Tottenham vs Chelsea result and five things we learned as Blues advance to Carabao Cup final

Tottenham 0-1 Chelsea (Chelsea win 3-0 on aggregate): Antonio Rudiger’s first-half header sends the Blues through to the Wembley final

Jamie Braidwood
Wednesday 12 January 2022 21:42
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<p>Antonio Rudiger celebrates his first-half header  </p>

Antonio Rudiger celebrates his first-half header

Chelsea progressed through to the Carabao Cup final after defeating Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 in the second leg of their semi-final on Tuesday.

Antonio Rudiger’s early header extended Chelsea’s lead to three goals and gave Spurs a mountain to climb after goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini failed to claim a corner.

Tottenham were awarded two penalties but saw both overturned, correctly, by VAR. The first, a tackle on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg by Antonio Rudiger took place outside the box before replays showed Kepa Arrizabalaga won the ball in a challenge on Lucas Moura.

The hosts then saw an equaliser disallowed after Harry Kane was ruled to be offside, in the third intervention by VAR. Thomas Tuchel’s side will face the winners of the other semi-final between Liverpool and Arsenal.

Here are five things we learned:

Conte must take blame for Gollini selection

The biggest talking point ahead of kick-off was Antonio Conte’s decision to start Pierluigi Gollini over Huge Lloris, and it did not take long for the Tottenham manager’s big call to become an even more significant issue.

Gollini made a costly error in the conceding of Chelsea’s opening goal, which killed off the early excitement at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and whatever faint hopes the home fans had of mounting a comeback.

The goalkeeper was weak and indecisive after choosing to come and clear Chelsea’s in-swinging corner, losing the track of the ball as Rudiger turned a header into the net from the six-yard line.

Pierluigi Gollini lost track of the ball in Chelsea’s opening goal

It was the second cheap goal of the tie that Tottenham had conceded from a corner, after Ben Davies’ own goal in the opening leg, and it’s unlikely that Lloris would have made such an error of judgement at a crucial time.

The Spurs captain had started the first leg at Stamford Bridge and was rested for the FA Cup win over Morecombe on Saturday - but Conte said the Frenchman was being rested again ahead of a run of three matches in 10 days.

It’s difficult to see that argument sticking, however, as well as Conte’s suggestion that he went with Gollini because the Italian has regularly featured in the cup competitions this season.

There is plenty surrounding Tottenham’s current situation, such as a poor and imbalanced squad, that Conte has had no control over - which is much to his frustration. He can have no complaints here, however. This one was on him.

Spurs display illustrates clear gap to the top

This was always going to be a tough night for Tottenham and the odds of Conte’s side overturning Chelsea’s two-goal lead were slim before kick-off, but that does not make their exit from the Carabao Cup any less dispiriting.

Chelsea may have won 2-0 at Stamford Bridge last week but the gap between the teams was much bigger than the scoreline suggested. It was the same case here, with Chelsea’s superiority in all departments evident from early on.

The home fans tried to create an atmosphere that could have stirred their side to produce a memorable performance, but the players on the pitch once again never looked like doing that.

Even with some notable absences, there was no sense of urgency from Tottenham to make life difficult for Chelsea, at least when they needed it. While they did improve after half-time, the opening period was again as insipid a performance as a Conte side is likely to have produced in recent years - while Chelsea also seemed to drop off the pace in the first 20 minutes after the break.

Also, there used to be a time when Harry Kane enjoyed playing against Chelsea. Not anymore, it seems, and certainly not against Rudiger. The Germany international emerged, once again, as the clear winner of their duel. Kane, for the third time against Chelsea this season, was largely ineffective.

Chelsea set up with vertical threats as Werner impresses

As Thomas Tuchel continues to work around Chelsea’s issues at wing-back, the Blues again showed glimpses of their tactical flexibility.

Chelsea looked to set up in a 4-2-2-2 when in possession, with Azpilicueta and Sarr lining up at full-back to form a flat back four. Hudson-Odoi, who alongside Mount roamed behind the front two of Lukaku and Werner, often dropped into left wing-back when Tottenham were in possession.

It was a clever shape, and one that left Chelsea with two direct options at the top of the pitch in Lukaku and Werner, which looked particularly dangerous when Chelsea were able to win quick turnovers and release a ball over the top.

Thomas Tuchel again got the better of Antonio Conte

Werner is well suited to such a system, as is Lukaku, as you get the sense that Tuchel’s plan here was specifically designed to get the most out of that forward partnership.

One of the elements of Lukaku’s controversial interview before Christmas was the line that he prefers to play in a two, just as he did with Lautaro Martinez at Inter Milan.

Injuries and Covid-19 have limited both Lukaku and Werner in recent weeks and while Chelsea showed little threat in the second half as their performance tailed off, there were indications that it can be a promising partnership moving forward.

Kante call shows how Chelsea dropped off the pace

Chelsea are through to the Carabao Cup final - that’s the headline - but Thomas Tuchel’s side made harder work of putting this tie to bed that they needed to.

The scoreline indicates another comfortable night for Chelsea and while the first half certainly was, there is little Tuchel would have liked about his side’s performance in the second half.

Chelsea’s passing became sloppy and they noticeably dropped off the pace, allowing Tottenham back into the game. Spurs were unable to take advantage and even threaten the potential of a comeback, but that says more about them than it does about Chelsea.

In the end, the fact that Tuchel had to call upon N’Golo Kante to steady the ship after Spurs upped their tempo in the first 20 minutes of the second half, says a lot about the concern that Tuchel must have had - albeit briefly.

A good night for VAR

It could have been a very different night for Tottenham had referee Andre Marriner’s original penalty decisions stood, but VAR ensured that the correct decisions were made. In that sense, it was a good reminder of how it can benefit the game.

On the other hand, it didn’t exactly put referee Marriner in the best light. He awarded two penalties for the hosts, which clearly should not have awarded following one look at the replay.

The first, Rudiger’s tackle on Hojbjerg, did seem to be a penalty until you could see that it took place outside of the box - but Kepa clearly won the ball in his tackle on Lucas and that should never have been given in the first place.

That’s what VAR is for though, and it was needed here.

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