First the passion killer. The opening goal was always going to be vital, given the result from the first leg of this Carabao Cup semi-final and, when Antonio Rüdiger scored it for Chelsea, it felt as if that were that. Thomas Tuchel’s European champions are not in the habit of conceding three goals in a game. It has only happened three times under him.
Then the high jinx, which brought the entertainment value, at least for the neutral and the travelling Chelsea supporters. It was not funny for Tottenham, who saw the referee, Andre Marriner, wrongly award them two penalties that he had to rescind after advice from the VAR, Mike Dean, and then disallow a Harry Kane goal on 63 minutes. Marriner was told by Dean that Kane was in an offside position.
There would also be concern in the closing stages when Spurs fans in the South Stand alerted the stewards to what appeared to be a medical emergency. A host of personnel in high-vis jackets were quickly on the scene and there would be a lengthy pause.
Chelsea march on. Their followers chorused the name of Antonio Conte in the 70th minute, paying their respects to the Spurs manager for his work at their club over two seasons from 2016, when he won the Premier League and FA Cup. But it was Tuchel they saluted long into the night, this his third semi-final victory in three attempts at the club. He is now into a fourth final in a little under 12 months, having won the Champions League and European Super Cup and lost the FA Cup.
Conte had been preoccupied with the gap between his current and former employers and, although Spurs fought until the last, it was again there for all to see, particularly during the first-half. Rüdiger had scored in Chelsea’s 3-0 league win here in September and his 18th-minute header was the high point of a period that his team controlled.
Credit to Marriner for trying to keep the tie alive. His first attempt to give Spurs a penalty was for Rüdiger’s foul on Pierre-Emile Højbjerg just before the interval, even though the offence appeared – in real time – to have taken place outside the area. But the jaw-dropper came on 56 minutes.
Kane did well to burst from halfway, although his pass for Lucas Moura was a little heavy and Kepa Arrizabalaga slid out to win the ball cleanly from the Spurs winger. It was a walk of shame for Marriner towards the pitchside monitor.
Conte’s damning appraisal of his squad hangs heavy in the air – he believes their level is “middle” – and the players were booed off with feeling by the home crowd at half-time. Most of the Spurs support had cleared off by the full-time whistle. Those that remained booed again.
Conte had persisted with the centre-halves and wing-backs who had struggled in the first leg and again they did not convince. They looked nervous on the ball in the face of the Chelsea press.
Conte’s defensive change had been in goal and it was a surprise one, Pierluigi Gollini preferred to Hugo Lloris. Gollini has not convinced since his arrival over the summer and, although he made an important early block to deny Romelu Lukaku, he was soon picking the ball out of his net having failed to deal with a Mason Mount corner.
Spurs’s marking disintegrated, nobody picking the run of Rüdiger, and Gollini never looked like getting to the ball first. Rüdiger’s header was scruffy. He appeared to turn his back slightly but he did enough to direct his effort on target. Gollini clattered into him, having led with his fist. The replays looked bad for the keeper.
Tuchel had persisted with his 4-2-2-2 system from the first leg but this time it was Timo Werner up front alongside Lukaku. Werner had flickered before the goal, lobbing high after a poor clearing header from Davinson Sánchez and crossing following a Lukaku flick. The ball ran through for Malang Sarr, who performed well at left-back, and his shot was blocked by Giovani Lo Celso. Shortly after Rüdiger’s goal Callum Hudson-Odoi worked Gollini, before Lukaku flashed a header wide from another Werner cross.
What of Spurs before the interval? They wasted two well-placed free-kicks, one by Kane early on, the other by Lo Celso with the last action after the first VAR overrule.
Tottenham’s best moment came when Højbjerg sent a deflected curler just wide in the 32nd minute. From the corner, Sánchez flicked on and Kane, sliding in at the far post, could not get a touch. Emerson Royal also blew a chance following a nice ball from Moura.
Spurs’s end product was glaringly absent. Witness Harry Winks missing an easy through ball for Kane on 54 minutes and a penny for Tanguy Ndombele’s thoughts at that point. The playmaker was not even on the bench after his low speed walk-off upon his substitution in Sunday’s FA Cup win over Morecambe.
Royal would extend Arrizabalaga with a header from Ben Davies’s cross but Spurs were fighting a losing battle.