Mour the merrier as Spurs dump Chelsea out of Carabao Cup in penalty shootout thriller
By Ben Pearce at The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Tottenham 1-1 Chelsea (Spurs win 5-4 on penalties)
Of course it was mind-games.
Ahead of this cup tie, Jose Mourinho had warned Tottenham fans to expect a defeat, stating: “I would like to fight for the Carabao Cup but I don't think I can.”
After half an hour, it looked like Spurs were indeed heading for a limp surrender, with a much-changed side trailing 1-0 and managing just 20 per cent of possession.
But in the end, the Portuguese masterminded a thrilling victory after a penalty shootout, claiming his first victory over Frank Lampard and taking Tottenham one step closer to the long-awaited trophy the club and its fans crave.
Brought in to deliver silverware, Mourinho knows the value of the League Cup more than most. It was the first trophy he won in both of his spells with Chelsea, and his first with Manchester United, discounting the Community Shield. He is now three games away from repeating the feat with Spurs.
The fact that this victory over London rivals Chelsea came in a penalty shootout was particularly sweet, given Tottenham lost the 2019 League Cup semi-final to the Blues in the same manner.
That night at Stamford Bridge, Eric Dier and Lucas Moura both failed with their spot-kicks, but the pair earned redemption this time as they converted.
In fact, all five of Spurs’ penalty-takers were successful, with Mason Mount being the first and only player to miss. Perhaps the winning mentality Mourinho wants to instil is now appearing.
For Spurs, there was the added bonus that their equaliser in normal time was set up by debutant left-back Sergio Reguilon, who crossed for Erik Lamela.
Chelsea’s only consolation is that their new striker Timo Werner is off the mark after opening the scoring, while their own debutant Edouard Mendy made two fine saves during normal time, only conceding the equaliser because he was let down by poor defending.
Mourinho made nine changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Newcastle on Saturday, setting up his side in a 5-3-2 system.
The narrow three-man midfield meant Chelsea’s full-backs were unmarked, and Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic dropped deep to repeatedly switch play.
The Blues utterly dominated possession and, although the vast majority of their passes went harmlessly sideways, they nonetheless created the first clear opening as Callum Hudson-Odoi shot at Hugo Lloris. They then scored the opening goal in the 19th minute.
Ironically, given Spurs had barely had the ball at all, the strike came because the Lilywhites lost the ball in their own half – and unfortunately it was Reguilon who was the guilty party.
In his desperation to make amends, the Spaniard committed himself to a sliding tackle on Cesar Azpilicueta and allowed the experienced Chelsea full-back to cut back and deliver a low cross, which was deflected out as far as Werner, who found the bottom right corner.
The Blues continued to hog the ball for the following 15 minutes, and it was very much against the run of play when Gedson Fernandes got through on goal, being denied by a fine sliding tackle from Kurt Zouma.
Mourinho’s frustrations spilled over as he instigated some verbals with Frank Lampard on the touchline. But the Portuguese’s players finally began to put up a fight too in the closing stages of the first half, stringing some passes together in Chelsea’s half.
They nearly equalised too but, as Lamela fired towards the bottom right corner, Mendy stuck out a foot to make a fine save.
Spurs continued to threaten after the break as Serge Aurier teed up Reguilon, who forced another good save from Mendy, while Aurier sent an effort wide with his weaker left foot.
Mourinho turned up the pressure by introducing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Harry Kane and Lucas – and the equaliser came in the 83rd minute.
Toby Alderweireld fired a crossfield ball out to Reguilon, who chipped a right-footed cross to an unmarked Lamela, who fired home at close range.
The absence of home fans was felt during the ensuing penalty shootout, which took place in front of the iconic south stand, which should have been packed with baying Tottenham fans. But Spurs’ players got the job done anyway to reach the quarter-finals.