Thomas Tuchel felt his Chelsea side "played with fire" in a 1-0 win at Tottenham and warned they must raise their standards despite reaching the EFL Cup final.

Antonio Rudiger scored the only goal of the second leg at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Wednesday as the European champions secured a 3-0 aggregate win over their London rivals.

It was a frustrating night for Spurs, who were awarded a penalty in each half by Andre Marriner, but the decisions were both correctly overturned.

Marriner pointed the spot in the first half for a foul by Rudiger on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, but the VAR informed the referee that contact was made outside the box.

The referee then realised he got it wrong again when he took a look on the pitchside monitor after ruling that Lucas Moura had been upended by Kepa Arrizabalaga, who clearly got the ball when he came out to deny the Spurs forward.

Harry Kane then had a goal disallowed for offside following another VAR check and Chelsea saw out another victory to set up a final against Arsenal or Liverpool on February 27. 

Yet Blues boss Tuchel was not impressed with the way his side went about booking another trip to Wembley.

The German told Sky Sports: "I think we started okay, started good. We created big chances, we were in the lead, but we played with fire.

"We allowed chances from easy and sloppy mistakes and we were lucky, almost gave a penalty away for absolutely no reason, from a bit of over-confidence. 

"We started again very well in the second half and the same happened for the last 20-25 minutes. There was a mixture of lack of focus, over-confidence, I don't know. Suddenly we need luck to not have another penalty [awarded against them], to have another VAR decision with a little offside. 

"We can play much better, we need to play much better if we want to really deserve results like this because we did play well over long phases of the match, but we need to do better."

Asked if he was unhappy with the performance, he replied: "Yes, we need to have the standards because that is why we work for Chelsea and we play for Chelsea and nothing else matters.

"It's about our standards and not about getting a result somehow. We can do much better, we can close spaces much better, we can do better defending individually, we can control the match better with less mistakes.

"In any part of the match we can do better and we have to do better."

Antonio Rudiger scored the only goal of the game as Chelsea beat London rivals Tottenham 1-0 to seal their place in the EFL Cup final.

Thomas Tuchel's side put themselves well on their way to Wembley by winning the first leg of the semi-final 2-0 and they finished off the job at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Wednesday.

Rudiger's first-half header gave them a three-goal cushion and there was no way back for Spurs, who endured another frustrating evening as referee Andre Marriner overturned two penalty decisions he wrongly awarded to Antonio Conte's side, while VAR also ruled out what would have been Harry Kane's 250th goal in club football.

Chelsea will go in search of a second trophy under Tuchel when they face either Arsenal or Liverpool in the final on February 27. 

Romelu Lukaku came close to increasing the European champions' advantage when he shrugged off Ben Davies, but Pierluigi Gollini spread himself to keep out the striker's left-foot drive.

Gollini was at fault for the opening goal 17 minutes in, though, failing to deal with a Mason Mount corner and the powerful Rudiger rose highest to head home his second goal at Tottenham this season.

Spurs hopes of pulling one back were dashed when the VAR told Marriner to change his decision after he had awarded a penalty for a foul on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, but Rudiger had made contact outside the box.

Marriner got it wrong again when he pointed to the spot early in the second half, the official discovering on the pitchside monitor that Kepa Arrizabalaga had made contact with the ball when he came out to deny Lucas Moura.

There was yet more frustration for Tottenham when Kane lashed home, but the England captain had strayed offside.

Play was paused late on due to a medical emergency in the crowd but, upon its resumption, Chelsea cruised through added time untroubled to take their place in the final.

What does it mean? Blues hunting more silverware as Spurs' wait goes on

That is now 11 matches without defeat for Chelsea and Tuchel is the eighth different boss to lead an English team to the final of both major domestic competitions, and the European Cup/Champions League. Bob Paisley, Brian Clough, Alex Ferguson, Rafael Benitez, Arsene Wenger, Avram Grant and Pep Guardiola are the others to achieve that feat.

Tottenham's 14-year wait for a trophy goes on, with the FA Cup representing their only hope of finally getting their hands on some silverware this season. Chelsea, meanwhile, have progressed from all 14 two-legged ties in cup competitions after winning the first tie.

Transfer talk no issue for Rudiger 

Rudiger's future has been the subject of speculation for months, with the Germany international only under contract until the end of the season.

The 28-year-old is reported to have held talks with other clubs, including Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, but his commitment can certainly not be called into question as he produced another commanding display. The defender has scored 10 times for Chelsea, but all of those goals have come at just three stadiums (Stamford Bridge, King Power Stadium and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium).

Gollini gamble backfires

Gollini made a good save to thwart Lukaku, one of two stops he made in the match, but the on-loan goalkeeper failed to command his area when Mount swung in a corner and he was punished by Rudiger.

Spurs fans may have been questioning why Hugo Lloris was watching on from the bench, but much of the damage had been done in the first leg.

What's next?

Chelsea face a huge Premier League clash away to leaders Manchester City on Saturday, while Spurs take on fierce rivals Arsenal at home on Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp is confident that Mohamed Salah will sign a new contract with Liverpool amid speculation around the forward's future.

