Klopp pumps up the volume, and Salah could eclipse Drogba – the weekend's best stats

Klopp pumps up the volume, and Salah could eclipse Drogba – the weekend's best stats
Jurgen Klopp celebrates a Liverpool goal

Jurgen Klopp once said he liked his teams to play “heavy metal” football.

It is a quote that has continued to ring in the Liverpool manager’s ears, regularly being used to describe his footballing philosophy.

On Saturday, Klopp celebrated his 50th home Premier League game in charge of the Reds – his 99th overall – with a thumping 5-0 win over Watford.

And the numbers show the German is bringing more entertainment to Anfield than an Iron Maiden concert.

The Reds have averaged 2.22 goals per home game since Klopp took over in October 2015 – their highest ratio in the Premier League under any manager.

However, it has proved to be a risk-and-reward style.

Liverpool have conceded more goals in their first 50 home league games under Klopp (44) than they did under Evans (34), Houllier (42) and Benitez (26), with only Rodgers’ side leaking more (45).

Combining these two statistics to calculate the total goals per match shows those going to Anfield are certainly getting value for money during Klopp’s reign.

That’s not all necessarily good news for Reds fans – Klopp has won fewer league games in his first half-century (28) than Evans (33), Houllier (32), Benitez (37) or Rodgers (30).

Salah – the African king of the Premier League?

“Mo Salah! Mo Salah! Mo Salah! Running down the wing, Salah la-la-la la-ahh, the Egyptian king!”

The Egyptian forward’s four-goal haul for Liverpool against Watford at Anfield on Saturday took him to 28 top-flight goals this season.

Only one other African player has scored more in a single campaign.

Guess who is looking over his shoulder.

No surprise, is it? Chelsea legend Didier Drogba.

The Ivorian striker led the scoring charts with 29 goals as the Blues swept all before them in 2009-10. However, he ended up with something that season which Salah surely won’t get this season…

Didier Drogba won the Premier League with Chelsea in 2010

…a Premier League title winners’ medal.

Baggies not got the stomach for the fight?

West Brom fan Adrian Chiles

If West Bromwich Albion had won all the games in which they had taken the lead this season, they would be safe and sound.

The brittle Baggies have lost 24 points from winning positions in the Premier League – more than any other team.

Albion threw away more points on Saturday when they led 1-0 at Bournemouth before succumbing to a 2-1 defeat.

“We got in a great position, made a couple of errors and got punished, which has been the story of our season,” manager Alan Pardew said afterwards.

Albion have taken the lead four times in their past eight games without going on to win, and have blown an advantage in a total of 10 matches.

With seven games still remaining, Pardew’s side have a strong chance of earning an unwanted place among the all-time Premier League bottlers.

Entertainment value

Fewest wins, fewest points, fewest goals… West Brom fans have suffered more misery than any other set of Premier League supporters this season.

But here’s a (very) small consolation for them: Huddersfield supporters have actually trudged home from the most games without even being able to cheer a goal.

Town drew another blank in Saturday’s home defeat by fellow strugglers Crystal Palace, a result that dragged them closer to the drop zone.

History tells us that Terriers fans have a right to be worried about their lack of firepower.

That’s because 23 of the 44 teams (52%) who have failed to score in 17 games or more have gone on to be relegated.

And if David Wagner’s side continue to draw blanks then the odds of an instant return to the Championship increase.

Fifteen of the 23 teams (65%) who have failed to score in 18 or more matches have been relegated.

But hope for Huddersfield comes from across West Yorkshire…

George Graham led Leeds United to 11th place in 1996-97

…George Graham led Leeds United to an 11th-place finish in 1996-97 – despite his side failing to score in 21 of their 38 games.

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Spain furious as Romania qualify for 2019 World Cup

Spain furious as Romania qualify for 2019 World Cup
Spanish players confront referee Vlad Iordachescu

Romania qualified for the 2019 Rugby World Cup after Spain suffered a shock 18-10 loss to Belgium, with ugly scenes marring the end of Sunday’s match.

