Rüdiger not spared as Chelsea reach Wembley
Chelsea reached their first EFL Cup final in three years with a 1-0 win over luckless Tottenham Hotspur, as a professional and composed second-leg showing saw the Blues advance 3-0 on aggregate thanks to Antonio Rüdiger’s early strike.
Nearly twenty years since a side reached the EFL Cup final after losing the first-leg by more than a single-goal margin, Tottenham saw their hopes of a memorable comeback dashed on 18 minutes. Pierluigi Gollini, who had earlier denied Romelu Lukaku from inside the area, was at fault for Chelsea’s opener. The Spurs goalkeeper failed to deal with a corner, as Antonio Rüdiger headed home his tenth goal in Chelsea blue to raise further questions over Antonio Conte’s decision to drop club captain Hugo Lloris.
From that point on it was always going to be a difficult task, but the hosts had chances to put some doubt in the minds of a Chelsea contingent already singing songs of Wembley. Lucas Moura struck tamely, before Harry Kane was inches away from converting when the ball flashed across the six-yard box. On the stroke of half-time, Conte’s side looked to have been awarded a penalty, but VAR deemed Pierre-Emile Højbjerg to have been fouled outside the box.
Spurs’ misery continued to unfold in the second half thanks to a mix of poor football and bad luck. The hosts had another penalty awarded in the second half, but the decision was once again overturned, and a Harry Kane goal also fell foul of VAR, with the England captain caught offside. Emerson Royal then came close to scoring Tottenham’s first goal against Chelsea in five matches, but he was denied by an inspired save from Kepa Arrizabalaga, as the game petered to its conclusion.
Result aside, it was the ease with which their opponents dominated both legs that will concern Conte and Spurs fans alike. Once again asserting their psychological hold over a Tottenham side still trophyless since 2008, Chelsea will face either Arsenal or Liverpool in the final, as they look for their first EFL Cup triumph in seven years.