Chelsea scripted a fine comeback tale in the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final against Tottenham, winning 4-2 on penalties after a 2-2 aggregate draw.
The Blues dominated the proceedings during the first half, creating plenty of half chances during the early exchanges. On the other end of the pitch, Tottenham were struggling to get themselves into the game, with their injury problems clearly leaving their mark on their drop in performance levels.
Indeed, the deadlock was broken by Chelsea in the 27th minute, with N’Golo Kante scoring his fourth goal of the game, with his strike from the edge of the box nutmegging three players along the way. The hosts continued to assert their domination before doubling their advantage 10 minutes later.
Eden Hazard finished off a fine move by Chelsea with a neat finish, with the Blues grabbing the crucial lead in the tie heading into half-time. Tottenham though, were much improved from the get-go in the second half, pulling a goal back and levelling the aggregate score just five minutes post the break.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 24, 2019
Fernando Llorente, who had come in for criticism for his performance against Fulham last weekend, powered his header into the back of the net, with Danny Rose supplying the inch-perfect cross. The chances started flowing again thereafter, with both sides coming close to taking the aggregate lead.
But, Chelsea won the second leg 2-1, which meant that the tie went into a penalty shootout. The hosts scored all four of their penalties, with David Luiz scoring the winner, while Spurs missed two. Eric Dier hit his spot-kick over the bar while Lucas Moura’s effort was saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Chelsea will now face current Carabao Cup holders Manchester City in the final next month, with Maurizio Sarri in with a chance of winning his first trophy as a manager. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over the Blues following their big win on Thursday.
Kepa Arrizabalaga: 8/10
For much of the game, Kepa had absolutely nothing to do, with Tottenham not forcing him into saves. The Spaniard did well with the ball at his feet though, passing efficiently to relieve the pressure on the defence.
Could not have done anything to stop Llorente’s effort, but the save to deny Lucas Moura in the penalty shootout was nothing short of exemplary. What a clutch player for Chelsea, one way or another.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 6.5/10
A mixed bag for the Chelsea captain, who was diligent in his defensive duties in the first half but left too much space for Danny Rose to cross the ball in for Llorente. On the other end, most of his crosses didn’t reach their intended target, but his cut-back for Eden Hazard did, which is what matters. Converted his penalty during the shootout.
Antonio Rudiger: 8/10
A solid showing by the consistent Rudiger, who has been one of the best players for Chelsea this season. The German had the measure of Fernando Llorente pretty much through the entirety of the game, although if we are nit picking, he could have perhaps stayed stronger when the Spaniard scored. Very little to fault from the outing otherwise.
David Luiz: 8/10
Like Rudiger alongside him, David Luiz produced a colossal performance, with his adept reading of the game leaving him largely untroubled at the back. Also had a masterclass on show, as far as his distribution was concerned, finding the attackers with exquisite long passes. Scored the winning penalty with flamboyantly long run-up.
Emerson Palmieri: 6/10
A game of hits and misses for Emerson, who defended well for the most part, keeping the dangerous Serge Aurier quiet. Going forward though, the former AS Roma man did very little of note, although it was hardly a downgrade on Marcos Alonso’s recent output. Still, this would feel like a missed opportunity.
N’Golo Kante: 8/10
There have been plenty of talks about Kante not being in his favoured position on the field. But, his performance on Wednesday was one full of class, with the Frenchman showing just how well he is starting to finally adapt in his new role.
N'Golo Kante has scored four goals across all competitions this season, the most he has ever scored in a single campaign in England.
Counting how many pairs of legs that strike went through… 🔢 pic.twitter.com/pCjz8kjyKz
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 24, 2019
His goal will be talked about for a long time, even if it had an element of luck involved in it, with his half volley beating three players including, crucially, the goalkeeper. Off the ball, Kante typically grafted along, ensuring Chelsea dominated the midfield battle for the most part. Helped Azpilicueta out when Rose piled on the pressure in the second half. World class.
With Chelsea dominating the proceedings in the first half, Jorginho was seen running the show, which helped Eden Hazard and Pedro bombard forward. Went into a shell for a bit when Tottenham sparked their turnaround before recovering late on. Calm as you like with his penalty.
Ross Barkley: 6/10
This was the chance for Barkley to stamp his authority and stake claim for a regular berth in the final midfield slot, instead of being constantly rotated with Mateo Kovacic. But, while the Englishman worked his socks off defensively, he did very little of note on the ball apart from the moment wherein he won the free-kick before quickly taking it start the move for Hazard’s goal. Needs to do better.
Another player who was involved in the spectacular team move that Hazard finished, Pedro did well in parts. But, his end product was lacking severely for the most part, with his general performance tailing considerably after the first quarter of the game. The merry go round with Willian continues.
Olivier Giroud: 5/10
With Gonzalo Higuain joining Chelsea, Giroud needed to produce a performance that would show Sarri why he deserved a longer run in the side. But, there were very little signs on show as to why he might be fit to lead the line regularly for Chelsea. While he did hold the ball well, the finishing touches were never seen. Will be usurped by Higuain soon enough.
Eden Hazard: 8/10
There had been a short period of lull lately for Hazard, who suffered a dip in form alongside his teammates. On Thursday, however, Hazard produced perhaps his best performance since the turn of the year, as he constantly got into dangerous areas, looking like the biggest threat for his side.
Played one of the passes in the lead up to his goal before timing his run to perfection. Could have (and perhaps should have) had a hat-trick on the night, but he kept on orchestrating play for the remainder of the game. A different force on the left.
46 – Chelsea have lost none of the 46 games (all comps) in which Eden Hazard has scored in at Stamford Bridge (P46 W39 D7 L0). Charm. pic.twitter.com/gjjAAvIVED
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 24, 2019
On for the final 15 minutes or so, Willian did not improve on any of the aspects that Pedro were struggling at.
Mateo Kovacic: N/A
Played the final 10 minutes and provided a calming effect in midfield.