Douglas Luiz is rejected by VAR as Aston Villa take Chelsea to an FA Cup replay.

Douglas Luiz is rejected by VAR as Aston Villa take Chelsea to an FA Cup replay.

Three days after Chelsea demonstrated their explosive offensive potential to win a spot in a Wembley final, the fact that they are still a work in progress under Mauricio Pochettino was exposed when they withstood a late assault to clinch an FA Cup replay against Aston Villa.

Chelsea had just 72 hours of preparation after defeating Middlesbrough 6-1 to go to the Carabao Cup final, whilst Villa had not played since January 14th.

Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez noted the difference in buildup following a man-of-the-match performance, allowing Unai Emery’s team to maintain a third straight clean sheet in all competitions.

“We had a week off, and then you draw Chelsea away,” he went on to say. “We knew it was going to be tough but we had 6,000 supporters and we want to go on a Cup run.”They had opportunities and began the game brightly. They didn’t score, and I believe we had really excellent opportunities to win the game.”

Chelsea have been in imperious form at Stamford Bridge, with Pochettino’s side undefeated in their past nine home games in all competitions. The Blues have also won their past eight FA Cup home games, but Villa believed they had torn up the form book when they took the lead in the 12th minute. A well-crafted set piece resulted in Moussa Diaby’s long-range drive bouncing off youngster Alfie Gilchrist into the path of Douglas Luiz, who scored into an empty goal.

VAR determined that Douglas Luiz had used his hand, and the referee, Robert Jones, had no option but to reject the goal. The 6,000 away supporters voiced their displeasure, but they were quickly drowned out by cries of relief from the home crowd.

Minutes later, Martínez saved Noni Madueke’s shot, adding to the game’s high tempo. Moments later, the Argentinian saved his teammate Clément Lenglet’s blushes by denying Cole Palmer from close range.

Chelsea’s lack of cutting edge stopped them from capitalizing on their domination, with Pochettino’s side unable to take any of their opportunities despite dictating proceedings. He acknowledged the problem, but insisted that his youthful group will continue to grow.

“They [Villa] have amazing players in attack,” Pochettino added. “They did not score, and we maintained a clean sheet. It’s tough to play against a team like Aston Villa. Of course, we did not score, but we did generate opportunities. I trust and believe in my guys, and I am certain that by playing this style, we will score.”

Pochettino may use the fact that Chelsea has already surpassed their goal total from last season in half as many games to back up his claims, but this was one of rare opportunities. When a unique chance arose, neither side was able to capitalize.

In the 67th minute, Cole Palmer had a chance to break the stalemate when Martínez’s bad clearance struck him on the back. However, he mis-hit his effort, which trickled back to the relieved Villa goalkeeper.

Djordje Petrovic then palmed away an Ollie Watkins shot 74 minutes in, before keeping out Matty Cash’s ferocious left-foot attempt as Emery’s side piled on the pressure.

It wasn’t enough, as Chelsea fought through the last 15 minutes to force a replay.

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