Conor Gallagher keeps his nerve as Chelsea beat Leeds to reach last eight

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Conor Gallagher;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Conor Gallagher</a> scores from <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Enzo Fernández;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Enzo Fernández</a>’s pass to secure a 3-2 win for <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Chelsea;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Chelsea</a> against Leeds.</span><span>Photograph: Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC/Getty Images</span>

There was no problem with Chelsea’s character. Three days after going to extra time against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final, they managed to find an extra surge of energy after being outplayed for long spells by Leeds.

Enzo Fernández, a World Cup winner who needs to accept more responsibility more often, was justified in accepting the acclaim after his gorgeous assist for Conor Gallagher’s late winner ensured Chelsea did not pay for their scratchy performance in this entertaining FA Cup tie.

Related: Danns double sinks Southampton as youthful Liverpool march on in FA Cup

Yet while Mauricio Pochettino cele­brated his chaotic young side going through to face Leicester at home in the last eight, he will know that this win was far from convincing. Chelsea, who will have to do much more to rid themselves of their “blue billion-pound bottle jobs” tag, easily could have been dumped out.

There is still little evidence that Pochettino is any closer to giving Chelsea an identity. Sometimes their players burst into life and produce moments of quality. Sometimes they look addicted to giving the ball away in their own area. Sometimes it looks as if they have never met each other.

It cannot be easy for Pochettino to make sense of it all. He will have known that Leeds, second in the Championship, were far more ­coherent despite electing not to pick their strongest 11.

The first meeting between these sides in this competition since the 1970 final began with Chelsea struggling to rid themselves of the lethargy that afflicted them against Liverpool.

Automatic promotion is the ­priority for Leeds, who made five changes from their victory against Leicester, but they did not hold back. Daniel Farke’s team clearly fancied their chances of hurting Chelsea with a high press, even though Georginio Rutter was unavailable and Wilfried Gnonto, Crysencio Summerville and Patrick Bamford were on the bench.

The opening goal was a case in point. Leeds had just gone close through Dan James after poor defending from Alfie Gilchrist, Ben Chilwell’s 20-year-old deputy at left‑back. Chelsea needed to be alert. From the resulting goal‑kick, though, they played themselves into trouble when Robert Sánchez, a goalkeeper hardly renowned for his distribution, passed to Axel Disasi.

Leeds moved in. Disasi, who lacks control in possession, did Moisés Caicedo no favours with a slow pass. Equally, though, opponents seem to have noticed a weakness in Caicedo’s game when he receives the ball in a deep position. Leeds immediately pinned the £115m midfielder and Chelsea were punished when Mateo Joseph fired past Sánchez.

Gary Neville’s jibes must have been ringing in Chelsea’s ears. Would they shrink again? The answer soon arrived. Caicedo linked with Noni Madueke in the final third. A fine pass sent Nicolas Jackson through and the striker equalised with an angled finish.

The challenge for Chelsea is producing those flourishes more consistently. They led in the 37th minute, Madueke dancing inside from the left, Sterling cutting the ball back for Mykhailo Mudryk to sweep home, but there was little pattern to their play. Mudryk, playing in the No 10 role, was far less refined in possession than the rested Cole Palmer. The defence did not look secure. Sterling and Jackson kept losing possession.

Leeds rallied. Archie Gray and Ethan Ampadu, facing his former club, took control of midfield away from Caicedo and Fernández. Jaidon Anthony shot narrowly wide from long range. Chelsea sat back at the start of the second half. Gray, so bold and elegant on the ball, ran the game.

Chelsea could not impose themselves. Their counterattacks lacked conviction and it was not a surprise when Leeds equalised. Anthony, moving past Malo Gusto, crossed from the left and Joseph headed past Sánchez after losing Trevoh Chalobah.

Pochettino responded by ­replacing Gusto and Madueke with Chilwell and Gallagher. Chelsea still toiled. It was Leeds who had the swagger. They were the side with a clear and established way of playing.

Related: Chelsea 3-2 Leeds United: FA Cup fifth round – live

Leeds pressed, Joseph almost heading in his third. Chelsea needed Palmer’s brains. There was a huge cheer when the playmaker came on for Raheem Sterling, who was booed off for the second consecutive home game.

Yet Leeds remained on top, their belief rising when Gnonto and ­Summerville came on. ­Summerville soon threatened, his shot going over, and he also wasted a presentable chance after an error from Fernández.

Chelsea had time. It was the 90th minute when Fernández finally resembled a world champion. He slalomed in from the left, beat a couple of challenges and threaded a beautiful pass through to Gallagher, whose rising finish helped Chelsea avert another crisis.