Football Features

Saul stars as Chelsea take control of EFL Cup semi-final against Spurs

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:07, 5 January 2022


Chelsea have taken control of their EFL Cup semi-final with Tottenham Hotspur thanks to a 2-0 victory in Wednesday’s first leg.

The Blues dominated their visitors throughout and will have wished they had scored more than their two, both of which came in the first half. Kai Havertz opened the scoring inside five minutes before a Ben Davies own goal gave them a comfortable advantage.

Tottenham have just one week to recover, with the second leg scheduled for Wednesday 12th January.

Here’s how the players rated at Stamford Bridge:

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Chelsea

Kepa Arrizabalaga – 6 – Didn’t really have too much to do through the game but made a good save from Kane’s free-kick early in the second half and denied Lo Celso late on.

Cesar Azpilicueta – 7 – Another Azpilicueta 7/10 performance with Mr Reliable playing at right-back in a back four this time. He linked up well with Ziyech to cause problems for the Tottenham defence and Chelsea will be hoping his injury is minor, having to come off late on.

Antonio Rudiger – 7 – Key to Chelsea building from the back with both his long passing and short passing. As solid as he usually is and kept the explosive runs to a minimum with less security in a back four (though he did have to try at least one). A real leader at centre-back.

Malang Sarr – 8 – A really good performance from the centre-back who Chelsea are reportedly okay with letting go this month. Played with confident and didn’t look out of place alongside Rudiger, even with the early fears of him playing close to Marcos Alonso. Gave away a silly foul just outside the Chelsea area early in the second half but that was the only blip.

Marcos Alonso – 8 – Telegraphed Tanganga’s pass excellently early on and played the perfect ball into Havertz for Chelsea’s opener. Enjoyed himself on the left flank and didn’t suffer defensively either.

Mason Mount – 7 – Was the man that often made the 4-3-3 into a 4-2-3-1, getting involved in and around the box early on. Slightly overshadowed by some of his attacking team-mates but it was another good performance from the Englishman.

Jorginho – 7 – Helped keep things ticking in midfield and controlled the game.

Saul Niguez – 8 – The Spaniard’s best game in a Chelsea shirt, putting in a shift both defensively and offensively. At the time of his substitution he had made more tackles and more interceptions than any other player on the pitch.

Hakim Ziyech – 8 – Chelsea’s best player on the night. Got into dangerous positions and constantly looked to hurt a shaky Tottenham defence playing a sort of hybrid role. Set up as a winger, and that was his main focus, but did also slot back to form a five on the rare occasions Tottenham got forward. Played some frankly ridiculous balls and it was his delivery that brought Chelsea’s second.

Romelu Lukaku – 4 – All eyes were on Lukaku for this game after he was dropped against Liverpool and he looked to start brightly. But a wasted chance in the opening minute would sum up his game. Four touches in the opening 30 minutes and a poor header from a good Ziyech cross. Made a couple of good runs but didn’t enjoy his night.

Kai Havertz – 7 – A really good first half from the German, playing alongside Lukaku, and he opened the scoring early on, getting onto the end of Alonso’s neat pass – his shot was going on target so it was awarded to him. Should have scored a second but his first-time shot after a poor clearance was tame. Taken off at half-time with a hand injury suffered while opening the scoring and another knock.

Substitutes:

Timo Werner (for Havertz 45) – 7 – Really lively after coming on, had a couple of chances including a lobbed stopped by Lloris after Ziyech pass. It was the right decision, he just didn’t get enough height on the shot. Made his claim to start over Lukaku in the next game.

Mateo Kovacic (for Mount 73) – 6 – A standard Kovacic performance in his brief time on the pitch helping Chelsea keep things going in midfield.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek (for Saul 73) – 4 – Struggled to get into the game after coming on in what was his 100th Chelsea appearance.

Christian Pulisic (for Ziyech 79) – 6 – Was meant to be an attacking substitution but ended up playing right-back.

Harvey Vale (for Azpilicueta 90) – N/A – A late sub.

Tottenham

Hugo Lloris – 6 – Couldn’t do much about either goal but stood tall to deny Werner in the second half.

Japhet Tanganga – 2 – The defender will be waking up tomorrow morning hoping it’s still Wednesday and his performance at Stamford Bridge was purely a bad dream. It was his under-hit pass to Emerson that Alonso intercepted for the opening goal and he who headed the ball into Davies for his own goal. He looked out of confidence and quality which was only enhanced by the fun Chelsea had in attack.

Davinson Sanchez – 4 – Had the worst possible start in diverting Havertz’s shot into his own goal, though it was likely to go in anyway. Certainly didn’t get worse after that but didn’t look comfortable in defence.

Ben Davies – 6 – Unfortunate to get the own goal and couldn’t really do anything to avoid being hit. Much better at left-back after Tottenham’s switch and looked to get forward.

Emerson Royal – 5 – Pinned back in the opening stages by Alonso and was slow to react to Tanganga’s pass, allowing Alonso the opportunity to get in front of him. But like Davies, improved after half-time as Tottenham moved to a back four.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg – 3 – Overrun in midfield and really struggled against Chelsea’s trio.

Oliver Skipp – 3 – Completely bypassed.

Matt Doherty – 5 – Wasn’t bad in the first half but wasn’t really good either. Taken off at half-time with Tottenham chasing and switching system.

Lucas Moura – 5 – Spurs’ most dangerous attacker but that’s not saying much. Had some joy in the second half as Chelsea eased off but couldn’t get the goal Tottenham would have wanted to take into the second leg.

Son Heung-min – 3 – Very quiet and really struggled to get into the game.

Harry Kane – 3 – Looked isolated throughout but did have Tottenham’s first shot of the game. In the 50th minute. But his free-kick was saved by Arrizabalaga.

Substitutes:

Tanguy Ndombele (for Doherty 45) – 5 – His arrival brought the move to a back four and his advanced positioning changed something for Tottenham, in a positive way. But the positive impact didn’t last long and he actually looked knackered after 37 minutes of pressing.

Harry Winks (for Skipp 73) – 5 – A like for like sub but didn’t really influence the game – though did nothing wrong.

Giovani Lo Celso (for Son 79) – 5 – Tested Arrizabalaga in injury time after Gil’s good work but otherwise didn’t have too much time to do anything.

Bryan Gil (for Lucas 80) – 5 – Didn’t really have enough time to influence the game but did cause Chelsea a problem in injury time with a good run and cut back into the box.

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