Mauricio Pochettino celebrated like we hadn’t seen him celebrate before as Chelsea manager. Đorđe Petrović became the latest instant hero by maintaining Chelsea’s tradition of goalkeeping excellence in penalty shootouts and as he parried Matt Ritchie’s effort away with both hands, the head coach leaped up with joy, fists pumping, hugging anything moving, smile as wide as the gap between where this team are at the moment and where we want to be.
But nights like these can be monumental in that journey. The team spirit, the togetherness, the belief, the mentality — it’s not something that can be really acquired on the training ground or in team meetings. Those qualities can only be truly built with wins. And then built stronger by turning wins into titles and trophies. And then doing so again, and again.
We’re certainly not there yet. But this was a nice step in the right direction, and Pochettino had plenty of praise for his players after persevering, overcoming, and eventually showing just enough quality to dispatch a Newcastle side not really interested in playing football, certainly not after we gifted them an early goal. (‘Tis the season of giving after all!)
“I am so pleased and the players deserve some credit. After conceding the way we did, we didn’t deserve to concede, it can affect any team. We reacted really well and dominated the game against a very good team like Newcastle. Then we keep pushing in the second half [...] the most important in football is to believe until the end and that was possible because we keep believing.”
“[...] These type of games are important, the way we can achieve the way to go through to the semi-final. Always it is so important. Like it is important when you don’t play well, games like Everton and Newcastle away from home, to realise in which area we need to improve. Both are really important and to really feel for this group, in the way we want to evolve and develop the ideas.
“So pleased because I think when you see the whole squad, players that weren’t involved in the game, players that were injured but they wanted to share the happiness in the middle of the pitch. I think it looks like we are a healthy group of players that only need time and our responsibility is to guide them to really improve every day. With time I think we are going to create a very good team that can compete and increase the competition and can be in the place that Chelsea should be.”
-Mauricio Pochettino; source: Football.London
Was it a great advertisement for football, for the Premier League? Not at all. It wasn’t pretty and it was often frustrating and even a bit depressing (or amusing, depending on your approach to life). But then it was also exciting, empowering, and absolutely glorious. Ah, football.