Spot-on Kane gives Spurs slight advantage thanks to VAR
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League Cup semi-final first leg: Tottenham Hotspur 1 Chelsea 0
Harry Kane’s 27th-minute penalty handed Tottenham Hotspur a 1-0 win over Chelsea in the League Cup semi-final first leg, but it was far from a straightforward night for the hosts, who had to defend resolutely for long periods.
Spurs were not given a spot-kick initially, but after a consultation with Video Assistant Referee (VAR), Mauricio Pochettino’s side were handed the chance to take the lead from 12-yards.
Kane comprehensively finished the penalty after a slight delay and moved into fourth place on the club’s all-time top goalscorer list and it would prove the only goal of a pulsating London derby played out in front of a fantastic atmosphere despite a relatively low attendance of 44,371.
Both teams made a whole host of changes to their starting teams which featured in the FA Cup at the weekend.
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Pochettino introduced Kieran Trippier, Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose, Harry Winks, Moussa Sissoko, Christian Eriksen and Kane for the Wembley Stadium semi-final.
Dropping to the bench were Kyle Walker-Peters, Juan Foyth, Ben Davies, Oliver Skipp and Fernando Llorente, while Lucas Moura missed out with a knee injury and right-back Serge Aurier wasn’t part of the squad despite scoring twice against Tranmere Rovers.
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Captain Hugo Lloris was also among the substitutes as Pochettino kept faith with Paulo Gazzaniga, who started the League Cup wins over Watford, West Ham and Arsenal.
For Chelsea, they made eight changes to the team which saw off Nottingham Forest 3-0 on Sunday.
The likes of Eden Hazard, Willian, Jorginho, Kane and Cesar Azpilicueta earned recalls and so did first-choice goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi also started again, despite plenty of speculation over his future with Bayern Munich reported to be among the clubs interested in the Englishman.
Tottenham had the upper hand over Chelsea in 2018 – winning 3-1 at Stamford Bridge in April and more recently by the same score at Wembley in November.
Under Antonio Conte’s management in 2017, the Blues won twice against Spurs, though, including a last-four clash in the FA Cup, but did also lose at the start of that year too.
This was a different year, however, and more was at stake now, yet the winner of this tie would not be through to a final.
With this a two-legged affair, the first meeting was always likely to be cagey, but the way this started it suggested it would be anything but!
Both sets of fans produced a cauldron of noise at Wembley as the game got underway and it took only three minutes for the first moment of controversy to occur.
Dele Alli spotted the run of Heung-min Son and chipped over the top for the South Korea international, but he was bundled to the ground by Andreas Christensen just outside the penalty area.
Tottenham supporters and players appealed for a foul and a red card, but Michael Oliver waved play on and so Chelsea attacked.
A move from the visitors eventually ended when Ross Barkley fired well wide and so the spectators got a chance to grab their breath.
Not for long, though, as Son raced down the right and the ball came for Trippier, who crossed in for Kane, but his bicycle-kick shot was easily saved by Kepa with five played.
It was really end-to-end and being played like a one-off game – not a two-legged one – as Chelsea threatened again in the seventh minute, yet Hudson-Odoi’s effort was bread and butter for Gazzaniga, who had looked nervous during the opening stages.
Maurizio Sarri’s men were clearly not at Wembley for a 0-0 draw and pressed Tottenham high and intensely in the first 15 minutes and won a couple of corners, but they failed to produce a significant chance.
Hazard’s opening involvement took place in the 20th minute, yet Gazzaniga was on hand to save easily, but Spurs were nowhere near at their fluent best.
The Blues were pressing so high up the pitch Tottenham were struggling to get the ball to Kane and co in promising areas.
A tactic to get around it was a long ball perhaps and midway through the half Spurs tried this through Alderweireld.
The Belgian chipped over the Chelsea defence and Kane ran through and was brought down by Kepa, but the young Spanish goalkeeper was saved by the linesman’s flag. Or so he thought.
Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was in play at Wembley and so Oliver checked in to see if Kane was offside.
After a delay of close to two minutes, a decision was made and the Spurs captain for the night was onside and so it was a penalty.
Kepa received a yellow card and Kane now had the chance to put Tottenham in front, and he duly delivered in the 27th minute.
He fired into the left corner and in the process went past Cliff Jones to become the club’s fourth all-time leading goalscorer with 160 goals.
It was a proud moment for Kane, but there was little time to digest it as Chelsea searched for a quick reply and Winks picked up a caution for preventing a counter-attack.
Kante tested Gazzaniga soon after, but with half an hour played, the Argentinian had yet to make a save of note.
