Chelsea outclass Tottenham as Rüdiger seals Carabao Cup final spot
First the passion killer. The opening goal was always going to be vital given the aggregate score at kick-off and, when Antonio Rüdiger scored it for Chelsea, it felt as if that was that. Thomas Tuchel’s European champions are not in the habit of conceding three goals in a game. It has only happened three times under him.
Then the high jinx, which brought the entertainment value, at least for the neutral and the travelling fans. It was not funny for Tottenham, who saw the referee, Andre Marriner, wrongly award two penalties, which he had to rescind after advice from VAR, and then disallow a Harry Kane goal. Marriner was told by the technology that Kane was offside.
There would also be concern in the closing stages when Spurs supporters in the South Stand alerted the stewards to what appeared to be a medical emergency. A host of personnel in high-vis jackets were quickly on the scene and there was a lengthy pause.
Chelsea march on. Their followers chorused the name of Antonio Conte in the 70th minute, paying their respects to the now Spurs manager for his work at their club over two seasons from 2016, when he won the Premier League and FA Cup. But it was Tuchel who they saluted long into the night, this his third semi-final win in three attempts.
Conte had been preoccupied with the gap between his current and former employers and, although Spurs fought until the last, it was again there for all to see during the first half when matters were settled. Spurs were booed off by the home crowd at half-time and there were more jeers from those that remained upon the full-time whistle.
The first leg had been one-sided and the only wonder was that Chelsea were unable to bring a decisive lead across town. How Spurs had laboured at the back and yet Conte, missing the injured Eric Dier and Cristian Romero, decided to try, try again, starting with the same five that he had used at Stamford Bridge. It felt risky.
Conte’s change had been in goal and it was a surprise one, Pierluigi Gollini preferred to Hugo Lloris. Gollini has not convinced since his arrival over the summer and, although he made an important early block to deny Romelu Lukaku, who had bullied Ben Davies to get on to a long pass from Rüdiger, he was soon picking the ball out of his net, having failed to deal with a Mason Mount corner.
Tottenham’s marking had disintegrated, nobody picking the run of Rüdiger, and Gollini never looked like getting there first. Rüdiger’s header was scruffy. He appeared to turn his back slightly but he did enough to direct the ball on target. Gollini clattered into him, having led with his fist. Each replay looked worse for him.
Chelsea settled into their stride, pressing high, Spurs’s defensive insecurities bubbling. One sequence in the 15th minute rather summed things up. Davinson Sánchez gave Gollini a back pass on his left foot that he did not want and Spurs lived on the edge of their nerves as they tried to play out, averting disaster, but then seeing Sánchez play a loose pass and the ball go out for a Chelsea throw. The Spurs defenders did not look comfortable in possession and it was a nervous watch for their fans.
Tuchel had persisted with his 4-2-2-2 system from the first leg but, this time, it was Timo Werner up front alongside Lukaku. Werner had flickered before the goal, lobbing high after a poor clearing header from Sánchez and crossing following a Lukaku flick. The ball ran through for Malang Sarr, playing at left-back, and his shot was blocked by Giovani Lo Celso. Shortly after Rüdiger’s goal, Callum Hudson-Odoi worked Gollini before Lukaku flashed a header wide from another Werner cross.
What of Spurs before the interval? They wasted two well-placed free-kicks, the first by Kane early on, the second by Lo Celso with the final action. That had been awarded after VAR overruled a penalty award, confirming that a Rüdiger foul on Pierre-Emile Højbjerg had been outside the area.
Tottenham’s best moment of the half came when Højbjerg sent a deflected curler just wide in the 32nd minute after good work by Kane. From the corner, Sánchez flicked on and Kane, sliding in at the far post, could not get a touch. Emerson Royal also blew a chance following a nice ball from Lucas Moura, his first touch heavy and taking him too wide. The shot was easy for Kepa Arrizabalaga. The boos were lusty upon the half-time whistle.
Conte had started with Harry Winks over Oliver Skipp in midfield, a reward for the former’s high-energy performance in Sunday’s FA Cup win over Morecambe. Winks, though, struggled with his passing, missing an easy one to release Kane on 54 minutes. A penny for Tanguy Ndombele’s thoughts at that point. Ndombele was not even on the bench after his high-profile, low speed walk-off upon his substitution against Morecambe.
At least Andre Marriner appeared determined to make a game of it. The referee had jaws on the floor when he pointed to the spot for the second time after Arrizabalaga executed a perfect tackle on Moura following Kane’s slightly heavy pass. It was a grim-faced trudge over to the monitor for Marriner to see his error and there would be yet more VAR intervention after Højbjerg had robbed Jorginho following Arrizabalaga’s dangerous pass. Moura worked the ball to Kane, who rammed home but, as the technology would clarify, the centre-forward was offside.