Sunday, March 3, 2024

Poch hails ‘priceless’ Gallagher after Chelsea win

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Mauricio Pochettino said match-winner Conor Gallagher is “priceless” to Chelsea after his two goals helped them to a 3-1 win at Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Monday evening.

Chelsea went into the break 1-0 down after Jefferson Lerma’s wondergoal in the first half, but Gallagher scored just a minute into the second half and then a 91st minute winner to break Palace’s resolve. Enzo Fernández added a third in the 94th minute of the match as Chelsea came away from Selhurst Park with three points.

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Gallagher’s first saw him finish well off a Malo Gusto cross, while for the second he slotted home neatly from the edge of the box to give Chelsea the win.

“I think he’s a player with a great commitment to the team, always trying to compensate every single situation,” Pochettino said of Gallagher. “It’s priceless to have a player like him. I’m so happy for him as it’s a victory we needed.”

Gallagher was linked with a move away from Chelsea in the January transfer window but he stayed put. With his contract up at the end of next season, Gallagher’s long-term future is uncertain, but Pochettino says Gallagher never entertained any thought of moving away from the club last month.

“Always he decided, what he said to me was that he wanted to stay at Chelsea,” Pochettino said. “But it’s about him and the club. I am not [worried about] these types of things, he has another year on his contract. But that’s a matter for him and the club.”

Pochettino said the club would assess the severity of Thiago Silva’s groin injury on Tuesday after he was forced off after 61 minutes, and said Malo Gusto was fatigued rather than injured later on.

Pochettino’s side headed into this match in inconsistent form. In their prior three matches, they defeats in the Premier League to Liverpool and Wolves but their last match saw them put together an impressive 3-1 victory at Aston Villa in the FA Cup. The challenge on this trip to Selhurst Park was to play like they did against Villa, and not like they did in their last two Premier League outings.

Chelsea dominated possession in the first half but only managed one shot off target, but then found a clinical edge in the second half once Pochettino had shifted to two up front with Christopher Nkunku coming on at half-time for Noni Madueke.

From there they put together their match-winning performance, playing with the same type of intensity they did against Villa. The challenge for Chelsea is to continue searching for a 90-minute showing. “That’s the consistency which we need to change,” Pochettino said.

“We need to start the game a different way, we need to try to be consistent to play and perform always in the way how we performed against Aston Villa. It’s not easy, but that’s the challenge. We needed the three points and I’m very pleased.”

Chelsea now travel to Manchester City on Sunday and then have the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool on February 25.

On the opposing side, the defeat left Hodgson downbeat. Crystal Palace sit in 15th in the league, five points off the relegation zone, and have star players Eberechi Eze, Marc Guehi and Michael Olise all sidelined.

“I’m not really in the mood if I’m being brutally honest of [talking about] positives and trying to find things to say that would cheer me up, because I don’t know what could be said that would cheer me up,” Hodgson said post-match.

“What can I say that will cheer the players up? I could possibly say, well, with the players we’ve got coming back and these guys doing so well, it bodes well for the future with the 14 games we have left.

“But of course we still don’t know when Olise, Eze will be back, so we might be battling through like we’ve done tonight for a few more games before we can look at a team which will threaten the opposition a bit more than we did today.”

But despite their poor run of form, Hodgson is adamant the team will survive the drop with January signing Adam Wharton impressing on Monday. Up next is a key match at Everton and then they are at home to Burnley. “It’s a bad period but it’s been caused by the injury situation,” Hodgson said. “It’s 14 games [left], a lot of matches and a lot of points and I think we’ve shown enough.

“So I don’t have any concerns, but there is no complacency and points are very necessary to get away from the relegation zone. This group of players are good enough and tonight gave me even more faith and belief.”

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