to a 3-4-3. Billy Gilmour played his part in the goal and staked a claim for more game-time but for many others there will need to be improvements before Tuchel relies on them regularly.
Kepa did his chances no harm with his early save. Alex Mowatt’s cross had been flicked on and Brittain nipped in front of Marcos Alonso and found himself in front of goal, but the world’s most expensive goalkeeper stuck out a leg to save.
Off the pitch, Barnsley had to deal with the embarrassment of their Twitter account being suspended on matchday over the copyright of an audio clip they used a few years ago. But on the pitch, Ismael’s team were organised and industrious.
Brittain had another excellent chance before the break after a well-worked short corner that saw the ball worked to him in space. His finish was heading into the bottom corner but his team-mate, Victor Adeboyejo, deflected it wide.
Abraham’s winner came when Gilmour split the Barnsley defence with his ball to James and despite being in a good position to shoot, his cross was tapped in by Abraham. It was his first goal since scoring a hat-trick against Luton Town in the previous round.
“He scores decisive goals in cup games and this was very decisive,” said Tuchel. “Good for him, for strikers it is good to score.”
At the other end, Abraham’s clearance came from under his own crossbar when Michael Sollbauer flicked towards goal and looked like he had sent the tie into extra-time.
“I grew up being a defender so it was an instinctive reaction,” said Abraham. “I was in the right place and saw the ball coming. And I knew I had to try something. I probably celebrated the clearance more than the goal.
“It's never easy coming here, I've experienced it in the Championship and they are a good side. I knew that chance would come eventually and I had to be in the right place at the right time.”
Tuchel admitted the 10 changes he made meant he had a team struggling for confidence. Hakim Ziyech was taken off in the second half, while Alonso and Andreas Christensen lasted 45 minutes.
However, they could have had a first-half penalty. At a Premier League ground there would be VAR which would have seen Toby Sibbick go through Abraham’s ankle before taking the ball.
“We had to cope with the lack of quality of the pitch, we had many changes and you lack a bit of rhythm and self confidence,” Tuchel said. “We cannot show our brightest performance. Clearly we can do better and in the end, it is important that we try to be better. We have a lot of things to improve. We have this win and from this we can continue.”
Ismael was pleased with the evening despite the defeat, with his team giving Chelsea a scare and having the better chances until Abraham’s winner.
“We got the result we wanted. The most important thing was the performance and we pushed through our principles on the game,” said Ismael.
Barnsley (5-3-2): Collins 6; Brittain 7 (Palmer, 73), Sibbick 7 (Sollbauer, 76), Helik 7, Andersen 6, Styles 6; Kane 6 (Williams, 73), Mowatt 7, Chaplin 6 (Frieser, 59); Adeboyejo 6 (Dike, 59), Woodrow 6.
Substitutes not used: Walton (g), Oduor, Moon, Thompson.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Kepa 7; Christensen 5 (Rüdiger, 45), Zouma 6, Emerson 6; Hudson-Odoi 6, Gilmour 7, Kante 6, Alonso 5 (James, 45); Ziyech 5 (Anjorin, 69), Pulisic 5 (Kovacic, 80); Abraham 6.
Substitutes not used: Caballero (g), Giroud, Chilwell, James, Azpilicueta, Bate.
Goal: Abraham (64).
Referee: Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire).
Barnsley were excellent tonight
Barnsley had plenty of chances and really did deserve a goal. It was not a good performance from Chelsea but they were more clinical.
Abraham impressed. He was physical, got a goal and was key to his side defending set-pieces. A mature showing from the striker.
FULL TIME: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 1
Another long ball is sent forward. Barnsley are camped in Chelsea territory, forcing the Premier League side to hold on. Helik rises highest but once again the effort is straight at Kepa.
Barnsley win a free kick in the Chelsea half. The keeper is into the box. Abraham is fouled in the box and that should be that for Chelsea.
Abraham is named man of the match as Chelsea sneak through.
90 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 1
Dike makes a run in behind but he is flagged offside. A long throw in into the Chelsea box is headed behind for a corner by Abraham. He has been excellent defensively tonight.
Mowatt whips a cross into the front post but Kepa is fouled as players crowd him.
There will be three minutes of added time.
87 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 1
Barnsley launch a ball into the Chelsea box but Woodrow can only loft his header straight to Kepa. Kovacic makes a mistake, losing possession and allowing Dike to get a shot away. His effort is deflected tamely to Kepa, fortunately for the away side.
Another mistake allows Williams to fire a shot off. Once again it is blocked.
85 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 1
Tuchel is still cutting a frustrated figure in the dugout. Few of the players given a chance tonight have taken it.
