Daily Mail

Good news at last for Pochettino as returning heroes excel

- ADRIAN KAJUMBA at Stamford Bridge

MAURICIO POCHETTINO has been caused so many headaches by injuries that the sight of one of his stars returning to help Chelsea through to the Carabao Cup quarterfin­als would have been especially welcome.

On his first start since a serious hamstring problem suffered in May, Benoit Badiashile set Chelsea on their way to victory. He was back in the starting line-up along with Reece James, who has had his own fitness problems, the pair coming off after positive performanc­es while Raheem Sterling sealed Chelsea’s place in the last eight against mid-table Championsh­ip side Blackburn. Chelsea are currently in the bottom half and that has left the domestic cups looking like the most promising route to some form of success. They are now two rounds from the final. No game is a given for Chelsea and the domestic cups are important so the strength of their side was unsurprisi­ng. It included recalled captain James and Badiashile. They began like they meant business too and Blackburn looked at times a little panicky. Captain Lewis Travis was fortunate to get away with sliding in on Sterling in the box with no VAR to review the incident, while Conor Gallagher was lucky to get away with a possible handball. James went close twice from distance either side of Blackburn’s Andrew Moran forcing Robert Sanchez into a low save. Leopold Wahlstedt plunged to his left to push out Enzo Fernandez’s corner. If Blackburn’s goalkeeper had dealt more effectivel­y with Gallagher’s cross they may have remained level for a little longer.

But instead he just pawed it straight to Badiashile who side-footed Chelsea ahead, his goal-scoring joy after almost six months out with a hamstring injury shared by his team-mates. When James threatened seconds into the second half it looked like the first-half pattern was about to continue but then Blackburn had a great chance to level. Axel Disasi misjudged a long ball leaving Harry Leonard running through with a chance to put his name up in lights. Disasi had the pace to reel the Blackburn striker in and, under pressure, Leonard put a panicked finish wide. Wahlstedt was busy again keeping out efforts from Fernandez and the clever Cole Palmer who also later hit the post. But Blackburn’s keeper was left helpless when his team-mates made a mess of attempting to play out from the back and Sterling curled in Chelsea’s second.

A goal for out-of-form striker Nicolas Jackson would have topped things off for Chelsea. But he blew his best chance to silence his fierce critics — including record Premier League goalscorer Alan Shearer — as he fired wide from Sterling’s cross.

CHELSEA (4-3-3): Sanchez 6.5; James 8 (Gusto 61min, 6), Disasi 7.5, Badiashile 8 (Colwill 61, 7.5), Cucurella 7; Gallagher 7, Ugochukwu 7, Fernandez 7.5 (Matos 87); PALMER 8.5 (Madueke 87), Jackson 6 (Caicedo 76), Sterling 8.

Scorers: Badiashile 30, Sterling 59.

Manager: Mauricio Pochettino 7.5. BLACKBURN ROVERS (4-3-3): Wahlstedt 5; Brittain 6, Carter 6.5 (S Wharton 61, 6), Hill 7, Pickering 6; Garrett 6, Travis 6, Markanday 7.5 (Dolan 61, 6); A Wharton 7, Moran 6.5 (Sigurdsson 74, 6); Leonard 6 (Ennis 74, 6).

Booked: Pickering, Sigurdsson. Manager: Jon Dahl Tomasson 6. Referee: Tim Robinson 6. Attendance: Not provided.

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