FROM STAMFORD BRIDGE – Chelsea secured progression to round three of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday evening with a 2-1 win at home to AFC Wimbledon.
A mammoth 63 places separated the sides in the Football League standings heading into the tie, but that was hard to tell in just over 97 minutes of action at Stamford Bridge.
Goalkeeper Robert Sanchez – one of Chelsea’s 11 signings thus far this summer – conceded a first half penalty when he came and failed to reach a high cross, catching Harry Pell in the face and failing to stop James Tilley’s spot kick.
The Blues were punished for a cold start and they failed to click into gear until Noni Madueke burst into life, weaving past several Wimbledon bodies and winning a penalty of his own off of the trailing leg of Alex Pearce. The winger coolly converted from 12 yards.
Mauricio Pochettino sought to strike while the iron was hot in the second half and threw Nicolas Jackson into the fray, with the Senegal forward bringing the directness and confidence required to stamp Chelsea’s authority.
Chelsea would eventually be gifted the winner when Wimbledon goalkeeper Alex Bass cleared a low ball to Enzo Fernandez, who slotted into an empty net to send the Blues into the next round.
Tottenham Hotspur – more aligned with Chelsea as ever while Pochettino is head honcho over in west London – were eliminated in the second round on Tuesday night. It was crucial that Chelsea avoided the same fate and dodged the same questions about their desire to win the cup, but they only achieved one of these things.
Pochettino was harshly derided during his five-and-a-half years at Tottenham for failing to deliver silverware, but he was equally wrong to cast them aside as extras and bit-parts to the club’s rise.
Ahead of Spurs’ participation in the semi-finals of the 2017/18 FA Cup, Pochettino said: “It would be fantastic to win the FA Cup, but is it going to change our life? I don’t believe so. Every one of the semi‑finalists will fight to win but it’s not about who needs the trophy more.”
Earlier that same season, the Argentine explained his stance on the domestic cups at length: “But remember, our objective is to win the Premier League, our objective is to try to win the Champions League, for me two real trophies. And then the FA Cup, of course, I would like to win.
“Of course, to win the Carabao Cup, yes, of course, but I think will not change the life of Tottenham. To win the FA Cup, fantastic, I would love to win the oldest competition in the world but it really changes your life if you win the Premier League or Champions League. That is the truth. And after someone want to manipulate my words, OK, go on, but that is the truth.”
Pochettino’s last forray in the Carabao Cup saw Spurs eliminated on penalties by Colchester United. Earlier in his reign, they were dumped out of competitions by plenty of Premier League sides, but notably teams that were clearly hungrier than themselves, sides that weren’t rotated en masse.
The Argentine insisted ahead of Wednesday’s tie with Wimbledon that these comments were taken a little out of context, that his English has improved since and he wanted to reiterate his desire to win every match and every cup. But ultimately, the performances and team selections have always spoken for themselves.
Pochettino just about got away with it on Wednesday, but the die-hard supporters and close-eye media that follow Chelsea will not be as forgiving as those at Tottenham if they are dumped out prematurely from any cup competition.