Hudson-Odoi freshens stale Chelsea attack, but not enough in loss at Spurs
LONDON -- Harry Kane's clinical first-half penalty gave Tottenham a deserved 1-0 win over Chelsea in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semifinal tie at Wembley on Tuesday, as Mauricio Pochettino got the better of Maurizio Sarri for the second time this season.
Chelsea were better than on their last visit to Wembley in November -- could they realistically be worse? -- and the performance of Callum Hudson-Odoi also injected some freshness into what has looked a stagnant attack. They are still in this tie and will have Stamford Bridge behind them later this month.
Despite being pinned back for much of the second half, Tottenham rarely looked in danger of conceding an equaliser and Paulo Gazzaniga enjoyed a pretty quiet evening. Eden Hazard looked disengaged and eventually dejected as a false nine, dropping too deep and depriving his team of a penalty area presence.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Sarri's decision to start Hudson-Odoi for the second time in three days was validated by a bright first-half performance, but the Hazard as false nine strategy was easily dealt with by Spurs. His players are also not executing his defensive press as well as he wants, leaving the high defensive line exposed.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, 7 -- Made good saves to deny Kane in each half and was left brutally exposed by those in front of him for the penalty incident. It's hard to see what else he could have done but bring down the Tottenham striker, and everything else about his performance was typically solid.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 5 -- Generally held his own defensively, but was the man to play Kane onside for the moment that decided the game, stepping up a fraction behind the rest of his defence. Spurs were also happy to let him lead Chelsea up the pitch, confident he wasn't a threat.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 7 -- Ideally equipped to match Kane's imposing physicality in the air and on the floor, and did so well. His recovery speed was also appreciated as Chelsea dared to play a high line against Spurs' searingly fast attack, even if his positioning wobbled at times.
DF Andreas Christensen, 7 -- Making his most important appearance under Sarri, his only nervy moment was a tangle with the surging Son Heung-Min early on. Once that moment passed, he read situations calmly and distributed the ball well, ensuring his team didn't seriously miss David Luiz.
DF Marcos Alonso, 5 -- Put his team in a couple of hairy situations with poor defensive plays, and his only offensive contribution of note was the cross that enabled N'Golo Kante to strike the post. His lack of speed across the ground feels like a particularly vital hindrance against this dynamic Spurs side.
MF N'Golo Kante, 7 -- Nearly made Tottenham pay for their happiness to give him space whenever Chelsea came forward, clipping the post with one near-post shot and stinging the palms of Gazzaniga with a drive from distance. Having him as your furthest man forward, though, is not a winning strategy.
MF Jorginho, 6 -- More of an influence than when Dele Alli totally nullified him on Chelsea's last visit to Wembley, but part of that was by Spurs' design as they stood off, content to soak up harmless possession from the visitors. Does not offer the one killer pass that Cesc Fabregas has made his trademark.
MF Ross Barkley, 6 -- Knows what Sarri wants from him tactically and did nothing dreadfully wrong with the ball, but he wasn't terribly ambitious either. In his defence, he didn't really have many options ahead of him with Hazard dropping off so often and Spurs defending so deep.
FW Callum Hudson-Odoi, 7 -- Showed no sign of nerves or the distraction of transfer speculation on the biggest stage of his career. His direct running caused problems for Danny Rose, who came closest to pulling Chelsea level when his deflection of the 18-year-old's cross forced a desperate Gazzaniga save.
FW Eden Hazard, 6 -- Not one of his better false nine displays. Didn't lead the defensive press as well as Sarri would like, and his tendency to drop deep to get the ball too often left Kante as Chelsea's only presence in the penalty area. Spurs did a good job of keeping men around him all night.
FW Willian, 5 -- His link-up play was off throughout and his corner deliveries were only occasionally dangerous. His defensive effort also waxed and waned and overall, it was no surprise when he, rather than Hudson-Odoi, was the one chosen to make way for Pedro in the second half.
FW Pedro, 6 -- Brought on to provide Chelsea with a cutting edge but he never managed to test Gazzaniga, though his defensive work rate was important in pinning Tottenham back for the final portion of the game.
MF, Mateo Kovacic, N/R -- Did help tighten Chelsea's control of midfield when he replaced Barkley, but is not the man you turn to if you need a goal.
MF Olivier Giroud, N/R -- Sarri finally decided he needed a focal point for the last 11 minutes of the game, but the fit-again Frenchman was smothered by defenders whenever the ball found him and none of Chelsea's crosses gave him a chance to be the hero.