Tottenham beat Chelsea 1-0 in Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at Wembley. It sets up the second leg at Stamford Bridge nicely and both sides can feel confident about their chances.
Selection and tactics
Mauricio Pochettino chose a near full-strength line-up, with Dele Alli again behind a front two of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min. Son’s pace troubled David Luiz in November and Maurizio Sarri reacted by dropping the Brazilian to the bench, with Andreas Christensen selected in his place. The 18-year-old Callum Hudson-Odoi started, despite persistent links with Bayern Munich. Sarri stuck to his 4-3-3 formation, with Eden Hazard as a ‘false nine’. Spurs had a more dynamic and fluid approach.
Sarri-ball nullified again?
Spurs led 2-0 after 16 minutes in the Premier League win here, with Alli hounding Jorginho. The Italy playmaker grew into the game here. A fourth-minute pass was intercepted by Son and Kane executed an overhead kick which Kepa Arrizabalaga saved. Jorginho made more positive contributions thereafter. Chelsea did pin Spurs back at times, but a cutting edge was lacking.
‘False nine’ falls short
Sarri is clearly far from convinced by his recognised strikers. Alvaro Morata was said to be ruled out by a knock, although the Spain striker has been linked with a move to Sevilla. Olivier Giroud was only on the bench following an ankle injury, so Hazard was Chelsea’s attacking focal point. It worked against Manchester City. It did not here. It also nullified some of the threat of Hudson-Odoi, who made both goals for Morata last Saturday against Nottingham Forest by traditional wing play. Not an option with Hazard up front.
There were pre-match pleas from both bosses and clubs after recent unsavoury incidents of discrimination and, by in large, there was little to report. A 17-year-old male was arrested for “a racially aggravated public order offence”, the Metropolitan Police said, and there were isolated, short-lived and relatively muted uses of the Y word by some Tottenham supporters, less regular than in many of their matches.
What it all means
Pochettino and Sarri are both chasing a first trophy of their managerial careers. Spurs, without silverware since 2008, might have hoped for more than a one-goal margin following the first leg. The teams will renew hostilities on Thursday, January 24 at Stamford Bridge, by which time they will know whether holders Manchester City or Burton will be in the final.