Hakim Ziyech and Saul Niguez stood out, but Harry Kane was sub-par as Chelsea beat Tottenham 2-0 in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg on Wednesday.
Chelsea started the game brightly and took the lead ahead within five minutes, as Kai Havertz latched onto a through ball from Marcos Alonso for the opener. The Blues remained firmly in control for most of the first half and doubled their advantage through a stroke of luck, as Hakim Ziyech’s free-kick found Japhet Tanganga, only for his clearing header to ricochet off Ben Davies into the goal.
Tottenham pulled their socks up somewhat after the interval, with Harry Kane testing Kepa Arrizabalaga with a clever free-kick early on. However, Spurs’ resistance could not last long, and Chelsea soon wrested control over the proceedings.
But no further goals were added, although Chelsea came close to scoring on a few occasions. Nonetheless, the 2-0 win gives the Blues a handy advantage heading into next week’s second leg fixture at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Hard Tackle runs the rule over both sets of players.
Kepa Arrizabalaga: 7/10
Kepa will be Chelsea’s goalkeeper of choice this month, and what better way to start than by keeping a clean sheet. The save to deny Harry Kane from his free-kick was top-notch, and Kepa will look to go from strength to strength with every passing performance.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 7.5/10
Azpilicueta was in his element on Wednesday, which essentially meant that Son Heung-min carried no threat whatsoever on Wednesday. The Chelsea captain won six duels while completing three tackles, three clearances and two interceptions. He also moved the ball forward smartly, completing 93 per cent of his attempted passes.
Antonio Rudiger: 7.5/10
Rudiger produced a masterful performance at the heart of the Chelsea defence, proving that he can be a solid customer even in a back four. The German international also retained a superb 94 per cent passing rate to assert Chelsea’s dominance in the game.
Malang Sarr: 8/10
🇫🇷 Malang Sarr against Tottenham:
🧠 105 Touches
👟 88 Passes
💯 93% Pass Accuracy
🎯 5/9 Long Balls
💪 100% Aerial Duels
🦵 5/10 Ground Duels
🛑 4 Tackles
Composed. 😎 pic.twitter.com/e7r4Zr24mR
— Mozo Football (@MozoFootball) January 5, 2022
With Thiago Silva, Andreas Christensen and Trevoh Chalobah unavailable, Tuchel had no option but to pick Malang Sarr. And the young defender was extremely pivotal in rendering Harry Kane anonymous in the game. The Frenchman barely put a foot wrong, completing four tackles while winning six duels. Job well done.
Marcos Alonso: 7.5/10
Alonso did not suffer one bit despite playing as a conventional left-back. On the contrary, the Spanish international was surprisingly solid at the back while carrying a lot of threat in the final third and playing the assist for Kai Havertz’s goal. As rumours of a move for a new left-back gather pace, Alonso needed such a display to ensure he remains the first-choice option for Tuchel.
Saul Niguez: 8/10
It is safe to say that Saul Niguez had been a dud at Chelsea before Wednesday. However, the Spaniard produced a stunning performance against Tottenham to finally show what the fuss was about when he arrived at Stamford Bridge last summer. More such displays could prompt Chelsea to sign him permanently.
Jorginho played as Jorginho usually does on most days. The Italian international was largely unspectacular in his display, but he ensured he did not lose the ball carelessly. On top of that, he completed five tackles and three interceptions to cut off Tottenham’s moves in midfield.
Hakim Ziyech: 8/10
Playing in an unfamiliar role, excellent work-rate tracking back, constantly delivering dangerous balls into the box…
Hakim Ziyech. 👏 pic.twitter.com/Ot8mZbZJkZ
— LDN (@LDNFootbalI) January 5, 2022
Ziyech has needed a big performance to claw his way back in Thomas Tuchel’s plans. And this was just the kind of display he had been yearning for, with the Moroccan international playing a game-high four key passes. And it was Ziyech’s free-kick that eventually ricocheted off Ben Davies for the second goal. He should have scored with a volley in the second half, but that is only a minor negative in his showing.
Mason Mount: 7/10
Mount is still not at his creative best, but he played a major role in asserting Chelsea’s dominance in the game. The English international completed 94 per cent of his attempted passes while making some important defensive contributions in the middle of the park. He also had a few shots blocked, but his creative output must improve.
Kai Havertz: 7/10
Havertz’s outing lasted only 45 minutes. However, in that time, the German international scored a superb goal after being spotted on his run by Marcos Alonso. Havertz came close to finding the back of the net with a right-footed effort after that, and he posed a constant threat before his substitution.
Kai Havertz loves a big game goal.
Chelsea lead Spurs in the semifinal! 💪 pic.twitter.com/BDdMN1CVdz
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 5, 2022
Romelu Lukaku: 6/10
Back in the starting lineup after being embroiled in controversy last week, Lukaku did not see a whole lot of the ball despite Chelsea’s dominance. On top of that, the Belgian’s efforts were tame, with Hugo Lloris saving each of his shots on target easily. He will need to do more to win over the Chelsea fans again.
