Chelsea qualified for the Carabao Cup final with a comfortable semi-final win over Tottenham.
Spurs never seriously threatened to overturn Chelsea’s two-goal first-leg advantage and Antonio Rudiger’s bundled finish from the Mason Mount corner after 18 minutes effectively confirmed a Wembley date with Arsenal or Liverpool.
It was a frustrating night for Spurs and their former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte as they saw two penalties, awarded by referee Andre Marriner for fouls on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Lucas Moura, correctly overturned by VAR.
Harry Kane also saw a goal ruled out for offside in an improved second-half Spurs performance, but Chelsea always looked in control – and once they extended their overall lead early on they were able to control the business without reaching their best shape.
The game was halted late following a medical emergency in the crowd and when it resumed Chelsea completed the formalities for their victory.
Conte’s enormous task revealed
Spurs manager Conte has made no secret of the scale of his work to rejuvenate this club after its recent decline – and any doubts about that diagnosis have been removed by Chelsea’s clear superiority here.
However, why Conte felt the need to rest experienced goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris with the tie still in play and instead play assistant Pierluigi Gollini remained a mystery.
Gollini stood out when he saved Romelu Lukaku with his legs early on but was at fault when he made an unconvincing run to claim Mount’s corner, a move that ended badly when the ball was diverted into the net via Rudiger’s back.
It was surely a job that required Lloris to be present when Spurs’ margin of error was virtually non-existent.
Spurs issued something of a challenge after the break, but it was too little, too late – and it was a lackluster display that only illustrated the amount of work Conte had to do.
Kane fought back but remains below his best form as there was a lack of creativity in midfield that allowed Chelsea to contain Spurs with relative comfort.
Conte will expect serious backing from Spurs chairman Daniel Levy if his drive and fierce ambition are to be satisfied. Right now, he has a squad that needs some serious investment before they can consider getting closer to the Premier League top flight.
Tuchel shows his magic touch again
Chelsea are now in their third consecutive final under Thomas Tuchel since he arrived to take over from the sacked Frank Lampard almost a year ago.
He guided them to the FA Cup final last season, which Chelsea lost to Leicester City, before claiming Europe’s biggest club prize when they won the Champions League against Manchester City at Porto.
The work of reaching the EFL Cup final was largely done in the first game at Stamford Bridge, but Chelsea came here with the kind of determination and attacking intent that made it clear they were determined to quell Spurs’ hopes as quickly as possible.
Lukaku wasted a chance to do so, but the first goal they wanted came from Rudiger, giving Spurs a task they never seemed to complete.
Tuchel, of higher standards than ever, occasionally made an unsatisfied figure in the second half when Chelsea’s intensity plummeted and a bit of complacency seemed to seep into their game, giving Spurs opportunities they never had in the first 45 minutes.
The Chelsea players responded to their manager’s requests and the encounter took place in a testimonial atmosphere in the final minutes as Spurs fans deserted the stadium in droves, leaving a corner full of cheerful visiting supporters.
The strength of Chelsea’s squad was shown once again as Tuchel was able to bring in Thiago Silva, Marcos Alonso, Hakim Ziyech, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and N’Golo Kante in the second half to ensure the gate did not ever be left ajar for Spurs. Indeed, it was slammed firmly in their faces.
It shows the extent of the work done by Tuchel in the 350 days since his first game at Chelsea, he became the first manager in their history to guide them to a Champions League, FA Cup and Champions League final. the EFL Cup.
And, on this evidence, Chelsea will take some stopping, whoever they face at Wembley at the end of February.