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‘Proud’ Pochettino urges Chelsea to ‘keep believing’ after Carabao Cup final defeat

‘Proud’ Pochettino urges Chelsea to ‘keep believing’ after Carabao Cup final defeat

Mauricio Pochettino insists he is “proud” of his Chelsea players despite their 1-0 Carabao Cup final defeat at Wembley.

That came after the Blues had missed a hatful of chances to secure victory as Cole Palmer and Conor Gallagher both hit the woodwork, while Raheem Sterling had a goal ruled out for a tight offside in the first half.

They wilted as the game wore on though, with players growing tired as the Reds freshened up their side with numerous young academy products.

And while Pochettino concedes his side were crying out for the final whistle before van Dijk’s 118th minute winner, he rejected criticism of his players.

“We lost in the last minute of the game and it’s so painful,” he said.

“We really competed. In some periods of the game, I think we deserved more, but if you do not score with the chances that we have, I think maybe five or six big chances, it’s difficult to win the final.

“Of course, we made a few changes with Gallagher and [Ben] Chilwell coming off in extra time,” he said. “It’s true, we didn’t keep the energy that we finished with in the second half.

“I don’t know how you can describe this situation but for sure I feel proud of the players, I think they made a big effort and we are a young team and nothing to compare with Liverpool because they finished with also a few young players.”

Chelsea are back in action on Wednesday, when they face high-flying Championship club Leeds in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

The competition is their last chance at lifting some silverware this season, and should they lose, it will be a third campaign in a row without a trophy.

Given the club’s mid-table position in the Premier League, defeat only piles more pressure on Pochettino, who has struggled to win over the fan base since taking the reins at Stamford Bridge in July 2023.

But he is urging supporters to stick with him, as the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League winners attempt to return to their perch at the top of English and European football.

“I think we are going to keep strong and believing in this project and see what we can do in the future,” he added.

“They need to feel the pain. They need to feel the competition. We play for a trophy and we didn’t get it. What can you tell me to feel better? Nothing.

“They need to feel the pain like us. They need to realise we need to work more, we need to do better things, we need to improve.

“To compete at this level against a team that in the last five, six, seven years is competing for big things, it is about to arrive here first and then feel what it means to play for a big trophy.

“I remember after three or four years Liverpool lose the Champions League, they lose the Europa League, and they believe in the project.

“They were in the next seasons stronger until they got what they wanted. That is a good example if we want to challenge a team like Liverpool.

“It is not to be frustrated today because we didn’t win the trophy. It is about to take the example that we need to keep believing.”

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