Tuchel chides sloppy side

Despite reaching League Cup final, boss says Chelsea 'playing with fire'

LONDON • Thomas Tuchel has been in charge of Chelsea for less than a year but such has been his impact that on Wednesday he became the first manager in the club's history to take them to the League Cup, FA Cup and Champions League finals.

The Blues completed a 3-0 aggregate win over Tottenham in the League Cup semi-final, yet such are the standards the German has set since replacing Frank Lampard last January that he was unhappy with his side's display at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Antonio Rudiger's bundled goal after 18 minutes proved enough for a 1-0 win on Wednesday, setting up a League Cup final clash on Feb 27 against either Liverpool or Arsenal - the second leg of their last-four tie will take place next week.

Spurs had two penalties correctly overturned by the video assistant referee either side of half-time, while a Harry Kane goal was ruled out for offside.

The difference in quality between the two teams was evident not just on the pitch but also on the bench where Tuchel had the luxury of leaving out N'Golo Kante, Thiago Silva, Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz.

"We lost a bit of control, focus, some important duels and were lucky that suddenly we didn't concede," Tuchel, who lost last season's FA Cup final but won the Champions League, said.

"We were a bit sloppy and weren't full aware of the danger. I had the feeling on the touchline we were playing with fire. Second half again, strong start for 15 minutes but again the same story. We had many ball losses, lost many challenges."

Spurs can only dream of reaching cup finals without playing well, as their trophy drought that stretches back to 2008 goes on. Despite some positive signs since Antonio Conte replaced the fired Nuno Espirito Santo in November, they remain a team requiring extensive surgery.

Had Chelsea been more ruthless in the first half, it could have been a humiliation, although the Italian praised the way his team responded in the second period.

"I think the performance was much better than the performance in the first leg," Conte, who won the Premier League and FA Cup with Chelsea, said.

"The first half we struggled a bit... In the second half, the performance was good, the intensity was high, we deserved a better final result today. But I think after two games, Chelsea deserved to reach the final."

Elsewhere, Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez said he was proud of his team even though they lost 3-2 in extra time to bitter rivals Real Madrid in a thrilling Spanish Super Cup semi-final in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

The La Liga leaders reeled off their fifth consecutive Clasico victory after strikes by Vinicius Jr, Karim Benzema and Federico Valverde, but the Catalan side went down fighting with goals by Luuk de Jong and Ansu Fati.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2022, with the headline Tuchel chides sloppy side. Subscribe