Chelsea faced off against their bitter London rivals, Spurs, in the second leg of the EFL cup Semi-Final tonight.
Going into the home leg at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea trailed in the tie thanks to a 1-0 defeat at Wembley. With both sides faltering in the Premier League, the EFL Cup represented a real chance of silverware, which would also be the first trophy won by either manager in the Stamford Bridge dugouts.
Ultimately, it was penalties which decided the day. Chelsea had the better of the action and the chances, forcing the tie to 2-2 with an excellent display of attacking football and creativity, albeit against a Spurs side missing some of their key men through injury.
The Blues showed their maturity and big game experience to win through 4-2 on penalties, to set up a massive final against Manchester City next month. Here is a look at five things we learned from the action:
Chelsea give Sarri a response
The Italian manager was left to fume after his side’s lifeless and flat showing away at Arsenal last weekend. With the former Napoli manager admitting it was difficult to motivate this current crop of Chelsea players, things looked decidedly grim for the Blues going into this game.
If Sarri was after a reaction then, he certainly got one from his players in the first-half. Chelsea played some of their best football in weeks as they dominated the first 45 minutes leaving Spurs dazed and on the ropes. With Hazard pulling the strings, Chelsea exposed their opponents back line at will and could have easily been over the hill by the time the referee blew for half-time. Their second goal was a real beauty, with Eden Hazard holding his run to perfection, to arrive at the end of Azpilicueta’s cut back, for a tidy finish.
This was Sarri-ball as it’s meant to be, and the players looked hungry and sharp righty from the off. Despite Giroud’s howler at the death, the home side looked better and their attacking probes more purposeful with the Frenchman as a focal point. It could well be a taste of things to come with Gonzalo Higuain ready to be unleashed in Chelsea Blue for the remainder of the season.
Lloris in no danger of Gazza magic
It has been mentioned by some of Spurs’ supporters that their World Cup winning goalkeeper might not be the powerhouse between the sticks he once was. There are some who believe that second choice Argentinean stopper Paulo Gazzaniga should be given a run of games, if Loris continues with his erratic form.
On tonight’s showing though, Lloris’ place is secure. Gazzaniga put in a shaky display during the 90 minutes, including a gift of an opening goal to N’Golo Kante. In fairness to the Argentina international, the ball came through a crowd of players, but you’d expect your keeper to save you there. The shot went straight through him, leaving him clutching at thin air. It proved a costly error as Chelsea were able to draw level on the night and ultimately force penalties. Ultimately not a hero in the shoot out either, it will be a case of returning to deputy duties for Gazzaniga after this one.
Injuries continue to stack up for Spurs
It proved to be another day and another couple of casualties for Spurs at The Bridge. Already threadbare, Pochettino’s squad must now absorb two more injuries. The Argentinean looked on as Ben Davies succumbed to a first half knock and was replaced by Danny Rose.
Moussa Sissoko, fresh from the treatment room himself, also checked himself back in with just ten minutes to go, limping off, with Davinson Sanchez coming on as his replacement. More concern for Spurs, they will hope they are nothing serious as the squad grows ever more depleted.
Spurs respond to first-half deluge
Pochettino will be pleased with his side’s response in the second-half after the beating they took in the first 45 minutes. In fact, in the first ten minutes of the second-half, they offered more attacking impetus then they did the entire first period.
Llorente will be delighted with his goal, stooping to head home and level the tie up again, but it will be a case of what if for Pochettino. Had his side come at this game from the off with the same tempo and counter-attacking menace, they may well have had a final to look forward to on the horizon.
Spurs and Pochettino’s quest for silverware goes on after shoot out pain
The EFL Cup is often disregarded and shooed down the priority list for the big clubs at the start of their campaigns. However, this one was another really big chance for Pochettino and his talented Spurs side to win some silverware together. It’s now another semi-final defeat on his CV and another stick to beat him and his side with.
Any team can lose a shoot out, but the mentality of Spurs’s players will continue to be questioned after they squandered an aggregate lead and stumbled away to one of their top six rivals yet again.
They remain in the FA Cup, which now represents their best chance to win something this season. With Pochettino’s future in the balance, it could well be their last chance to rubber stamp this era with some tangible success.