Tottenham 1 Chelsea 0: Harry Kane VAR penalty gives Spurs EFL Cup semi-final edge
Tottenham will take a narrow lead into the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final with London rivals Chelsea after a Harry Kanepenalty saw them win 1-0 at Wembley.
The hosts needed the help of the video assistant referee (VAR) on the night after the England captain was denied the spot kick at first, before the decision was correctly overturned for Kane to notch the decisive goal.
Mauricio Pochettino had told his Spurs side to be ‘naughty’ and not just the side everyone enjoyed watching in these bigger games, and they certainly weren’t the latter, sitting back and asking a dysfunctional Chelsea to break them down for the most part.
Maurizio Sarri, who had called for more aggression here at Wembley after seeing his side humbled at the national stadium in November, named Eden Hazard as the man to lead the line with Alvaro Morata having picked up a late hamstring problem ahead of the game.
The Italian also gave much-coveted Callum Hudson-Odoi a second consecutive start in a latest bid to keep him from Bayern Munich. Olivier Giroud, who scored Chelsea’s only goal in that last meeting, was on the bench.
Mauricio Pochettino, by contrast, had very few headaches when selecting his side. Paulo Gazzaniga came in for Hugo Lloris though, outfield, Spurs were at full strength.
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Spurs started brightly, with Heung-min Son causing trouble in behind the Chelsea defence. Referee Michael Oliver had a decision to make early on when the South Korean went down in a tangle with Andreas Christensen, in for David Luiz, but waved away any appeals without the help of VAR.
Chelsea soon found their feet but were struggling to test Gazzaniga, more than capable of dealing with a tame effort from Hudson-Odoi and Hazard’s strike from range.
The visitors were, though, keeping Pochettino’s side penned back, with Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko struggling to break through and get the hosts back on the front foot.
Once they did find a way, though, Tottenham were ahead, albeit with somewhat of a delay.
Having failed to make ground through the middle, Toby Alderweireld fired a long ball for Kane to chase, the Spurs captain on the night took one touch and was brought down by Kepa, rushing out and leaving nothing in doubt.
The decision was initially given against Kane, however, the linesman’s flag giving Chelsea a lucky escape. Oliver had VAR on his side though and, having
already decided the challenge warranted a penalty, only needed conformation the striker was onside in the build-up.
He was and the use of VAR was executed perfectly, allowing Kane to strike low past Kepa and put Spurs on course for their third consecutive win over their London rivals.
Hudson-Odoi had done little down the right as the break approaching but almost had Chelsea level when his deflected cross had to be tipped onto the post by Gazzaniga before Alderweireld could hook clear.
They were behind but Chelsea still had a firm grip on the game after the break, continuing to restrict Spurs, as they looked for a leveller, N’Golo Kante drawing a good save from Gazzaniga with a strike from 20 yards.
Sarri’s side should have been level too when Christensen charged onto Ross Barkley’s clipped header at the a corner, but the Dane could only poke wide at the far post when a goal looked inevitable.
Chelsea were facing a familiar problem. They were in control but could not force their way through the middle to find a chance. Sarri sent on Pedro for Willian, Hudson-Odoi moving to the left to have a run at Kieran Trippier, but keeping Hazard through the middle where he looked limited.
The next change was Matteo Kovacic for Barkley, while still Giroud sat and watched from the sidelines as his teammates desperately looked for a focal point on the attack.
With ten minutes to go the Frenchman had his chance, but by then Spurs had endured the brunt of the Chelsea pressure and were looking more comfortable after the introduction of Erik Lamela in midfield.
The Argentine could well have had his first goal since November late on too if he had not have been adjudged to foul Marcos Alonso after Kane sent him through on goal.
As it was, Spurs will head to west London later this month with largely the same plan as they carried out here at Wembley.
They were far from spectacular, but after Sarri had demanded aggression, Tottenham were able to cool every aspect of their attack, with Dele Alli on hand to snuff out any attempt through the middle and ensure that the north Londoners hold the advantage as they look to reach a first final since 2015.
My view: Sarri was okay at first but he's becoming pointless just like Jose Mourinho. He selects the wrong players, plays them in the wrong positions, it's baffling why Sari instructs his side to play possession keep ball with absolutely no cutting edge. Awful to watch Chelsea play, they don't care about scoring goals, well they have very little chance in scoring. I think they need their CEO Roman Abramovich back as his babe is doing a terrible job in charge of the club.