Spain had looked set to qualify for the first time since 1999, but their defeat in Brussels handed Romania the automatic European qualifying spot.

Spanish players confronted referee Vlad Iordachescu, a Romanian, at the final whistle in their loss to Belgium.

“We weren’t allowed to play,” said Spain coach Santiago Santos.

“The referee kept stopping the game at every moment. Our game was stopped continuously, the Belgians benefited from many more decisions.

“The difference between penalties against us and for us was huge. When we were trying to come back in the game the play kept on being interrupted.”

Spain must now beat Portugal in a playoff to maintain any hopes of reaching the 2019 tournament in Japan, with the winner facing Samoa in a two-legged tie.

Rugby Europe issued a statement following the match clarifying its procedure for the selection of match officials.

“Referees’ appointments for the Rugby Europe Championship have been made ahead of the competition by an independent and neutral skilled committee,” it said.

“It would be inappropriate to comment on match official performance before the usual full review has been undertaken.”

World Rugby also told BBC Sport it would not comment on the match until it had received a full review.

Spain and Belgium

Spain, ranked 19th in the world, were overwhelming favourites to beat 25th-ranked Belgium on Sunday.

But on a muddy pitch worsened by overnight snow they failed to get up to full speed and their players, angered by the way the game was officiated, were involved in heated exchanges with both the Belgian players and referee Iordachescu at the end of the match.

Members of the Spanish coaching staff were forced to restrain their players, while the referee had to be escorted off the pitch.

Romania have now extended their record of competing at every World Cup since its inception in 1987.

The Oaks lost 25-16 to Georgia in Tbilisi on Sunday but compiled 29 points in qualifying matches across the last two Rugby Europe Championships – three more than Spain.

Georgia topped the standings but having already qualified for the World Cup in Japan courtesy of their third-place pool finish in the 2015 edition, points from the games against them did not count towards qualification.

Ronaldo scores 50th career hat-trick as Real hit six past Girona

Ronaldo scores 50th career hat-trick as Real hit six past Girona
Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the 50th hat-trick of his career as Real Madrid beat Girona to move up to third in La Liga.

Ronaldo converted Toni Kroos’ pass, but Cristhian Stuani’s header made it 1-1.

Real retook the lead with a powerful strike from Ronaldo and he then set up Lucas Vazquez for the hosts’ third before completing his hat-trick.

Stuani headed in Girona’s second, Gareth Bale scored Real’s fifth, Juanpe pulled one back but Ronaldo got his fourth and Real’s sixth in injury time.

The result takes Real, Spanish champions last season, above Valencia but they are still four points behind city rivals Atletico, who fell to a surprise 2-1 loss at Villarreal.

Real are still 15 points behind leaders Barcelona, who won 2-0 at home to Athletic Bilbao earlier on Sunday.

How the goals went in

1-0, Ronaldo (10 mins): Real Madrid played a short corner, with Toni Kroos and Marcelo working the training ground routine. Kroos spotted the movement of Ronaldo, who slotted in a first-time finish into the far side of the net.

1-1, Stuani (29 mins): Dani Carvajal gave a needless free-kick and Alex Granell’s set piece was met by former Middlesbrough striker Stuani, who powered a header past Keylor Navas.

2-1, Ronaldo (48 mins): Karim Benzema played a through ball to Ronaldo, who ran on to it and smashed a first-time shot, which went in off the underside of the crossbar.

3-1, Vazquez (58 mins): A lovely team move involving Marcelo, Benzema and Ronaldo ended with the Portuguese setting up Vazquez and he finished into the bottom corner.

4-1, Ronaldo (64 mins): Ronaldo completed the 50th hat-trick for club and country in his career when he steered in the rebound after Benzema’s effort had been pushed away by goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.

