By Jacob Toland
Chelsea sealed their place in the Carabao Cup final last night by defeating Tottenham Hotspur 4-2 on penalties after the two-legged affair finished 2-2.
Maurizio Sarri hopes Chelsea have overcome their motivational issues after advancing to the Carabao Cup final at the expense of Tottenham.
Sarri criticised his players’ poor performance at Arsenal and singled out Eden Hazard as “not a leader” on the eve of the semi-final second leg with Spurs at Stamford Bridge.
Gonzalo Higuain was introduced to the Stamford Bridge crowd before the start of the game. The Argentine striker joined on loan from Juventus after AC Milan agreed to terminate their own loan deal first.
Higuain was signed too late to feature in the game and with Alvaro Morata preparing to joining Atletico Madrid, it was Olivier Giroud who played up top for the Blues.
Chelsea overturned a first-leg deficit as N’Golo Kante and Hazard struck in the first half, but Fernando Llorente’s header forced penalties, with the tie ending 2-2 on aggregate.
Eric Dier fired over and Lucas Moura’s effort was saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga, before David Luiz kept his composure in a 4-2 shootout success as the Chelsea players answered Sarri’s public rebuke with a fine performance to set up a February 24 final with Manchester City.
The result now means Tottenham have now lost five out of their last six semi-final appearances in all competitions and with Harry Kane and Dele Alli picking up longterm injuries, Spurs will be hoping for some good fortune in the coming games.
The game was not without its controversy though with Llorente clean through on goal only to be called offside by the assistant. With VAR in play, the rules state that play should have gone on and called back if the video assistants found it offside.
Spurs head coach Mauricio Pochettino had even more to be angry about with the change of the away goal rule.
Previous Carabao Cup rules would have seen Spurs force extra-time and potentially progress on away goals with the tie levelled at 2-2, but the competition changed its setup this term.
Pochettino noted the change in the rules of the Carabao Cup ultimately cost injury-hit Spurs the chance to book a Wembley date with holders Manchester City. Speaking during his post-match press conference, he said:
“We made an unbelievable effort. This season we are fighting not only with the opponents with everything that’s happened.
“That is not an excuse. It’ll make us stronger. We have three more competitions, still. We arrived in a semi-final and lost to Chelsea, one of the best teams in Europe.
“In the Copa del Rey in Spain, and other competitions in Europe, if you score away from home and it’s 2-2 at the end of 180 minutes, I think the team who scored away from home goes through. Last season, they changed the rules and now we’re out because of penalties.”
Chelsea fan Scott Bradley from Glasgow travelled down for the game and was thrilled to see his team make it to the final:
“It was a big win, especially when we were 1-0 down from the 1st leg. We probably could have won it in normal time if we took our chances.
“We did get a bit lucky with Kante’s goal nutmegging three players in a row but the win was totally deserved.”
When asked if the win could repair some of the damage between Sarri and the board, Scott was quick to support the manager:
“It’s been a tough few weeks. The results haven’t been very good and then you have the talk of he board being angry with Sarri over the Morata fiasco of whether he was fit or not.
“At the end of the day, it’s up to the manager to decide if he plays or not.”
Maurizio Sarri’s team will now take on Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City team at Wembley on the 24th of February as the first silverware of the season goes up for grabs.