Tottenham advanced in dramatic style to the Carabao Cup quarter-finals after a late Erik Lamela equaliser forced penalties – and he and his teammates duly kept their nerve from the spot. It was no more than they deserved. Mason Mount missed Chelsea’s fifth penalty.
José Mourinho had said he would “like to fight for the Carabao Cup but I don’t think I can”. It was Spurs’ fifth game in 12 days and the sixth will come on Thursday – the Europa League play-off against Maccabi Haifa; a game of vital importance to the club’s finances. This one was the one that had to give. But as Mourinho made nine changes from Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle, Spurs did fight. Nobody more so than Lamela, who excelled in an unfamiliar role up front.
Chelsea were pushed back and, although they blew chances to make the tie safe on the counterattack, there was an inevitability about Spurs’ equaliser that forced penalties – and the identity of the scorer. Sergio Reguilón, who put a difficult start to his debut behind him, crossed and when a trio of Chelsea players failed to deal with the ball – Fikayo Tomori, Kurt Zouma and the substitute Emerson in that order – Lamela shot home at the far post.
“Today, we don’t have a nine,” Mourinho had announced before kick-off, which presumably made Lamela and Steven Bergwijn false ones, the first line of defence in the manager’s 5-3-2 system. Mourinho’s instinct was to contain and Chelsea pressed hard at the outset.
Spurs had barely escaped their own half by the time Chelsea went in front in the 19th minute and the goal had been advertised. Moments earlier, Callum Hudson-Odoi met a cross from the left, which Japhet Tanganga had failed to clear, and his low shot was straight at Lloris.
The breakthrough goal was a disaster for Reguilón. First he lost the ball to Hudson-Odoi, who released César Azpilicueta on the right and, when Reguilón chased back, he jumped into a tackle on the Chelsea captain. Sadly for him, Azpilicueta saw it coming, jinked inside and Reguilón slid off in the direction of the High Road.
Azpilicueta’s cross deflected slightly off Moussa Sissoko to fall for Timo Werner and it was the prompt for the striker to showcase his control and precision. One touch set up the shooting chance on the edge of the area; he bent the ball low into the near corner of the net with the second.
The tempo was high and there was no little needle, with the challenges flying in. Mourinho and Frank Lampard clashed on the touchline after one midway through the first-half, with the former indicating that his one-time player ought to stop talking. Mourinho then said to Lampard that he would not have been out of his seat if his team had been 3-0 down – an apparent reference to Chelsea’s 3–3 draw at West Brom on Saturday. Lampard had been on his seat when it was 3-0 to West Brom. This is the kind of audio that behind-closed-doors football permits to be heard.
Chelsea dominated the ball but Spurs did have their moments before the interval, with Lamela showing his steel and silk. He won the ball to play in Gedson Fernandes, who was thwarted by a saving tackle from Kurt Zouma, as he raced in on goal while Lamela turned away beautifully from Jorginho inside the area before working Édouard Mendy, the debutant Chelsea goalkeeper.
The team news was always going to frame the occasion and the headline item from a Chelsea point of view was Lampard’s selection of Mendy – one of eight changes from the West Brom game. Kepa Arrizabalaga watched from the stands.
Mendy was called upon to make a fine save from Reguilón early in the second-half, after Lamela had released Serge Aurier, and it was a more aggressive Spurs that re-emerged. With Lamela enjoying a fine game, leading the line with energy and attitude, Mourinho’s team pushed higher up the field. They were first to the ball and Aurier, one of the symbols of the improvement, flashed a shot wide after Bergwijn had controlled a high ball from Eric Dier and squared.
With Chelsea on their heels, Spurs could feel that there was something in this game for them. Mourinho sent on Harry Kane and Lucas Moura although, with the game stretched, Chelsea had a clutch of big chances for the second. Werner worked Lloris, Hudson-Odoi lifted wastefully high and Mount could not play in Werner. Kane missed his chance, shooting off target but Lamela did not miss his.