Chelsea reaches League Cup final despite ‘playing with fire’ against Tottenham


Chelsea reached the League Cup final despite a close call, as Antonio Rudiger’s goal and three VAR decisions helped the Blues secure a 1-0 win at Tottenham on Wednesday.

Rudiger’s first-half header helped Chelsea make the most of the advantage it earned with a 2-0 win at home in the first leg of the semifinal last week.

Manager Thomas Tuchel’s team also had VAR official Mike Dean on its side, as Tottenham was given two penalties by Andre Marriner, only to have both overturned upon review. Harry Kane also had a goal disallowed for offside.

Chelsea, a 3-0 aggregate winner, will play in the final at Wembley on Feb. 27.

“We started good,” Tuchel said. “We had big chances and controlled the match, but I had the feeling we played with fire.

“We allowed chances from sloppy mistakes and were lucky. We almost gave a penalty away for no reason, for a bit of overconfidence.

“We needed luck to not give away another penalty, to have an offside VAR decision.”

Tuchel is the first manager in Chelsea’s history to lead the club to the Champions League, F.A. Cup and League Cup finals, a feat he achieved just 350 days after his first game in charge in January 2020.

Chelsea is in the League Cup final for the first time since 2019 and will be trying to win its first title since 2015.

“We need to play better if we’re going to really deserve results like this,” Tuchel said. “We have to meet the standards.”

Tottenham has not won a major trophy since lifting the League Cup in 2008, and its options for ending that drought this season are dwindling.

Spurs manager Antonio Conte admitted it would be hard to overturn the first-leg deficit against a team of Chelsea’s quality, and his pessimism proved to be well founded as Chelsea quickly put a stranglehold on the tie in north London.

“At the end of the two games, Chelsea deserved to reach the final in this competition, we have to be honest,” Conte said.

“In the second half, we created many chances to score and we deserved a result better than losing 1-0, but if you have a judgement over the two games, Chelsea deserved to win.”

Tottenham’s bid to become just the second team to reach the League Cup final after losing the first leg by more than one goal was shattered in the 18th minute.

Pierluigi Gollini was a surprise starter for Tottenham, a gamble that backfired as the ‘keeper was at fault for Chelsea’s opener.

It was a shambolic goal to concede, as Gollini came off his line in a failed attempt to punch away Mason Mount’s corner, allowing the unmarked Rudiger to guide his header into the top corner.

Rudiger scored in Chelsea’s Premier League win at Tottenham this season, and the German defender’s aggression was again too much for the north Londoners to handle.

Tottenham thought it had won a penalty when Rudiger sent Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg tumbling with a sliding tackle on the Dane, but VAR changed Marriner’s decision to a free kick as the tackle was clearly made outside the area.

Marriner’s poor decisions only added to Tottenham’s frustration, and the referee was forced to deny the hosts another penalty in the second half.

Kane’s pass sent Lucas Moura through on goal, but Chelsea ‘keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga made a well-timed block with his legs and, after Marriner errantly pointed to the spot, VAR intervened to change the decision.

Incredibly, Tottenham endured a third VAR reversal when Kane swept his shot into the far corner in the 63rd minute, only for the review to show he was offside.

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