Chelsea were looking ominous in attack and hit the woodwork in the 40th minute through Kante after good play by Marcos Alonso.
The left-back got forward well and crossed in for the former Leicester City midfielder and his flick towards goal hit the post with Gazzaniga seemingly beaten.
It was a let-off for the hosts and occurred minutes after Pochettino had spoken to Alli in a break in play.
Spurs may have held the lead, but they were not playing anywhere near their best and had work to do as half time approached.
Two minutes of stoppage time was added on at the end of the 45 and Chelsea hit the post again with almost the last kick of the half.
Hudson-Odoi, who had looked bright throughout, saw a cross take a deflection off Rose and it looked to be heading in, but Gazzaniga got a finger to it and tipped it onto the post and Spurs managed to clear the loose ball.
It was another let-off, but as referee Oliver blew for half time, Tottenham crucially had a one-goal lead.
After Chelsea had dominated most of the first half, the Lilywhites were expected to come out a different side, but the pattern remained the same.
Worryingly Hazard’s influence was growing and in the 50th minute he almost picked out Barkley, despite having four white shirts around him, but Trippier headed his cross away for a corner.
Spurs briefly threatened in the 52nd minute when Alli and Sissoko exchanged passes and Kane then let fly from range, but Kepa parried his fierce effort wide of goal.
Normal business then resumed with Hazard getting away from Eriksen outside the area, but his low strike was easy for Gazzaniga with 54 on the clock.
Seconds later and the Argentina international was forced into a proper save when Kante tried his luck from 22-yards and his powerful strike needed to be pushed wide.
In the 58th minute Gazzaniga should have been beaten, but lady luck remained on Spurs’ side still.
A corner from Hazard was flicked on by Barkley and Christensen at the back post had a simple task of tapping in, but he got his toe-poke completely wrong and it flew well wide.
It was another huge chance missed and Sarri had seen enough as he introduced Pedro for Willian with 63 on the clock.
Although Chelsea were well on top, the Tottenham fans were doing their upmost to give their team a lift.
The noise from the home supporters was deafening and it lifted Pochettino’s players and they suddenly buzzed around in numbers and forced Chelsea into mistakes.
What also helped was a break in play which occurred when Kane went down and needed brief treatment.
Pochettino made a minor tactical tweak as Eriksen moved to the tip of the diamond and Alli dropped to the left side of the central two alongside Sissoko, who was on the right.
Tottenham’s new composure was evident when Gazzaniga had the confidence to chip the ball over Hazard and back into Alderweireld’s path and Spurs were suddenly keeping the ball much better than in the first half.
Chelsea made their second substitution with quarter of an hour left when Mateo Kovacic, a previous transfer target for the north Londoners, replaced Barkley.
Soon after and Pochettino made his first when Erik Lamela entered the fray for his first appearance since December 23.
The lively Son made way and the visitors made their final roll of the dice with 11 minutes left too with Oliver Giroud replacing the bright Hudson-Odoi.
Lamela was immediately into the action with a strong challenge, but another with 83 on the clock saw him booked.
Tensions was rising now as the seconds ticked away, but Gazzaniga remained composed as he claimed Alonso’s cross in the 84th minute to calm the fans nerves slightly.
Just two minutes later and the Spurs number two didn’t appear so cool when he dropped a Hazard cross, but Davinson Sanchez was on hand to clear and although it went only as far as Alonso, Trippier blocked his driven effort.
Youngster Skipp and Friday’s hat-trick hero Llorente were introduced for the final few minutes at Wembley and the former made a timely tackle to halt Hazard in his tracks.
He did concede a corner, though, and it was Chelsea’s last chance to salvage something, but Spurs survived and the full time whistle followed almost straightaway after.
It had not been vintage Tottenham by any stretch of the imagination, but they had got the first part of the job done.
Pochettino will take his team to Stamford Bridge on Thursday, January 24 with a one-goal cushion after a dogged defensive display in the end.
The likes of Gazzaniga, Trippier, Alderweireld, Sanchez and Rose were impressive and after winning three consecutive games against Chelsea now, Tottenham will be confident of pressing into the final at the end of this month.
Tottenham Hotspur: Gazzaniga; Trippier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Rose; Winks (Skipp 89); Sissoko, Eriksen (Llorente 90); Alli; Son (Lamela 79), Kane.
Unused substitutes: Lloris, Davies, Foyth, Walker-Peters.
Chelsea: Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger, Alonso; Jorginho; Kante, Barkley (Kovacic 75); Willian (Pedro 63), Hazard, Hudson-Odoi (Giroud 79).
Unused substitutes: Caballero, Zappacosta, Ampadu, Luiz.