The first leg of the first Carabao Cup semi-final saw Chelsea take a 2-0 win following inexplicable Tottenham Hotspur errors. Antonio Conte returned to Stamford Bridge for the first time since being sacked by Chelsea in 2018, this time as manager of rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Romelu Lukaku returned to the Chelsea starting line-up following being dropped for the 2-2 draw against Liverpool after his controversial comments in an interview with Sky Italia.
Chelsea Hold Advantage After Inexplicable Tottenham Hotspur Errors
Tottenham Defence Hits Self Destruct With Errors
Lukaku was almost back in the Chelsea good books after less than a minute as he was too strong for Davinson Sanchez. Instead of shooting, however, he strangely opted to try and pass before finding no one. Thomas Tuchel did not hold back on the touchline in telling his striker that he should really have put his laces through the ball, but the signs were ominous for Tottenham and they didn’t heed the warning.
One thing that Conte has done since arriving at Spurs is utilise a solid back three, which usually consists of Eric Dier, Davinson Sanchez and Ben Davies. But, with Dier testing positive for Covid-19, Conte was left to bring in Japhet Tanganga. And, from the first whistle, the back three looked like strangers and that is exactly how Chelsea profited to take the lead.
Under no pressure at all, Tanganga inexplicably tried a pass to Emerson Royal, who was on his heels – allowing Marco Alonso to nip in and play the ball behind Tanganga to Kai Havertz, who scored via a deflection off Sanchez. It was shocking defending from Spurs and a goal all of their own making. And, from there, Chelsea smelt blood.
It was another bizarre error that nearly gifted Chelsea a second goal as Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg, again inexplicably and under little pressure, hit a clearance at Oliver Skipp that came to Havertz who only needed to show composure. The German, thankfully for Spurs, fluffed his shot straight at Hugo Lloris. Antonio Conte roared his disapproval from the technical area and understandably so. Tottenham were chaotic and could not get a foothold against the high press that Chelsea had used effectively against Liverpool.
Tanganga’s nightmare got even worse on 34 minutes when all he needed to do was head a free kick out for a corner kick, but instead he headed the ball at Davies and the ball went into the back of the net to make it 2-0 to the home side. Chelsea could not believe their luck. It was a calamitous first half from Spurs and one in which they didn’t have one shot at goal.
Error After Error
Chelsea would have been expecting a tough match against Conte’s Spurs, who had only lost once in 11 games under the Italian. But what they faced in the first 45 minutes was the Tottenham of old. Mistake after mistake was made.
Matt Doherty playing in an unfamiliar left wing back position, and kept giving the ball away; the usually dependable Hojbjerg looked lost and at times anonymous; Sanchez looked like a rabbit in the headlights any time Lukaku came near him, and Oliver Skipp, who has shone this far under Conte, made no impact at all. The only Spurs player who looked like they could get something moving was Lucas Moura, but those around him seemed way off the pace. Harry Kane and Son Heung-min were bystanders. As first halves go, it was woeful from Tottenham – clueless even – and for Antonio Conte it was clearly unacceptable.
Change of Formation for Spurs
Conte removed Doherty at half-time and replaced him with Tanguy Ndombele to add more attacking verve. And it certainly gave Spurs more impetus, as they showed more attacking intent in the first few minutes of the second half than they did in the entirety of the first. There was a clear intent to try and get Ndombele on the ball but Chelsea were well organised and able to limit Spurs to desperate attempts such as one from the aforementioned Frenchman that was wild, high and wide. It was better from Spurs but still lacked in quality.
Spurs Still in Tie, but Will Need Change of Attitude to Progress
Tottenham have a strange kind of love affair with the League Cup. It is the last trophy that they won back in 2008 when they ironically beat Chelsea in the final. Since then, however, they have lost finals to Manchester United and Manchester City and somehow they are still in with a glimmer of hope of being in the 2021 final. But they will need a change of attitude and application to progress. On top of that, Tottenham Hotspur must avoid needless errors.
Chelsea worked hard and pressed high, but both goals were completely avoidable and sadly for Tanganga both were his fault. Whether it was a lack of game time or big match nerves only the player himself will know, but it was a bad day at the office for him. Despite the defender being directly at fault for both goals, the rest of the Spurs team must also be scrutinised for the defeat.
In another semi-final, Harry Kane again failed to put his mark on the game and Son, Hojbjerg, Sanchez and Royal were all poor throughout. Matt Doherty has been linked with a January move away from the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and on this performance there will be few clubs queuing up for his services and his move from Wolverhampton Wanderers has never worked out for him – a move away is needed if he is to resurrect his career.
Chelsea fans celebrated at the end of the match and whilst they have one foot in the final, they and Tuchel will also be aware that at Spurs the atmosphere will be vibrant and they will still need to be at their very best to complete the job.
For Conte, he now has the chance to regroup his players, hope to have the likes of Eric Dier fit again and attempt to turn around a tie that so easily could have already been far beyond their reach after several Tottenham Hotspur errors.
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