4-2, Stuani (68 mins): Stuani bagged his second of the game, outmuscling Dani Carvajal at the back post to head in his second goal.

5-2, Bale (86 mins): Two former Tottenham players combined as Luka Modric played the ball through to substitute Gareth Bale and the Welshman beat the offside trap and clipped a lovely finish past Bounou.

5-3, Juanpe (89 mins): Girona defender Juanpe was left unmarked six yards out and he headed in Girona’s third.

6-3, Ronaldo (91 mins): Ronaldo had the final say as he finished from 12 yards from Kroos’ pass for his fourth of the game and Real’s sixth.

21 goals in 11 games – Ronaldo’s incredible form

Cristiano Ronaldo

  • Sunday, 21 January, La Liga – Real Madrid 7-1 Deportivo La Coruna (Ronaldo 2)
  • Saturday, 27 January, La Liga – Valencia 1-4 Real Madrid (Ronaldo 2)
  • Saturday, 3 February, La Liga – Levante 2-2 Real Madrid (no Ronaldo goals)
  • Saturday, 10 February, La Liga – Real Madrid 5-2 Real Sociedad (Ronaldo 3)
  • Wednesday, 14 February, Champions League – Real Madrid 3-1 Paris St-Germain (Ronaldo 2)
  • Sunday, 18 February, La Liga – Real Betis 3-5 Real Madrid (Ronaldo 1)
  • Saturday, 24 February, La Liga – Real Madrid 4-0 Alaves (Ronaldo 2)
  • Saturday, 3 March, La Liga – Real Madrid 3-1 Getafe (Ronaldo 2)
  • Tuesday, 6 March, Champions League – Paris St-Germain 1-2 Real Madrid (Ronaldo 1)
  • Saturday, 10 March, La Liga – Eibar 1-2 Real Madrid (Ronaldo 2)
  • Sunday, 18 March, La Liga – Real Madrid 6-3 Girona (Ronaldo 4)

More to follow.

Line-ups

Real Madrid

  • 1Navas
  • 2CarvajalBooked at 52mins
  • 5Varane
  • 6Nacho
  • 12Marcelo
  • 17Vázquez
  • 23KovacicSubstituted forModricat 71′minutes
  • 8Kroos
  • 20AsensioSubstituted forBaleat 70′minutes
  • 9BenzemaSubstituted forIscoat 83′minutes
  • 7Ronaldo

Substitutes

  • 3Vallejo
  • 10Modric
  • 11Bale
  • 13Casilla
  • 14Casemiro
  • 15Hernández
  • 22Isco

Girona

  • 13Bounou
  • 4Ramalho
  • 2Bernardo
  • 15Ramírez López
  • 25MaffeoSubstituted forBenítezat 83′minutes
  • 8Pons
  • 6Granell NoguéBooked at 90mins
  • 3MojicaBooked at 30mins
  • 9Portugués Manzanera
  • 24GarcíaSubstituted forLozanoat 69′minutes
  • 7StuaniSubstituted forOlungaat 87′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Iraizoz
  • 11Benítez
  • 14Olunga
  • 16Timor
  • 19Lozano
  • 20Muniesa
  • 23García
Referee:
Jesús Gil Manzano
Attendance:
59,097

Match Stats

Home TeamReal MadridAway TeamGirona
Possession
Home65%
Away35%
Shots
Home20
Away10
Shots on Target
Home14
Away6
Corners
Home6
Away7
Fouls
Home13
Away13

Live Text

Match ends, Real Madrid 6, Girona 3.

Booking

Álex Granell (Girona) is shown the yellow card.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Real Madrid 6, Girona 3.

Corner, Girona. Conceded by Keylor Navas.

Attempt saved. Michael Olunga (Girona) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the top left corner.

Foul by Marcelo (Real Madrid).

Portu (Girona) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Goal!

Goal! Real Madrid 6, Girona 3. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Toni Kroos with a through ball.

Luka Modric (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Álex Granell (Girona).