Timo Werner: 7/10
Werner made his long-awaited return to action and looked lively in the second half. The German international was the most potent outlet for Chelsea in the final 45 minutes and came within inches of scoring a superb curler. Such an outing would have done his confidence a world of good.
Mateo Kovacic: N/A
Kovacic got another run-out to help get his sharpness back. And the Croat looked in supreme touch, barely ever giving possession away while also opening up play superbly with long passes.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek: N/A
Back in the side after a couple of weeks on the sidelines, Loftus-Cheek continued from where he had left off. The Englishman helped assert Chelsea’s dominance in the final 15 minutes, completing all but two of his attempted passes.
Christian Pulisic: N/A
A bundle of energy upon his introduction, Pulisic helped peg Tottenham back in the dying embers of the game.
Harvey Vale: N/A
A late introduction, Vale barely had any time to influence the game.
Hugo Lloris: 6/10
There was nothing that Lloris could have done to prevent either of Chelsea’s goals. As for the rest of his outing, the Tottenham skipper positioned himself smartly to keep out the efforts mustered by the hosts in the remainder of the game.
Japhet Tanganga: 4/10
Tanganga’s attempt at clearing Hakim Ziyech’s free-kick yielded an own goal from Ben Davies. And while he won each of his duels, the young defender struggled to keep a check on Havertz and Timo Werner.
Tanganga and Davies linking up for S̶p̶u̶r̶s̶ Chelsea 😳pic.twitter.com/2iHoSWoQU2
— Soccer AM (@SoccerAM) January 5, 2022
Davinson Sanchez: 4/10
From the get-go, it was clear that Sanchez was not in the best of touches. The Colombian’s attempt to reach Havertz’s shot was meek at best, and he was under the cosh all through the game. The sweeper role in the back-three did not suit him at all, and despite making several interceptions, tackles and clearances, this performance left a lot to be desired.
Ben Davies: 6/10
Davies was the best Tottenham defender on the night, although that does not say much. The Welsh international cannot be faulted much for the own goal, but he had his problems against Ziyech. Davies tried to push Tottenham forward following the change in formation but was not on the same wavelength as his teammates out in front.
Emerson Royal: 5/10
The blow-hot-blow-cold nature of Emerson’s Tottenham stint continues. After some promising displays in recent weeks, the Brazilian was poor against Chelsea. He barely carried a threat in the final third while being outplayed by Marcos Alonso on his flank. He needs to bring his A-Game to put Chelsea under pressure next week.
Oliver Skipp: 5/10
The Tottenham midfielders were well off their best on Wednesday, and Winks, in particular, struggled to cope with the pace of the game. His passing rate was a sub-par 81 per cent, and it was one of those rare days when the youngster could not impress one bit.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg: 5/10
Usually such a reliable presence in the middle of the park, Hojbjerg failed to provide Tottenham any control on the proceedings. While the Dane saw plenty of the ball, his passing was lacklustre for the most part. To make matters worse, Chelsea overran him with ease for the most part. One of several Tottenham players who need to pull their socks up next week.
Matt Doherty: 4/10
A surprise selection as a left wing-back, Doherty barely managed to get himself into the game in the first half before being taken off at half-time. The end is near at Tottenham for the Irishman.
Lucas Moura: 4/10
Lucas Moura has been one of the better performers for Tottenham under Antonio Conte. However, the Brazilian failed to test the Chelsea defenders much on Wednesday, with even Marcos Alonso managing to shut him off. The Brazilian lost possession a staggering 18 times, which made things worse for Spurs.
Harry Kane: 5/10
The only reason Kane gets a higher rating than Lucas Moura and Son Heung-min is that he was the sole Tottenham player to force a big save out of Kepa Arrizabalaga. However, his free-kick early in the second half was as good as it got for the Tottenham striker, who was contained brilliantly by Malang Sarr.
Son Heung-min: 4/10
Wednesday was one of the rare days when Son was extremely uninfluential. While the South Korean forward saw plenty of the ball, he did not have enough quality to carve out the openings. Son also failed to muster a single shot in his 79-minute stay on the pitch. He has to do better in the second leg.
Tanguy Ndombele: 6/10
Introduced at half-time in place of Doherty, Ndombele was the best performer on the night for Tottenham. The Frenchman was a bundle of energy and looked to make things happen while being alert off the ball. However, it did not matter much, as Chelsea remained in control for the most part.
Harry Winks: N/A
Sent onto the pitch with around 15 minutes left, Winks struggled to help Tottenham retain control on the proceedings, even though he completed most of his attempted passes.
Giovani Lo Celso: N/A
On for Son, Lo Celso completed all his attempted passes but could not help Tottenham pull one goal back.
Bryan Gil: N/A
Introduced with ten minutes left, Gil did not have much time to make an impact, with Chelsea firmly in control over the proceedings.