Chelsea ease pressure on Pochettino with classy Cup win at Aston Villa

Chelsea ease pressure on Pochettino with classy Cup win at Aston Villa

BIRMINGHAM, England-- Chelsea responded to a troubling week with a superb 3-1 win at Aston Villa to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup and put a smile back on the face of Mauricio Pochettino on Wednesday.

Successive heavy losses in the Premier League had left manager Pochettino under intense scrutiny, but first-half goals by Conor Gallagher and Nicolas Jackson put Chelsea in control before Enzo Fernandez struck a sublime free kick after halftime. Villa, who are on the fringe of the Premier League title race and 15 points above Chelsea, were outplayed pretty much from start to finish as their Cup hopes evaporated and Moussa Diaby's late effort was a mere consolation. Eight-time FA Cup winners Chelsea will host Leeds United in round five and also have a League Cup final against Liverpool to look forward to later this month. Pochettino's pre-match news conference on Tuesday had seen the Argentine field questions about whether or not he still had the backing of the club's owners with his side in 11th place in the league despite a massive outlay on signings. Bizarrely the former Tottenham Hotspur and Paris St Germain manager also came under fire from the wife of his experienced defender Thiago Silva who took to social media calling for change after a 4-2 home drubbing by Wolverhampton Wanderers. Veteran Silva was left on the bench at Villa Park but Pochettino's young guns finally delivered the kind of sustained display that has been sadly lacking this season. Villa actually began brightly but were stopped in their tracks in the 11th minute as Jackson pulled the ball back for Chukwunonso Madueke who teed up Gallagher to sidefoot a clinical finish into the roof of the net. With confidence surging, Chelsea doubled their lead in the 21st minute as right back Malo Gusto's cross was headed past Emiliano Martinez to send the 7,000 visiting fans wild. Enzo Fernandez's impact at Chelsea has failed to justify the more than 100 million pounds ($126 million) the club splashed out to sign him. But he showed his class with an unstoppable curling free kick that had his World Cup winning Argentina team mate Martinez clawing at thin air. The joy amongst the buoyant Chelsea fans was unrestrained and while one victory will not take the spotlight off Pochettino, Wednesday's performance might just prove to be a turning point.

The Daily Herald

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