By Frank Smith, Football Whispers
Chelsea secured their place in the Carabao Cup Final in dramatic fashion after beating Tottenham Hotspur on penalties in the second leg of their semi-final.
Spurs went into the second half of this tie with the advantage after their 1-0 victory in the first leg but the Blues’ impressive first-half showing helped shift the balance as they led 2-0 at the break on Thursday night at Stamford Bridge thanks to N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard.
Fernando Llorente’s header in the second half ensured the contest went down to the wire as he made it 2-1 on the night but two missed penalties from Eric Dier and then Lucas Moura left David Luiz to slot home the deciding spot kick to book Chelsea’s place in the Final against Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, February 24.
The main talking point regarding the team news for both sides in the build up surrounded the attacking third. For Chelsea, new singing Gonzalo Higuaín was not registered in time on Wednesday to be eligible to face Spurs. And for the away side, they have seen talisman Harry Kane and Dele Alli suffer injuries in the last nine days and forward Son Heung-min depart for the Asian Cup.
That meant a rare start for Llorente up top, with Erik Lamela playing alongside him in a 4-1-2-1-2 formation.
Visiting boss Mauricio Pochettino named close to a full-strength side and it was a similar story for the hosts, as Olivier Giroud was also handed a start, meaning Hazard was able to move back to his favored slot on the left of the front three.
1-0 (27 mins) - Chelsea levelled on aggregate when Spurs failed to clear a corner and Kante was given plenty of room as he smashed a low drive between the legs of Eric Dier, Moussa Sissoko and Paulo Gazzaniga on its way into the net.
2-0 (38 mins) - The Blues took the lead in the tie when César Azpilicueta cut the ball across the box and Hazard was left to side-foot into the bottom corner.
2-1 (50 mins) - We discussed the different threat he offers in the latest The Breakdown video and Llorente sent the tie into penalties by heading in Rose’s cross from the left.
Penalties - Dier skied over the bar with the penalty score 2-2 and the after Jorginho bagged an audacious spot-kick with his jumping run-up, Moura had his effort saved by Kepa Arrizabalag and Luiz drilled his effort into the bottom corner to make it 4-2 and book the Blues’ spot in the showcase event at Wembley.
If Spurs had ended up progressing then the key moment – or moments – would have been Giroud’s two big misses in injury time but in the end Dier’s wayward spot-kick opened the door for Chelsea and when Moura knocked it further ajar, Luiz booted it down in emphatic fashion.
Hazard has made it clear that he doesn’t overly enjoy starting in the No.9 role and with Giroud back in the side, the Belgium captain proved why he is one of the best in the world coming in from the left. His manager Maurizio Sarri claimed Hazard was not a leader and didn’t deliver enough for his side this week. Well the 28-year-old certain delivered a response tonight.
What it means
Stating the obvious I know but it means a cup final and the chance to lift the first silverware of the English season. Manchester City will offer a greater challenge on February 24 but with the likes of Hazard and new signing Higuaín in their ranks, Chelsea certainly have the talent to beat the reigning Premier League champions. This year’s Carabao Cup Final has the potential to be a classic.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Rüdiger, David Luiz, Emerson; Kanté, Jorginho, Barkley (Kovacic 81); Pedro (Willian 76), Giroud, Hazard.
Subs not used: Caballero, Alonso, Hudson-Odoi, Piazon, Ampadu.
Spurs (4-1-2-1-2): Gazzaniga; Aurier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen (C), Davies (Rose 33); Dier; Winks, Sissoko (Sánchez 80); Eriksen; Lamela, Llorente (Lucas Moura 68).
Subs not used: Lloris, Nkoudou, Walker-Peters, Skipp.