Goal!

Goal! Real Madrid 5, Girona 3. Juanpe (Girona) header from the centre of the box to the top left corner. Assisted by Álex Granell with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Girona. Conceded by Keylor Navas.

Attempt saved. Portu (Girona) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the top right corner. Assisted by Michael Olunga.

Substitution

Substitution, Girona. Michael Olunga replaces Cristhian Stuani.

Goal!

Goal! Real Madrid 5, Girona 2. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Luka Modric with a through ball.

Offside, Girona. Johan Mojica tries a through ball, but Cristhian Stuani is caught offside.

Foul by Luka Modric (Real Madrid).

Anthony Lozano (Girona) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Substitution

Substitution, Girona. Aday Benítez replaces Pablo Maffeo.

Substitution

Substitution, Real Madrid. Isco replaces Karim Benzema.

Corner, Girona. Conceded by Keylor Navas.

Attempt missed. Cristhian Stuani (Girona) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Álex Granell with a cross following a set piece situation.

Foul by Nacho (Real Madrid).

Pablo Maffeo (Girona) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid).

Johan Mojica (Girona) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Johan Mojica (Girona).

Foul by Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid).

Anthony Lozano (Girona) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Corner, Girona. Conceded by Raphael Varane.

Substitution

Substitution, Real Madrid. Luka Modric replaces Mateo Kovacic.

Substitution

Substitution, Real Madrid. Gareth Bale replaces Marco Asensio.

Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Cristhian Stuani (Girona).

Substitution

Substitution, Girona. Anthony Lozano replaces Borja García.

Marco Asensio (Real Madrid) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Pere Pons (Girona).

Goal!

Goal! Real Madrid 4, Girona 2. Cristhian Stuani (Girona) header from very close range to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Borja García with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Girona. Conceded by Nacho.

goal

Garth's Team of the Week – who turns all he touches to gold, and who erupted spectacularly?

Garth's Team of the Week – who turns all he touches to gold, and who erupted spectacularly?
Garth's team of the week

There were Premier League wins this weekend for Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, Everton and Liverpool, for whom Mohamed Salah scored four times, while Tottenham, Manchester United, Southampton and Chelsea made it through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

But who has impressed me most? Here is my team for this week…

Garth's team of the week

Goalkeeper – Michel Vorm (Tottenham)

He had practically nothing to do until Martin Olsson hit a 20-yard stinger in the hope it might get Swansea back into the game. It would have done had Michel Vorm not been in superb form. Not only did Vorm deny Olsson what would have been a fabulous goal but the former Swansea keeper immediately popped up like a jack-in-the box to make a double save, this time from Tammy Abraham who was only six yards out. An excellent performance from Tottenham’s ‘second choice’ keeper.

Michel Vorm

Did you know? Michel Vorm made two saves against previous employers Swansea, keeping his first clean sheet away from home since February 2017 (against Fulham).

Defence – Cedric Soares (Southampton), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), James Tomkins (Crystal Palace), Andy Robertson (Liverpool)

Defenders

Cedric Soares: There have been five teams who have played in an FA Cup final and been relegated in the same season and Southampton could join them. Their win against Wigan gave me mixed feelings. I’m not entirely sure of the merits of Mark Hughes walking straight into a job, having taken Stoke to the brink of relegation, but that’s football. What did impress me was Cedric Soares’ superb finish that clinched the tie. The ball to him by Nathan Redmond was not an easy pass to take but the full-back brought it under control and finished brilliantly.

Did you know? Soares, in what was his 88th appearance, scored his first Southampton goal.

Cesar Azpilicueta: It has been a very challenging week for Chelsea and lesser teams might have crumbled after they were destroyed by Barcelona in the Champions League in midweek. All credit however to their captain, Cesar Azpilicueta, who rallied his troops against a determined Leicester and led them into another FA Cup semi-final. There have been plenty of shenanigans going on at Stamford Bridge this season and they can be traced back to the defeat in last season’s FA Cup final defeat against Arsenal. Chelsea now have a chance to rectify that appalling performance by beating Southampton. It might even save Antonio Conte’s job.

