Thomas Tuchel was fully prepared to admit he is thankful to have left Barnsley with a win on Thursday night, but as a source of satisfaction, pointed to the bottom-line outcome which has his side sitting among the last-eight of this season’s FA Cup.
Tammy Abraham netted the only goal of the game in the second half to separate the sides but for a large part of the game, the Blues team which had 10 changes from the weekend Premier League win, were matched by our opponents from the Championship. It was a contrast to the 6-0 win at home to Barnsley in the Carabao Cup earlier in the season.
‘I have to be honest, yes, I am relieved,’ said Tuchel before returning south, ‘but we can stop the analysis. It is already done. Chelsea through to the quarter-finals – full-stop!
‘We can clearly play better, it was not our best performance,’ he continued. ‘To cope with the difficulties today was hard for us.
‘To cope with the pressure, to escape the pressure in our own half we made some changes at half-time, then we played better in the second half, in a different structure to help the team.
‘We played it very well until we scored a very nice goal but after that, the opponent again took a lot of risks and played very aggressively. We had trouble to cope with the first challenges, trouble to cope with the second balls and so in the end it was way too deep for too many minutes.
‘We were lucky twice,’ our head coach admitted. ‘In the first half to have Kepa who saved us, and we were lucky when Tammy saved us with the header on the line, so in the end we have to admit that we struggled to play but in the cup it is sometimes like this.
‘So I don’t want to be too harsh with the guys. The circumstances were not too easy and we went through which is the most important thing.’
The clearance by Abraham which Tuchel mentioned came 14 minutes after he scored his 12th goal of the season and 12 minutes before the end of the game.
‘Clearly he made the difference,’ Tuchel agreed, ‘but with the strike you cannot leave out the pass from Billy Gilmour, you cannot leave out the run from Reece James, so it was a very nice goal where he was at the end of a very good combination. But yes, he scores decisive goals in cup games and that is good for him because for the strikers it is most important to score. And of course the stop on the line was crucial at that moment.’
In the next round of the FA Cup Chelsea are paired with the team we beat as recently as last weekend, Sheffield United.
‘Last Sunday I said afterwards that it felt like a cup game and they played it like that, and I was very happy we adapted in the way we did and accepted this challenge, because it was a very intense game and we took away a deserved win,’ said Tuchel, reacting to the cup draw.
‘It was hard for us to win and it will be hard to play against them but it is the quarter-final of the most prestigious cup competition in the world. We are happy that we can play them at Stamford Bridge because it saves us a lot of travel but we will prepare for another intense game and we will be ready, I am absolutely convinced.’