Tottenham Hotspur hosted Chelsea at Wembley on Tuesday in the League Cup semi-final first leg, with Mauricio Pochettino’s search for a trophy ramping up another notch.
A lively opening saw both sides testing each other’s defences, with Callum Hudson-Odoi looking particularly threatening for the visitors.
However, it was the hosts who opened the scoring with Harry Kane slamming a 27th-minute penalty home after a VAR call that caused a hot debate, making the score 1-0 to Spurs at halftime.
And despite Chelsea stepping up the pressure in the second half, Pochettino’s men held out and secured themselves a valuable lead heading into the second leg at Stamford Bridge.
Here are five things we learned from Spurs 1-0 Chelsea.
1. VAR splits opinion… again
Toby Alderweireld played a wonderful ball over the Chelsea defence to set Harry Kane in on goal after 24 minutes, with the onrushing Kepa totally exposed by Chelsea’s ridiculously high line and bringing the England striker down.
The offside flag was up, but Michael Oliver got the word in his ear that VAR was reviewing the decision. Kane looked to be just onside, Kepa was booked and the penalty was predictably smashed into the bottom corner by Spurs’ star man – 1-0.
However, a quick look at Twitter would uncover a raging debate about the decision that was given, with fans and pundits alike well and truly split over the call.
He can take a penalty can @HKane. Good assist from VAR.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) January 8, 2019
They barely showed the offside replay for a second and the line didn’t look with the last defender to me. I could be wrong but the replay was shown for barely half a fucking second. The point of technology is eradicate confusion not add into it. #TOTCHE
— Hanzlah (@hanichelsea10) January 8, 2019
Beyond deluded people thinking that was offside/not a foul. #TOTCHE
— Jack🎣 (@jackwilcock16) January 8, 2019
Even though Tottenham get a penalty, its good to see VAR get such a close, close call right. #TOTCHE
— Mbizo (@GoonerMbizo) January 8, 2019
— Total Football (@TFootball_74) January 8, 2019
Correct Decision, Kepa lucky to only get a yellow. #TOTCHE
— Lee Hughes (@hughesy_lee) January 8, 2019
This var decision doesnt make sense. The flag was up so the keeper thought offside. So if kane scored without kepa touching him it was a goal? I dont think so #TOTCHE
— Petit Kevin (@ArsenalLiveStat) January 8, 2019
2. Chelsea: brilliant on the right, useless on the left
To put it bluntly, Chelsea’s left-hand side was absolutely useless on Tuesday; Marcos Alonso posted a passing accuracy of just 84%, while Willian was even worse with 79%, the lowest of any Blues player to start the game.
Hudson-Odoi is twice the winger Willian is. Emerson is twice the left back Alonso is.
— Simon Phillips (@SiPhillipsSport) January 8, 2019
Everytime Chelsea tried to move the ball down that side, it seemed to break down with neither player looking capable of finding the other, while the left-sided central midfielder Ross Barkley was equally poor, doing his best to find a Tottenham player whenever he got the ball.
Alonso, Barkley, Willian, that’s a combined single digit IQ on one flank.
— * (@PreshiouzNonso) January 8, 2019
Meanwhile, down the right, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Cesar Azpilicueta and N’Golo Kante kept Spurs guessing all night. Hudson-Odoi’s direct running and crossing had Danny Rose looking terrified throughout, while Azpilicueta’s passing accuracy of 90% was showing the other side of the pitch how it’s done.
This also brought the best out of N’Golo Kante, who shifted to that side whenever he could, firing a couple of menacing shots at Paulo Gazzaniga’s goal and trying his best to support a very isolated Eden Hazard in the false-nine role.
Marcos Alonso will force Eden Hazard to Real Madrid. Playing with Alonso is torture.
— Sarrismo™ (@Blue_Footy) January 8, 2019
The departure of Willian for Pedro on 63 minutes saw Hudson-Odoi shifted out to the left – a change which most Chelsea fans will probably want to be made permanent moving forward.
Can see why Bayern Munich are interested in Callum Hudson-Odoi. Another young English player with bags of talent. 👍🏻
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) January 8, 2019
3. Gazzaniga is pushing Lloris
As Chelsea tried to pull themselves level at Wembley, the Blues managed five shots on Paulo Gazzaniga’s goal.
However, the Argentine stopper was equal to the lot and put in another reliable performance between the sticks for Spurs.
How has Gazzaniga saved that!? 😱
Spurs fans, is he coming for the #1 spot?? 👐
— COPA90 (@COPA90) January 8, 2019
To say the 27-year-old is breathing down the neck of Hugo Lloris may be going one step too far at this stage but having already overtaken Michel Vorm as the Frenchman’s back-up, the former Southampton man is certainly keeping him honest.
Is Gazzaniga pushing to keep the No 1 shirt #JustSaying
— Geo The Yid (@georgiebhoy36) January 8, 2019
The conversation is beginning to pick up some pace.
4. Harry Kane is the iceman
Harry Kane’s first-half penalty gave Spurs the win tonight and meant that he has now scored in six consecutive games in all competitions, equalling his best ever streak in club football.
160 – Harry Kane is now the outright fourth highest goalscorer for Tottenham Hotspur. Climbing. pic.twitter.com/Ri9nAnporn
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 8, 2019
The outcome of the spot kick was never in doubt as the England international fired it into the bottom corner – Kepa’s bizarre dive in the middle was merely there for comedic value. That goal now makes him English football’s outright top goalscorer this season with 20, while he now has 160 in total for Spurs, making him their fourth-highest goalscorer of all time.
5. Kante vindicates his box-to-box role under Sarri
While Chelsea weren’t able to break the Spurs resistance on Tuesday, it certainly wasn’t for the want of trying from N’Golo Kante.
The Frenchman was once again excellent for Maurizio Sarri, dispossessing a Spurs forward in his own box one minute, then popping up on the edge of the opposition penalty area the next.
In true box-to-box fashion, Kante only came behind Eden Hazard in terms of successful dribbles, while he also completed a match-high five tackles.
The former Leicester man also tested Spurs ‘keeper Paulo Gazzaniga with three shots, getting across the defence and hitting the post just before halftime in the process.