Did you know? Only N’Golo Kante (12) gained possession back more often than Azpilicueta (11) against Leicester.

James Tomkins: It’s about time Crystal Palace had some good fortune. The Eagles were desperately unlucky at home to Spurs and Manchester United, and deserved something for their efforts in both games. The goal by James Tomkins away at Huddersfield was a tad fortunate but Roy Hodgson won’t lose a wink of sleep over that. Tomkins would have had a second but for some excellent defending on the line by Steve Mounie. Out of the bottom three they may be, but Palace are still involved in a terrible scrap for survival.

Did you know? In addition to opening the scoring at Huddersfield, Tomkins also made a team-high 11 clearances.

Andy Robertson: What a cross from Andy Robertson for Mohamed Salah. It was a world-class ball from a young Scot who has only played a handful of games for club and country. The Champions League draw has pulled Liverpool versus Manchester City out as the tie of the round. It will be a game of huge importance for both clubs. I will be very interested to see how Robertson copes in that environment.

Did you know? As well as recovering possession 12 times, the Liverpool full-back provided the assist for Salah’s second goal of the game.

Midfield – Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace), Christian Eriksen (Tottenham), Nemanja Matic (Manchester United)

Midfielders

Luka Milivojevic: It’s not been an easy season for Crystal Palace but the victory away at Huddersfield will go a long way to making the Eagles feel an awful lot better. The arrival of Luka Milivojevic in midfield has provided an element of steel and a lot of nerve. The Serbia international has produced important penalty conversions during this Premier League campaign for the Eagles but none more so than against Huddersfield. Palace are going to have to demonstrate nerves of steel if they are going to survive this season. Milivojevic definitely has what it takes in that department.

Did you know? After yet another goal from the penalty spot, Milivojevic has now netted six penalties in the Premier League this season – more than any other player.

Nemanja Matic: Can anyone explain why Antonio Conte sold Matic to one of his main rivals? I didn’t understand it at the time and it makes even less sense to me now. Against Brighton the Serbia international was imperious. Matic is not a star and refuses to crave the limelight in the same manner as Paul Pogba for example – although there is nothing wrong with that if you are performing. However Matic joining United has left Chelsea, and more importantly Conte, exposed and placed United in a much more favourable position. Exceptionally poor judgment by Conte.

Did you know? In Saturday’s game between Manchester United and Brighton, no player had more touches of the ball than Matic (136).

Christian Eriksen: This was an impressive performance by Spurs and in particular Christian Eriksen. Tottenham dominated Swansea and find themselves in the semi-final of the FA Cup for the second consecutive year. Meanwhile Eriksen strolled through this game with such consummate ease there were times you thought it was a training session. The question now is whether Spurs can take advantage of their current rented accommodation and win a trophy. If so, Wembley would have been useful after all.

Did you know? Eriksen had more shots (6), more shots on target (5), scored more goals (2) and made more key passes (6) than any other player on the pitch against Swansea.

Forwards – Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United), Cenk Tosun (Everton)

Strikers

Mohammed Salah: Everything this man touches seems to turn to gold. Thirty-six goals in 41 appearances for Liverpool is quite extraordinary. Former Liverpool greats like Peter Thompson and Steve Highway never got anywhere near that return. Liverpool fans may have to brace themselves, however, for an audacious bid from Real Madrid in the summer. This lad is having the same impact across Europe as Gareth Bale had in his final season at Tottenham. And we all know what happened after that.

