Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea have met in two League Cup finals at Wembley in the last eleven years. Spurs won 2-1 in 2008, Chelsea won 2-0 in 2015.
The two sides played at the home of English football once more on Tuesday in a similarly intense cup contest, but this was for the semifinals.
Spurs won 1-0 on the night to give themselves a slender advantage heading into the second leg at Stamford Bridge in two weeks. Harry Kane scored the game’s only goal from the penalty spot after VAR rightfully overturned an offside call.
xG map for Tottenham - Chelsea.— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) January 8, 2019
Total one-way traffic post-penalty as Spurs had no midfield, but Chelsea inexplicably played a system where no one tries to get into the penalty area, which produced limited scoring chances. pic.twitter.com/pVO4cn3A6l
Mauricio Pochettino hasn’t always put out his strongest teams for big matches in the League Cup, but he did today after a bit of rotation in Friday’s win over Tranmere.
Paulo Gazzaniga kept his place as the keeper for domestic cup matches. Other than that, Spurs lined up in what is arguably their best XI. Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose played wide of Davinson Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld. Spurs’ only healthy midfield featured again, as did DESK up front.
Chelsea sent out a quality team that included Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kante, and 18-year-old starlet Callum Hudson-Odoi.
After a frantically sloppy opening few minutes, both teams eventually settled in. The visitors had a few pot-shots from Ross Barkley, and Kane managed one bicycle-like effort that was easily saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga.
The game slowed down following those initial moments, but only because it was preparing for the drama that was about to come.
Kane latched onto a long ball in the box and was clattered by an advancing Arrizabalaga. The offside flag went up, but Spurs were given a penalty after a lengthy video review determined the England striker was onside when he made his run that ended with the foul. VAR got it right, and so did Kane when he stepped up a few minutes later and smashed the penalty home.
Chelsea re-asserted themselves after the goal with plenty of possession. Spurs allowed them control the ball without creating too many clear-cut chances.
The Blues’ biggest opportunity of the first half came just moments before the break. Hudson-Odoi played a cross into the box that missed its mark and was drifting into the net before it was acrobatically tipped off the bar by Gazzaniga.
Halftime meant halftime on the day, but it also marked this 180 minute semifinal being one-fourth of the way through. Away goals don’t factor in at all anymore, and there is no more extra time. If things are tied after the second leg then it goes right to penalties.
Chelsea came out in the second half with a new intensity that brought about similar results. Again, they kept possession but struggled to find a breakthrough. Maurizio Sarri’s side were playing without a striker, which meant Hazard had fewer options with the ball at his feet around the box.
Thus, the visitors resorted to shooting mostly from long range.
Andreas Christensen had a great opportunity in the area after he popped up at the back post on a corner. The Danish international awkwardly missed a sitter as he misjudged Barkley’s flicked header and attacked it with the wrong foot.
Tottenham were struggling to get out of their own half, so they finally turned to the substitutes bench with about ten minutes left to play.
Erik Lamela’s introduction for Son Heung-Min didn’t change much. Spurs were holding on towards the end. Luckily for the Lilywhites, Chelsea’s best late chances were low crosses into the box. Gazzaniga smothered the crosses and Michael Oliver ignored a few desperate penalty appeals from the Chelsea players.
Stamford Bridge has historically been a house of horrors for Tottenham, but things have been a bit better as of late. Pochettino’s team will at least have a 1-0 buffer going into the second leg on January 24th.