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Mauricio Pochettino hailed the character and personality of his players after watching Chelsea end a three-game winless run by beating Brighton in the Carabao Cup third round.
Home supporters witnessed a victory at Stamford Bridge for just the third time since March as Nicolas Jackson’s goal proved the difference between the sides and set up a fourth-round meeting with Blackburn.
Jackson struck five minutes after half-time with a composed finish into the corner from Cole Palmer’s pass, becoming the first Chelsea player to score since Enzo Fernandez netted in the second round against AFC Wimbledon on 30 August.
Pochettino has repeatedly claimed in recent weeks that performances have been better than the team’s results, and he was relieved to finally see the tide turn in what he called a deserved win.
“Very pleased with the performance again,” he said. “(I am) happy for the victory and (it is) important to go through and build our momentum. I hope to build momentum for the future from today.
“Very pleased when the strikers score, it’s important. He needed to feel the net, it was an important game for him.
“All the team was really good. If we assess, all the players were in a very good level.
“Cole is a very talented player, he was key in this victory. He’s still young, he still needs to settle in the club and the city but we saw today how good he is.
“I think they (the players) showed character and personality.”
Chelsea’s night was slightly blighted by uncertain first-half performances from former Brighton pair Robert Sanchez and Marc Cucurella.
Sanchez in goal endured a particularly torrid night, with poor distribution gifting chances to Joao Pedro and Ansu Fati, while he also repeatedly hit passes into touch.
Pochettino would not be drawn into criticism of the two.
“The first half sometimes we didn’t provide Robert and Marc good angles to play and have continuity,” he said.
“After half-time I think we fixed that and were much better. But in a difficult moment they showed character. It’s never easy to play in these circumstances. Today was a must-win, we needed to win this game.
“Sometimes the pressure to win, you can’t be perfect. In the second half we dominated the game and we deserved the victory.”
Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi defended his selection, with a number of first-team regulars having been rested following Sunday’s win over Bournemouth.
“We played good enough to win the game but to win you have to score,” he said.
“We didn’t score in the first half when we had many chances to score. Not difficult chances. We were not able to score, then you keep the game open.
“I am sorry, I’m disappointed for the result because I want to compete in four competitions. I think the first XI was enough to win the game.
“We have to adapt, we have to improve, The young players have to progress, but quickly, because in football we don’t have time.
“I don’t want to make any excuses. It was the right first XI to win the game.”
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