Did you know? Salah scored with 100% of his shots against Watford, netting four times in a 5-0 win for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

Cenk Tosun: I haven’t been totally convinced by Tosun’s performances since he arrived at Goodison Park and I rather suspect neither has Sam Allardyce. To suddenly single Tosun out for special praise is a sure indication of the manager’s relief that the striker (who wasn’t cheap) is now hitting the back of the net on a more regular basis. His two goals against Stoke, in appalling conditions, smacked of a natural striker’s instincts. Allardyce now suggests 40 points allows Everton the luxury of building for next season. I suggest those building blocks centre on Tosun scoring 20 goals otherwise both manager and striker could end up on Everton’s cutting-room floor.

Did you know? The Turkey international netted his double from just three shots on target at the Bet365 Stadium.

Romelu Lukaku: Romelu Lukaku is looking more like Didier Drogba the more I see him. From his first headed clearance on the edge of his own six-yard box, to his coolly taken opening goal, the United striker has had a resurgence in form and looks a powerhouse. I have seen him in this form for Everton, of course, but he is developing into a much better team player and manager Jose Mourinho must take the credit for that.

Did you know? No other Premier League player has scored in more games in 2018 than Romelu Lukaku (9 games).

You’ve seen my picks this week. But who would you go for?

Choose your XI from the shortlist selected by BBC Sport journalists and share it with your friends.

Pick your Team of the Week

Pick your XI from our list and share with your friends.

Garth's Team of the Week - who turns all he touches to gold, and who erupted spectacularly?

The Crooks of the matter…

Mourinho’s midweek news conference rant was the best television I’ve seen in years. Every now and then a top manager will concede to the pressure and go into meltdown. I’ve seen Rafa Benitez do it while he was managing Liverpool, Arsene Wenger completely lose it on the touchline with Martin Jol and Alan Pardew, and who can forget Kevin Keegan’s ‘I would just love it’ outburst which precipitated the end of Newcastle United’s title hopes. All brought about due to extreme pressure.

Mourinho’s verbal explosion reminded me of the intransigent Brian Clough at his best. The nation loved to hate Clough. The former Nottingham Forest manager was at his most entertaining when under siege. He was merciless with signings that failed him, and totally dismissive of stars. In fact the bigger the star, the more dismissive he was of them. Mourinho comes from the same school and, like Clough, the most important man in the club is himself. This is his style and it has served him well. For both men, failure was never an option and they will defend themselves and their ‘record’ when under attack zealously, which is why Mourinho’s outburst was so interesting. And, by the way, factually correct.

I have arguably been, and remain, one of Mourinho’s biggest critics. Not because I don’t like him but because I don’t like his brand of football. If Mourinho was to ditch this dreadful but successful functional game he insists on playing for something more worthy of the team he manages, he would get the love and affection he desperately craves – as Clough did. In the absence of that, and winning trophies, he will continue to get dog’s abuse from all quarters of the press and a section of United fans. We, in return, will get the occasional outburst – but even Mount Vesuvius erupts every now and then.

Jose Mourinho

FA Cup: Chelsea boss Antonio Conte targets victory after final defeat in 2017

FA Cup: Chelsea boss Antonio Conte targets victory after final defeat in 2017

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Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said he hopes to make up for his side’s FA Cup final loss at Wembley last season by lifting the trophy in May.

Conte’s side lost 2-1 in the 2017 FA Cup final to Arsenal and will play Southampton in the 2018 semi-finals after beating Leicester 2-1 on Sunday.

“This trophy is very important for the country,” said the Italian.

“This season our target is to try to reach the final again, and last season it was a pity to lose the final.”

Conte, who guided Chelsea to the Premier League title in 2016-17, added: “We are able to reach the final and we want to change the result compared with last season.

“We want to do our best in every competition, to give the best satisfaction to our fans.”

Alvaro Morata gave Chelsea the lead at the King Power Stadium before Jamie Vardy’s equaliser took the tie into extra time, when Pedro headed in a winner.

Manchester United and Tottenham, second and fourth respectively in the Premier League, meet in the other Wembley semi-final with Chelsea taking on a Southampton side who are 18th in the league and have just appointed Mark Hughes to replace the sacked Mauricio Pellegrino.