82 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 1
Pulisic is coming off for Kovacic. The American has been quiet tonight. Are Chelsea shutting up shop against Barnsley?
James gives away a free kick in a dangerous area but Palmer manages to hit the one-man wall...
79 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 1
Abraham has just saved his team! Kepa comes for the ball and misses, the ball is headed towards goal and Abraham flicks it over his own bar. Acrobatic defensive header from the striker!
Abraham then heads the subsequent corner away too. Kepa owes Abraham.
76 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 1
More changes; Sibbick off for Sollbauer. A different angle on the Abraham goal suggests he may well be onside. It was close but James may just be in front of him.
Here is Abraham's goal - make up your own mind on the offside...
73 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 1
Brittain hammers in a low cross but it is blocked. At the other end, Husdon-Odoi cuts onto his right foot, curling an ambitious effort over the bar.
More changes for the home side. Williams and Palmer on for Brittain and Kane.
69 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 1
Despite conceding, Barnsley have not let their heads go down. They attack once more, peppering the Chelsea box with crosses.
Change for Chelsea; Ziyech off and Anjorin is on for his fifth senior appearance.
66 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 1
The ball falls to Andersen on the edge of the Chelsea back but he sends it into the stands. The replay suggests that Abraham was indeed just offside...
GOOOOOAAAAAL! (Abraham) Barnsley 0 Chelsea 1
James finds a ton of space down the right wing, he breaks into the box and squares to Abraham who taps it in. It was close to being offside but no Var.
Chelsea take an undeserved lead...
62 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Woodrow gives away a foul in a dangerous position for a Chelsea cross. Ziyech puts it perfectly on Rudiger's head but he steers it just wide. Chance missed!
59 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Abraham and Gilmour have a chance to break through on goal but the two cannot connect at the crucial moment. Hudson-Odoi beats two defenders before firing a shot just across goal. Excellent individual play from the winger.
Double change for Barnsley; Dike and Frieser for Adeboyejo and Chaplin. A debut for American striker Dike.
57 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Kane crosses from the right wing but Rudigers heads it away. Barnsley attack once more but once again the German defender comes to the rescue for his side. The home side come again, Rudiger blocking a shot from Woodrow.
Great spell for Barnsley.
55 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Chelsea attack down the left but Hudson-Odoi gives away a foul in the process. They just cannot generate any fluency at the moment.
52 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Barnsley have continued their dynamic pressing this half, forcing Chelsea to play backwards.
Ziyech picks up the ball on the edge of the box but he is tackled swiftly. Corner to the away side but the delivery does not beat the first man.
50 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Chelsea have changed shape this half, moving from a back five to a back four with Ziyech moving more central up the pitch.
Tuchel is unimpressed with something and is audibly exasperated already this half.
47 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Chaplin finds some space and releases a shot from a long way out. No danger of troubling Kepa from that range.
The second half is underway
Chelsea get the game restarted. Changes at the break. James on for Alonso, Rudiger for Christensen. The latter took a bang during the first half.
The players are back on the pitch
Has Thomas Tuchel given his team a rocket at the break?
A reminder of FA Cup quarter-final draw that took place before this game began
Barnsley have had the better chances
It has been a fairly even game but there is no doubt Barnsley had the better opportunities to score. We have a proper cup tie here!
HALF TIME: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Barnsley win a corner as the end of the first half beckons. They work a nice short routine which culminates in a shot being deflected wide. Very clever from Barnsley, they caught Chelsea napping at the front post.
They win another corner but Kepa rises to claim it. No added time. That's the half.
42 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Pulisic bursts into the back of the box but can only steer a diving shot wide of the post. It was a very tight angle, in fairness.
39 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Chelsea exert some pressure of their own, camping themselves in the opposition half. They are lacking a final pass, however.
37 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Brittain does well to get a cross into the box but Woodrow cannot quite meet it. This remains a very even game.
Kane sends in a long-throw but Chelsea just about clear. Plenty of pressure being applied to the Premier League outfit.
34 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Mowatt lifts an inviting cross to the back post but Alonso does well to get back and put it out for a corner. The corner comes back to Mowatt but Chelsea scramble it clear.
31 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Hudson-Odoi has looked lively so far. He skips past Mowatt who trips him up to stop him going anywhere. Hudson-Odoi bursts forward again, this time miscontrolling the ball out for a goal kick.
28 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Woodrow bumps Christensen off the ball, releasing Mowatt who drives a shot wide of the post with his powerful left foot. Christensen stayed down but is up on his feet now.
26 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Hudson-Odoi breaks down the right wing and wins a corner for the away side. Ziyech picks out Gilmour on the edge of the box but the midfielder cannot make any real connection with it. Good idea, poor execution.
