Mauricio Pochettino says Chelsea’s victory over Brighton in the third round of the Carabao Cup ‘must be’ the turning point of their season.
Nicolas Jackson scored the only goal in an intense game to see the Blues pick up their first win in four matches and set up a last-16 tie against Championship side Blackburn Rovers.
Chelsea have struggled to find the net this season and won just one of their six games in the Premier League, and Pochettino says the win over the Seagulls must be the result to kick-start their campaign.
“It should be, it must be,” he said. “It’s about time. Today there were many positive things – we saw the players fighting to give their best.”
Creating chances has not been a problem for Pochettino’s side and they are above Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United for expected goals this season with 11.61, but they have found the net just five times in the league so far.
Chelsea and Brighton have dealt with each other a lot in the past 12 months with 10 members of staff having moved to Stamford Bridge for around £200m – and the match carried an extra edge.
Jackson’s winning strike – which sealed a home tie against Blackburn in the week commencing 30 October – came in the 50th minute after a fine move.
Ian Maatsen played the ball to Cole Palmer – excellent on his first start – who put the ball through Jan Paul van Hecke’s legs for Jackson to sweep into the bottom corner.
That goal was the first Chelsea had scored in four matches and gave them a much-needed boost as Pochettino looks to get his project moving in the right direction.
Solly March had the chance to get Brighton level late in the second half when he was left unmarked, but his header was straight at former Seagulls keeper Robert Sanchez.
Chelsea’s line-up included three former Brighton players and every time they touched the ball early in the match they were jeered by their former supporters.
Kaoru Mitoma had the first big opportunity when he skipped past Marc Cucurella and had his cross blocked by Sanchez.
The Spanish keeper, who joined from Brighton for £25m in the summer, had a difficult evening with the ball at his feet during the match.
Sanchez kicked the ball directly out of play a number of times, much to the enjoyment of the Brighton fans.
One sloppy pass also went straight to Joao Pedro on the edge of his own penalty area, but the mistake wasn’t punished as the Brazilian striker chipped over the bar.
Jackson was denied a second goal by Brighton keeper Bart Verbruggen’s block and then saw a 71st-minute finish ruled out for offside.
March tested Sanchez before Joao Pedro volleyed over from inside the area as the visitors pushed for an equaliser that didn’t come.
Palmer shines on first Chelsea start
A lot has been made of the number of attacking players Chelsea have signed and their lack of goals.
Palmer arrived for £42.5m from Manchester City with Pochettino saying the midfielder had the right ‘profile’ for the club.
Named in the starting XI for the first time since joining, Palmer showed exactly the reason why Chelsea decided to pay that amount of money for him at just 21.
“I think the team was really good,” added Pochettino. “If we assess all of the players, I think we are in a very good level.
“Cole is a very talented player, he was key in this victory. Still young, still needs to settle in the club, not only the team, but in the club and the city. I think we saw how good he is.”