'Amazing' Emiliano Martinez helps Aston Villa earn FA Cup replay with Chelsea

Argentine goalkeeper makes crucial stops at Stamford Bridge as FA Cup fourth-round tie finishes goalless

Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez saves from Chelsea's Cole Palmer during the FA Cup fourth match at Stamford Bridge on January 26, 2024. AP
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Mauricio Pochettino hailed an “amazing” performance from Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez that helped deny his team an FA Cup fourth-round victory on Friday night.

The match at Stamford Bridge finished goalless thanks to a combination of poor finishing and a Martinez wonder show, although home keeper Djordje Petrovi also made several key stops as Villa took charge in the second half against a tiring Blues side.

Pochettino's mean, who secured a place in the League Cup final on Tuesday thanks to a 6-1 thumping of second-tier Middlesbrough – will now have to go again at Villa Park to earn a fifth-round spot.

Noni Madueke and Cole Palmer both found themselves through on goal in the first half only for Martinez to spread himself well and the block the one-on-one chances.

The Argentine also made two excellent saves to prevent own goals, keeping out a Douglas Luiz header and Alex Moreno's poked clearance after a low cross from Palmer.

Luiz thought he had given Villa 12th-minute lead in west London, tapping into an open net after Moussa Diaby's shot deflected into his path. But the video assistant referee ruled out the goal, judging the Villa midfielder had controlled the ball with his hand.

“This type of games are very even,” said Pochettino. “When you face a team like Aston Villa, always it’s difficult. We didn’t score but we created chances. I trust and believe in my players playing this way, we are going to score.

“We came from Tuesday, we scored six so today should be good. But their keeper is an amazing keeper, he’s really good. Sometimes you need some luck to score.

“We dominated more of the beginning. Then in the second half, after 70 minutes, we start to drop our energy because we played three days ago, and of course that is a massive difference.”

Chelsea lost defender Levi Colwill to injury during the warm-up, with 20-year-old academy graduate Alfie Gilchrist drafted into the starting XI.

Pochettino confirmed Colwill’s injury is not serious and emphasised his belief in Gilchrist as a capable stand-in.

“It’s not so bad, it’s some small issue that maybe he didn’t feel comfortable,” he said. “We knew before we might not start with him. We hope he will train tomorrow.

“The young players need time to be calm and relaxed, not to spend too much energy thinking on the game. But he was really good. He’s going to grow and be more mature in future.

“He’s showing, and we are giving the opportunity for him to build his career. It’s important for all of the academy players have ability to show they can cope with the pressure of playing for Chelsea. We’ll see if he can reach the level we expect.”

Martinez, meanwhile, is focused on helping his team win their first trophy since the 1996 League Cup, having last won the FA Cup in 1957.

Villa, who finished last season seventh in the Premier League having undergone an impressive turnaround in fortunes under manager Unai Emery, are currently fourth in the table, four points behind leaders Liverpool.

They are also through to the Europa Conference league last 16 having finished top of their group, winning four out of six matches, losing just once.

“We want to give the fans a cup run, said the 2022 World Cup winner with Argentina. “We want to give them the trophy, we want to give them Champions League football.

“We had the best year in Villa history in terms of points last year. We want to give the fans something at the end of the season.

“That's why they come in numbers, they feel connected with the team. I feel the same way with the national team, with Argentina. We felt the same way with our fans and we repaid them with titles. I feel something similar here.”

It is a sentiment shared by Emery. “This competition is important for everybody,” said the Spanish coach. “The message is clear, we want to try to be contenders in this competition.

“Of course it is difficult, but today we showed it. I have to accept this draw and that we will now play at home and be motivated with our supporters.

“We are going to be at Villa Park trying to enjoy this, because we showed tonight that we are competitive and we can be contenders as well for this competition.”

The two teams must now shift focus back to league duties, with Aston Villa hosting Newcastle on Tuesday, and Chelsea at Liverpool 24 hours later.

Updated: January 27, 2024, 7:04 AM