23 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Alonso finds some space down the left. He passes to Ziyech who whips a cross into the box. Abraham goes down again but nothing given. Just a coming together on that occasion.
20 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Chelsea have managed to gain some possession, but they still look a little rattled by the pressing and intensity of Barnsley.
Abraham breaks into the box and is taken down by Sibbick. It looks like a penalty but Martin Atkinson is not interested. There is no Var in this game. If there had been, that would have been a penalty...
16 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Kante misplaces a pass in his own half, giving Barnsley territory. They then win a corner. Mowatt puts it into the box but Zouma rises highest to head clear.
14 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Thomas Tuchel will not be particularly impressed with his team so far. Hudson-Odoi is dispossessed and Barnsley counter. Chelsea get numbers back to snuff out the attack.
11 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
Barnsley should score! A cross to the back post is put straight at Kepa by Brittain who does well to keep it out. The home side should be in front!
8 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
The ball falls to Kane on the edge of the Chelsea box but he fires his shot wide. All the home side so far.
Hudson-Odoi is caught offside at the other end of the pitch.
5 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
It has been a decent start for the home side. They do not looked overawed at all.
2 min: Barnsley 0 Chelsea 0
The pitch is not in great condition and could certainly prove challenging for Chelsea. Styles wins a corner for Barnsley which Abraham heads clear.
Here we go!
Barnsley get us underway.
The teams are out onto the pitch
It looks like a chilly one...
The winner of tonight's game will take on Sheffield United in the next round
Dare I say the draw is further inspiration to win tonight? Especially given Sheffield United's focus on staying in the Premier League...
Here comes the FA Cup quarter final draw before tonight's kick-off...
Tie 1: Everton vs Man City
Tie 2: Bournemouth vs Southampton
Tie 3: Leicester vs Manchester United
Tie 4: Barnsley/Chelsea vs Sheffield United
A stat for the Barnsley fans out there...
Barnsley have won both of their FA Cup meetings with Chelsea, winning 4-0 in the third round in 1989 and 1-0 in the quarter-final in 2008.
Vinnie Jones makes it into tonight's blog...
Why not pass the time before kick-off by finding out how current Tykes manager Valerien Ismael went from Bayern to Barnsley – via Vinnie Jones. Jim White has got your needs covered here
To change or not to change....
This is Barnsley's first game since Jan 30 and boss Valerien Ismael makes just one change to the side that started the last game - forward Victor Adeboyejo in for Dominik Frieser.
Chelsea meanwhile shuffle their pack in style with Andreas Christensen the only survivor from the victory over Sheffield United on Sunday. Billy Gilmour also gets his first outing under Thomas Tuchel.
As is the Chelsea team...
Barnsley team is out
Good evening, will Barnsley be more of a test for Chelsea tonight than back in September?
Barnsley captain Alex Mowatt insists Chelsea face a much tougher test in tonight's FA Cup tie than when the two sides met earlier in the season.
Barnsley were thrashed 6-0 by Chelsea in the Carabao Cup in September and Mowatt is relishing a second crack at the Premier League side.
"Chelsea are a big team and we've already played them once this season, which didn't go too well," the former Leeds midfielder told a press conference.
"But we've got another gaffer now, a different way of playing and it's at Oakwell which is a lot different to what they'll be used to, I'm sure.
"So hopefully it can be a different result on Thursday night."
Valerien Ismael replaced previous boss Gerhard Struber soon after Barnsley had been given the run-around at Stamford Bridge and has since transformed the Sky Bet Championship club.
Barnsley won 10 of their first 15 league games under the former Crystal Palace defender to climb into the top half of the table.
They are currently 13th after two defeats and two draws in their last four league matches, but outplayed Championship promotion favourites Norwich at Oakwell to set up Thursday night's fifth-round tie.
Chelsea's visit will rekindle memories of Barnsley's famous victory against the Londoners at the same stage of the competition in 2008.
Barnsley, who had knocked out Liverpool with victory at Anfield in the previous round, produced another huge upset as Kayode Odejayi's towering header clinched a 1-0 home win.
Ismael is in his first job in English football after previous spells as head coach at Wolfsburg, Apollon Smyrnis and Austrian club LASK.
The French-born 45-year-old - who now has German citizenship - is also relishing the challenge but is under no illusions as to the size of the task.
"We know we are up against one of the best teams in world football," he said.
"But this is an opportunity for our players to test themselves and to put our own principles onto them, to be unpleasant and give everything to win.
"I know that myself and my staff and the guys are all looking forward to Thursday and we hope to put in another great performance.
"It is just a shame that our fans cannot be there with us in Oakwell."