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Cup heartbreak as Spurs lose semi-final on penalties

Fernando Llorente goal not enough to win Carabao Cup tie at Stamford Bridge

24 January, 2019 — By Dan Carrier at Stamford Bridge

Carabao Cup – Semi-Final, 2nd Leg

CHELSEA 2 (Kante 27, Hazard 38)
SPURS 1 (Llorente 50)
(Agg 2-2 – Chelsea win 4-2 on penalties)

MAURICIO Pochettino’s hunt for his first piece of silverware came to a pitiful end tonight (Thursday) when a patched-up Spurs side lost 4-2 on penalties in a scrappy encounter at Stamford Bridge.

Spurs, who led by a single goal from the first leg, looked down and out in the opening half when Chelsea cruised into a two-goal lead. But a gritty second-half performance saw Tottenham get back on level terms on aggregate through Fernando Llorente – and the stand-in striker’s effort was enough to take the game to spotkicks.

Both sides scored their opening two penalties, but Chelsea got their noses in front when Eric Dier spooned his shot over the bar. Lucas Moura then failed to beat Kepa Arrizbalaga from 12 yards and Maurizio Sarri’s team hit four out of four, booking the west London side a trip to the final in February against Manchester City.

Speaking after the game, manager Pochettino said he had nothing but pride for the way his team had battled.

He said: “I’m so happy with the performance and the way we fought. After two amazing games I praise my players.”

He added he felt his side reacted admirably to falling behind to two goals in the opening period.

He said: “In the second half we played so well. We dominated and had chances. Over 180 minutes, it was 2-2.”

But this was a tough one to take, despite Chelsea being arguably the better side in both legs. Spurs have lost their last seven FA Cup semi-finals – the last in 2017 to Chelsea – and have a pretty dismaying record in the League Cup, too, having got to two finals in recent times and lost both of them. To compound matters, this was the first semi-final since 1983 where the away goals rule was discounted. Had the usual rules applied, it would be Spurs celebrating.

On the plus side for Pochettino, his team put in a real shift under tough circumstances due to the swathe of absentees in the shape of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son. They have goalscoring form against Chelsea – and how they were missed.

Chelsea took the lead on 27 when Spurs failed to adequately clear a corner. N’Golo Kante was lurking on the edge of the box and his low drive skidded through a thicket of players. Paolo Gazzaniga got to the effort – but the ball spun between his legs and in.

The home side doubled their lead on 38 when Eden Hazard started and finished a flowing move, neatly sidefooting home from inside the box.

It was all the home team deserved – Spurs had looked disjointed and toothless for much of the opening period.

Pochettino sent them out with more adventure in the second half. Substitute Danny Rose caused problems and it was from this route that Llorente got a crucial goal back on 50. Rose broke free, crossed with accuracy and Llorente scored with a header.

It got nervy as both sides huffed and puffed for a winner. Moura had a chance to snatch something when he raced on to a long ball, and Olivier Giroud also went close at the death. But it was a tangle of a performance from both sets of players as loose balls were given away, late tackles flew in and neither keeper was genuinely troubled as final passes were too often skewiff.

And so to penalties, where Chelsea were clinical – leaving Spurs to rue the combination of a fixture pile-up and injuries that meant this was just one step too far for a depleted squad.

Spurs: Gazzaniga, Alerweireld, Vertonghen, Winks, Lamela, Dier, Sissoko (Sanchez, 79) Llorente (Moura, 67) Eriksen, Aurier, Davies (Rose, 32).
Subs: Lloris, N’Koudou, Walker-Peters, Skipp.

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Rudiger, Jorginho, Kante, Barkley (Kovacic, 79) Hazard, Pedro (Willian, 74) Giroud, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Emerson.
Subs: Caballero, Alonso, Hudson-Oboi, Piazon, Ampadu.

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