Chelsea put one foot in the EFL Cup final thanks to a comfortable 2-0 victory over Tottenham in Wednesday’s semi-final first leg on a chastening return to Stamford Bridge for Antonio Conte.
Thomas Tuchel, seemingly eager to put recent indiscretions to one side after an apology, reinstated Romelu Lukaku to his starting XI, though Chelsea’s victory arguably said more about Spurs’ defence than the hosts’ attack.
The Blues were ahead inside five minutes as Kai Havertz punished a Japhet Tanganga error at the back, and a comical Ben Davies own goal had Chelsea cruising at the interval.
Spurs improved somewhat in the second 45 minutes but were fortunate not to concede more goals, with Timo Werner spurning a couple of excellent opportunities, perhaps giving Conte’s men a lifeline for the return leg.
Lukaku should have made a swift impact when released into the box in the first minute, only to bizarrely opt for a cut-back that went to no one.
Spurs gifted them another chance soon after, though, and Chelsea took it – Marcos Alonso cut out Tanganga’s dreadful pass and fed Havertz, who found the net despite Davinson Sanchez’s best efforts.
The dominant home side made it 2-0 just past the half-hour mark, Tanganga’s unchallenged headed clearance bouncing back off Davies and going in.
Spurs, who introduced Tanguy Ndombele at half-time, were brighter early in the second period, with Harry Kane testing Kepa Arrizabalaga via a 20-yard free-kick.
Still, the best chances went the way of Chelsea and Werner, who first shot agonisingly wide and then saw Hugo Lloris just about reach his lobbed effort after an exquisite pass from Hakim Ziyech.
A late Ndombele effort from Bryan Gil’s pull-back was then well saved by Kepa as the Blues kept their clean sheet intact.
What does it mean? Chelsea in control of the tie
The last trophy Spurs won was via this competition in 2008 – on the evidence of this first leg, they will not be ending that drought in next month’s final.
Sure, there was undoubtedly an improvement from Spurs in the second half here, but they could not really have gotten any worse – they failed to register a single shot in the first 45 minutes. Even then, Chelsea were still on another level after the break.
Conte has received a lot of praise for the impact he has had on Spurs in just a couple of months at the helm, but this was a reminder of how far they still have to go.
Fruitful from the flanks
Alonso and Ziyech were both impressive out wide for the Blues. The Spaniard was deployed as a left-back rather than wing-back but still got forward to great effect, making the interception and playing the pass for the first goal – that was one of three key passes. The only player to register more (four) was Ziyech on the right, whose use of the ball was often excellent in the final third.
You’ve been Tangangoed!
This was a day to forget for Tanganga. It was his poor pass to Emerson Royal that was intercepted in the build-up to the first goal, and then his header went in off Davies for the second when he was under virtually no pressure, proving a real slap in the face for the Welsh defender.
These two will resume hostilities next Wednesday in the second leg at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but before that, both teams are in FA Cup action. Chelsea host Chesterfield on Saturday, while Spurs welcome Morecambe to north London the following day.
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