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FA Cup win proves Chelsea are not bottle jobs, Pochettino claims

Pochettino and Gallagher

Mauricio Pochettino claimed his Chelsea players proved Gary Neville wrong for labelling them “bottle jobs” by bouncing back from their Carabao Cup final defeat to beat Leeds United in the FA Cup.

Sky Sports pundit Neville branded Chelsea the “billion-pound bottle jobs” following the Carabao Cup extra-time defeat by Liverpool.

But just three days after missing two big chances at Wembley, Conor Gallagher stepped off the substitutes’ bench to score a last-minute winner to clinch Chelsea’s place in the quarter-finals.

Chelsea will now face Leicester City in the last eight and Pochettino hailed his team’s bravery in the way they responded to the Liverpool defeat and falling behind to Leeds at Stamford Bridge.

Asked if his team had proven a point to Neville, Pochettino replied: “It’s like Gary, my friend, what did you do? His opinion now is always around and around and around. Of course, I cannot agree about that.

“With all my love to Gary, it is not fair to use this type of word for a team that is so brave and a club that is always showing it fights for big things. What can we do? Now only with this type of performance, we show that we are brave, can win games, and of course, nothing to say.

“It is only to keep moving. It is not important for the team, it is not important for us, because we know who we are and how we behave. Why we lost the game against Liverpool has nothing to do with this. It is because of all the different things.

“You need to accept opinions. But that is not for us a thing to talk about. We know we are brave, that we are working really hard, and, look, if people want to be around and around and around this comment, for us it is not an important comment. It is only sorry, you were wrong, but look, nothing to say. I respect his opinion and that’s it and we won.”

Pochettino to Gallagher: ‘You’re scoring too many goals!’

Gallagher’s goal was his first at Stamford Bridge for almost a year and the timing of it could not have been better, having missed big chances at Wembley and with the FA Cup fifth-round tie heading towards extra-time.

There remains significant doubt over Gallagher’s Chelsea future, with the midfielder yet to sign a new contract and Tottenham Hotspur intending to make a bid for him in the summer.

Gallagher’s contribution from the bench underlined his importance to Chelsea and Pochettino, who said: “He is an important player and that is no doubt. We were talking from the beginning of the season that his contribution is fantastic for the team. I’m so happy for him. I said to him ‘You’re becoming the top scorer! Be careful! You’re scoring too many goals!’ The effort is there and the quality is there.”

Pochettino revealed that Gallagher was one of his players who were not at full fitness heading into the Leeds game, which is why he started on the bench alongside Cole Palmer.

“Cole Palmer was sick last night and Gallagher had some issues also,” said Pochettino. “We are shorter in the squad. We have a big squad, but always 10-12 injured players. Players are playing and playing and playing, we don’t have the subs. I know that might come as a surprise, but we need to give those players a break.”

Pochettino admitted his team’s performance against Leeds had been unconvincing, but stressed that, following the Liverpool defeat, the result was the most important thing. It should also ease some of the pressure on Pochettino, with Chelsea still in with a chance of winning a trophy and qualifying for Europe next season.

“We needed this result,” said Pochettino. “It wasn’t a great performance. Of course, we created too little because it is a team full of confidence – a very, very, very strong team. They are doing fantastic in the Championship. They and Leicester are at the top of the table.

“It was tough for us. When you concede after a few minutes, the character we showed after this situation, it is a thing to learn from the team.

“At the end I am so happy, because we avoided extra time and we scored and we are in the quarter-finals. It was our objective. It is always tough when you lose a final on Sunday in extra time and then 72 hours or less to recover, it was difficult. But the effort was massive. I have to say thank you to the players because they made a fantastic effort.”

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