Not only was Wednesday’s evening’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg the night that Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku returned from exile, but it was also perhaps the evening when Antonio Conte learnt the most about his squad since arriving at Tottenham Hotspur.
There is, of course, still the chance for a dramatic turnaround in the return leg at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but Wednesday’s match saw the visitors totally outclassed by a Chelsea team that haven’t been able to stay out of the back pages in recent days.
It took Kai Havertz just five minutes to put the Blues ahead on a night where they recorded 10 shots to Spurs‘ zero by the half-time interval.
Marcos Alonso produced a fine pass to pick out Havertz inside the penalty area, and he instinctively took a shot over the oncoming Hugo Lloris which nestled into the bottom right corner.
It was the kind of thoughtless finish which made the former Bayer Leverkusen prodigy such a commodity in the Bundesliga; he saw a sniff of goal and took the chance, there wasn’t time for him to overthink it.
Defensive calamity followed for Conte‘s charges, with Emerson Royal and Ben Davies at the very heart of it.
With the pair being run ragged for the entirety of the opening half hour, along with Matt Doherty, it came as no shock when a Chelsea set piece was headed away from goal by Emerson, straight into the back of Davies and the ball cannoned into the net, much to the enjoyment of the Stamford Bridge crowd.
Hakim Ziyech and Romelu Lukaku combined for what could have been a tie-ending goal just before the break, however the Belgian couldn’t quite get on the end of the Moroccan’s cross.
The second half was much less eventful, yet it was noticeable how little impact Harry Kane was able to have on proceedings.
Japhet Tanganga had a chance to score eight minutes from time, as his anticipation allowed him to get onto the end of a free-kick, however his header ballooned over the crossbar.
A tough night for Spurs
All Spurs had to show for their efforts at Stamford Bridge was 38% possession and just two shots on goal, and fans will be particularly hurt by such a performance against their rivals, as there just simply wasn’t any sign of the Conte boost that had arrived before Christmas.
Chelsea held onto their 2-0 victory and will now see themselves as having one foot in the Wembley final against either Liverpool or Arsenal, while Spurs and Conte will be anxiously looking at the January transfer window to bring in players who make such results a thing of the past.