Chelsea played a near-perfect first half and were unlucky to only lead 2-0 (goals from Kante and Hazard) and still be facing 11 men. Spurs had offered very little and Chelsea showed the exact mentality that Sarri had been demanding.
The second half, as it so often happens, was a different story, with Spurs switching formation and approach, kicking everything in sight (and still getting away with it), and scoring a goal through Fernando Llorente of all players. Chelsea didn’t play particularly badly, outside of maybe the odd few minutes, but Spurs stepped up several gears and that made for an open, tense, and probably exciting (for the neutral) spectacle. Tremendously poor and one-sided refereeing didn’t help, nor did VAR falling asleep again.
Chelsea then regained control and came close through Hazard a couple times, but were unable to find the crucial winner in regulation. Giroud missed two more in added-on time, as we all glanced towards the ineligible Gonzalo Higuain sitting on the bench.
And so, penalties beckoned, since neither extra-time nor away goals apply in the League Cup.
Spurs went first, but Chelsea were perfect.
On to the final!! After watching his side overcome Tottenham on penalties to progress to the Carabao Cup final, Maurizio Sarri expressed his delight with our display.
The Blues produced a superb display to win the game 2-1 on the night, before prevailing after winning 4-2 on spot-kicks, with Kepa making a huge save to thwart Lucas Moura, enabling David Luiz to convert the decisive kick.
Sarri was delighted with the response of his players following Saturday’s defeat to Arsenal.
‘I think that they reacted very well tonight,’ he said. ‘But I didn’t attack my players, I only said we had a problem. The reaction was very good but I think we need to have motivation with continuity now, but I was very happy with the performance before the penalties.
‘Of course it’s better because we will now play a final, a very difficult final but I was very happy with the performance. Also if there was a different outcome from the penalties (I would have been happy).
‘I think in the last three or four matches we had a problem, firstly motivation and then the players stopped to having fun on the pitch. Now with this performance and result we can once again find enthusiasm which is very important.
‘I think we have to think about the 180 minutes, the two matches. In two matches I think we deserved to win, and I think in this match we deserved to win without penalties.
Whereas Chelsea’s previous boss, Antonio Conte was all about work, Sarri wants his players to have fun on the pitch . He wasn’t the only person to recognize that factor had largely gone missing in recent performances.
But tonight, the fun was back! Thanks, Spurs!
“I think in the last three or four matches we have had a problem, I think the players had stopped to have fun on the pitch. I think again we can find enthusiasm, it was very important.”
One Chelsea player who is perhaps driven a bit too much by fun, by his own admission , is Eden Hazard. But while he may lack a bit of drive at times, on big occasions such as tonight, he often steps up. And when he does, there might not be another player in England who can make as big of a difference as he can.
Were it not Martin Atkinson’s egregious refereeing, and a couple close shaves in the second half, he could have easily notched a hat-trick. The goal he did get was his first of the calendar year.Still, Eden was clearly having plenty of fun on the pitch and happy to be back in his usual position, despite the constant kicking administered from the likes of Eric “England’s Penalty Shootout Hero” Dier.
“[Was Hazard having fun?] I think so. I had fun with 70-75 minutes with Hazard, I think he was tired at the end. He played a fantastic match.”
“I think the position is not a big problem. I think we played with another mind and motivation and determination. His qualities are more important than that position.”
Hazard was well supported by Brazilian-Italian left-back Emerson Palmieri, who greatly impressed onlookers while deputizing for the rather more beleaguered Marcos Alonso.
Chelsea Loan Army @ChelseaLoanArmy
Emerson v Tottenham
2 Loss of possession
85% Pass accuracy
2 Big chances created
2 Key passes
1/2 Long balls
2 Dribbled past
Emerson has to start every game
11:05 PM – Jan 24, 2019
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Sarri made sure to dismiss any rumours that Emerson was set to leave this month, while complimenting him on his steady development since the start of the season.
“Emerson stays with us for sure. He is improving, sometimes we have a problem to put him in the starting XI as we are not a physical team, so when you have three little players set pieces can be a problem, not another reason. I am very happy with him and he is improving.”
Sarri has yet to win a trophy at the professional level, after years building up his reputation at amateur and semi-professional clubs in Italy. His last final was the 2012-13 Italian Serie B promotion playoff with Empoli, which he proceeded to lose 2-1 on aggregate score to Livorno.
Obviously, he hopes that his next one, at Wembley, will be much different.
“The final for the play-off of Serie A [was my last one]. If you say I have never won anything at this level, you are right. I am really very happy because I get to play a final at Wembley.
“But now we have to think to the FA Cup, then the next dangerous match will be.
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