London (AP) With Tottenham defenders giving away easy goals, Chelsea was able to restore calm and bring Romelu Lukaku back into the team.
However, it was a night of frustration for Antonio Conte on his return to Stamford Bridge, four years after being sacked by Chelsea when Tottenham lost 2-0 on Wednesday in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final.
A shot by Kai Havertz was unintentionally tipped into his own net by Davinson Sanchez after five minutes.
Even more absurd was the own goal in the 34th minute after Hakim Ziyech sent off a free kick in the penalty area.
There were no Chelsea players close to the Tottenham duo of Japhet Tanganga and Ben Davies as they comically combined to give the hosts a second goal. Tanganga’s attempted header came off Davies’ shoulder and past their own goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris.
“We try to improve the personality, try to make fewer mistakes during the game,” said Conte.
“Don’t lose stupid balls. This is part of a process and I repeat that I want to be very clear in these games that we have been playing since I was in charge. If you analyze the games, we have a hard time.”
There is still a second leg to turn it around this Wednesday back at Tottenham’s home ground. But the trip to west London on Wednesday, two months after Conte’s reign, reinforced the need to rebuild a team that has not won a title since the 2008 League Cup.
This type of game can show us the difference, the gap, Conte said. We struggled a lot and they showed that they were much stronger than us. Of course we are disappointed.”
Collecting trophies like Conte did in the Premier League and FA Cup is familiar territory for reigning European champions Chelsea. So does the occasional distraction off the field.
Lukaku’s outburst in an interview aired last week, in which he said he was unhappy with the way he is being used by Tuchel, led to the club’s record purchase for the Premier League draw against Liverpool being scrapped on Sunday.
The Belgian striker was reinstated in the team after his apologies and had a calm first half with few touches, until he had a chance to head in a third before half time. In the second half he managed to shoot a tame shot at Lloris. Most importantly, there was no disagreement against him among Chelsea’s own fans.
“He was always involved in dangerous situations, said Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel. “He showed a huge commitment on the defensive work, which was important.”
Arsenal or Liverpool are waiting in the final, but the outcome of their semi-final will be postponed and the first leg postponed to next week due to an outbreak of the coronavirus at the Merseyside club.
Chelsea’s ability to host Tottenham was unaffected by the announcement of two coronavirus infections in the squad before kick-off, with defender Thiago Silva and midfielder N’Golo Kante testing positive. (AP)
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