Chelsea eased into the Carabao Cup final as they closed out 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 Mason Mount’s corner after 18 minutes effectively confirmed a Wembley date with either Arsenal or Liverpool.
It was a night of frustration 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 performance from Spurs but Chelsea always looked in control – and once they had extended their aggregate lead early on, they were able to control affairs without hitting their best form.
The game was paused late on following a medical emergency in the crowd and on resumption Chelsea completed the formalities of their victory.
Conte’s huge task exposed
Spurs manager Conte has made no secret of the size of his job in rejuvenating this club after their recent decline – and any doubts over that diagnosis were removed by Chelsea’s obvious superiority here.
It was still a mystery, however, as to why Conte felt the need to rest experienced keeper and captain Hugo Lloris with the tie still on the line and play deputy Pierluigi Gollini instead.
Gollini distinguished himself when he saved with his legs from Romelu Lukaku early on but was at fault when he made an unconvincing dash to claim Mount’s corner, a move that ended badly when the ball was diverted into net via Rudiger’s back.
This was surely a job that required the presence of Lloris when Spurs’ margin of error was virtually non-existent.
Spurs did mount a challenge of sorts after the break but it was too little, too late – and this was a mediocre display that only illustrated how much work Conte needs to do.
Kane battled but remains short of his best form while there was a lack of creativity in midfield that allowed Chelsea to contain Spurs with relative comfort.
Conte will be expecting serious backing from Spurs chairman Daniel Levy if his drive and fierce ambition is to be satisfied. At present, he has a squad that requires serious investment before there can be thoughts of getting anywhere near the Premier League elite.
Tuchel shows magic touch again
Chelsea are now in their third successive final under Thomas Tuchel since he arrived to succeed 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 the biggest European club prize of all by winning the Champions League against Manchester City in Porto.
The job of reaching the EFL Cup final was largely done in the first game at Stamford Bridge but Chelsea came out here with the sort of determination and attacking intent that made it clear they were determined to snuff out Spurs’ hopes as quickly as possible.
Lukaku wasted one chance to do that but the early goal they desired came from Rudiger, which gave Spurs a task they never looked like accomplishing.
Tuchel, standards as high as ever, cut a dissatisfied figure at times in the second half when Chelsea’s intensity dropped and a little complacency appeared to creep into their game, giving Spurs opportunities they never had in the first 45 minutes.
Chelsea’s players responded to their manager’s demands and this tie was played out in a testimonial atmosphere in the closing minutes as Spurs fans deserted the stadium in droves, leaving one corner packed with joyous, celebrating visiting supporters.
The strength of Chelsea’s squad was shown once more as Tuchel was able to bring on Thiago Silva, Marcos Alonso, Hakim Ziyech, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and N’Golo Kante in the second half to ensure the door was never left ajar for Spurs. Indeed, it was slammed firmly in their faces.
It shows the scale of the job Tuchel has done that in the 350 days since his first game at Chelsea, he has become the first manager in their history to guide them to a Champions League, FA Cup and EFL Cup final.
And, on this evidence, Chelsea will take some stopping, whoever they face at Wembley at the end of February