However, Conte dismissed suggestions that his side had an easy draw.

“When you arrive at this point of the tournament, it’s very difficult to consider it an easy game,” added Conte. “Don’t forget Manchester City were eliminated against Wigan.

“There is a semi-final to play before reaching the final. Every game is very difficult, it will be very difficult against Southampton and we must be ready to fight, to reach the final at Wembley for a second time in a row.”

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Pedro, whose winning goal was just the second he has scored in 15 appearances, said: “It was good to score for my confidence and to get to the next round.

“It was hard to find the pass in between the lines. Leicester defended very well and pressed high.

“We have a good opportunity to go to the final and fight for a place in the top four [of the Premier League]. But now is the moment to relax and enjoy this win.”

Leicester manager Claude Puel felt his side deserved more, telling BBC Sport: “I’m a bit upset because we deserved another result.

“They found a good clinical edge. I’m proud of my players because it was a game with a high level against a good team.”

‘Reserves of character and moments of quality’ – Analysis

BBC Sport chief football writer Phil McNulty

Old habits die hard and when asked to dig deep, Chelsea were up to the task to record a win that was a credit to players and manager.

There was much riding on this FA Cup quarter-final at Leicester City – not only as Chelsea’s only route to success this season but also to keep the campaign right on track.

Lose at the King Power Stadium and Chelsea’s season ran the risk of fizzling out after the Champions League loss at Barcelona, even with a top-four place still to fight for.

The manner of this victory, demonstrating reserves of character and moments of quality, not only kept them on course for silverware, but will also keep confidence high that they can still make the top four, even though they are five points behind fourth-placed Tottenham.

Pedro

It seems certain that manager Antonio Conte will leave at the end of the season and yet his players are still clearly playing for him. He remains in huge favour too with Chelsea’s supporters, who delivered vociferous backing to the Italian amid freezing temperatures at Leicester.

Previous Chelsea managers have had to deal with squad discord in the closing chapters of their reign. These players are still performing for Conte; the fans still trust him.

Conte was able to count on key contributions from his key players. Alvaro Morata took a physical buffeting but scored a crucial goal while Willian was the creator, N’Golo Kante the bedrock.

The wild card came in the decisive moment, when the unlikely figure of Pedro rose ahead of Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel to head in the extra-time winner.

Leicester, who played their part in a fine quarter-final, thought the force was with them after Jamie Vardy’s equaliser forced extra-time but this Chelsea side is not to be underestimated – or offered the sort of gift Schmeichel presented with his ill-judged dash to try to claim Kante’s cross.

Chelsea and Conte have been surrounded by plenty of noise this season – but if they keep playing like this, they could still end up with a trophy.

‘Chelsea came up with right answers’

Former England striker Alan Shearer on BBC One

Antonio Conte made his changes at the right time. When the manager puts on his substitutes, he asks them to affect the game in the right way and Pedro did that, albeit from a goalkeeping error.

Credit to Chelsea – they kept going. There have been some questions about the attitude of some players at that club over the years but they came up with the right answer after Barcelona and in difficult circumstances. They saw it through and deserve credit for that.

‘A good traditional FA Cup tie’ – Your view

Mercian: That was a good traditional FA Cup tie, credit to both teams.

Scott: No matter how bad a season a good team has, they always come good somewhere. Chelsea showed why they’re Premier League champions, if only for a few weeks longer. Wembley beckons. A day to forget for Schmeichel though.

Inge: Well, that means a fight between the ex-Champions League teams and Southampton. (Hopefully the Saints win the cup.)

Donald: Chelsea are the first team to go to extra time twice in the FA Cup this season. I reckon the cup is theirs to lose. The stars are on their side.

Shuvam: So Chelsea have beaten the Canaries, Magpies, Tigers and Foxes en route to the semi-finals. Good collection to open a new zoo.