Salah, who is currently on international duty with Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations, recently gave an interview to GQ in which he stated he is not asking for "crazy" money during negotiations, adding that he wants to stay but that the decision rests with the club.

Speaking at a news conference ahead of Thursday's EFL Cup semi-final first leg against Arsenal, Klopp was asked about Salah's interview and whether he was at all worried the star might not re-sign, with just 18 months remaining on his current deal at Anfield.

"I know that Mo wants to stay. We want Mo to stay. That's where we are," Klopp told reporters. "These things take time. I think it is in a good place. I'm very positive about it.

"There is nothing to worry about, it is a normal process. He has a contract here for this season and next season. It is all fine."

 

Klopp was also asked about his comments after the win against Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup third round on Sunday that his players had returned "false positive" COVID-19 tests, which led to the first leg of the tie with Arsenal that had been scheduled to be played last week being postponed.

Liverpool requested that the game at the Emirates Stadium be pushed back by two weeks due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the club that led to the training ground being closed for 48 hours.

But the German coach seemed to suggest many of those cases turned out to be false positives, with only Trent Alexander-Arnold returning another positive after re-testing.

"You get a positive test, then when you do a re-test a day, day and a half later, you get a result that makes it seem like a false positive because this test was negative," he clarified. 

"That doesn't change anything for your quarantine or whatever but if you need to know, you have to do a third test.

"Between the first and second, and second and third test you cannot use the players, so that's how the rules are.

"If you get a third test and that's negative as well, then that's it. It was now four days later, so we couldn't do anything different. When we got the positive tests, we had to consider that this was the right result."

Klopp confirmed that Alexander-Arnold is back in training along with Alisson, but Thiago Alcantara and Divock Origi remain sidelined by injury.

He also had a positive update on the status of Harvey Elliott, who has not played since suffering a fractured ankle in the 3-0 win at Leeds United in September.

"Harvey Elliott looks really promising out on the pitch now," said the Reds boss. "He didn't train with the team yet, but I don't think he's too far away from team training.

"What he's doing at the moment looks really good."

Mikel Arteta insists Arsenal still have the pulling power to attract the world's biggest names, but refused to be drawn on speculation linking his side with Fiorentina striker Dusan Vlahovic.

The Gunners have been tipped to move for the in-demand Serbia international, who matched Cristiano Ronaldo's 21st century record for the most Serie A goals in a single calendar year in 2021 with 33.

Vlahovic has also been touted as a target for Juventus, Manchester City and Manchester United, though Arsenal are said to be willing to spend big to land the 21-year-old, who has 18 months to run on his contract.

However, according to fresh reports on Wednesday, Vlahovic will only consider joining the north London club should they qualify for next season's Champions League after a five-year absence.

Arsenal have not placed higher than fifth in the Premier League since then and have finished eighth in back-to-back campaigns, but Arteta does not believe the Gunners' plight will put players off moving to Emirates Stadium.

"Historically this club has always been targeting the best players in the world and they were always interested to come here," he said at a news conference on Wednesday. "I can say that hasn't changed. 

"Every time I've spoken to a player they were so willing to come. That's a big advantage for us."

Vlahovic has 16 goals in 20 Serie A games for Fiorentina this season alone, making him the joint-fourth highest goalscorer in Europe's top five leagues behind Karim Benzema, Patrik Schick (both 17) and Robert Lewandowski (20).

Fiorentina are reportedly holding out for a €70million (£58m) fee, but Arteta would not comment specifically on his side's interest in the young attacker.

"I'm really sorry to disappoint you but you know I'm not going to be discussing any transfer rumours," he said when asked about the latest on Vlahovic.

"What I really want this month is that we have as many players fit and healthy and we do as much as possible with these players. After that we have a strategy and we will do that when possible."

Arsenal suffered a shock 1-0 loss to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round on Sunday and will be looking to hit back when they take on Liverpool on Thursday in a rescheduled EFL Cup semi-final first leg.

Last week's fixture was called off after a COVID-19 outbreak forced Liverpool to shut their training ground, but Jurgen Klopp has since revealed a number of the cases were false positives.

The first leg will now take place at Anfield, with the return fixture set for Emirates Stadium next week, and Arteta will also have one eye on Sunday's Premier League trip to Tottenham.

"The dynamics have changed because the timing of the games becomes different," the Spaniard said. "It's completely uncertain but it's what it is.

"Last week's game being called off is something that is not in our control. The EFL is responsible to check every player's status and make the decision whether to play or not.

"You can never guarantee anything because you know that this changes dramatically in 10 seconds. Our willingness is always to play."

Arsenal, who will find out on Wednesday whether Granit Xhaka is clear to play after recently testing positive for coronavirus, have won just one of their last eight EFL Cup games against Liverpool at Anfield.

This is the third successive season the sides have met in the competition, while the last five meetings have produced a total of 28 goals.

Mikel Arteta was unable to provide excuses on Sunday, after Arsenal crashed out of the FA Cup with a 1-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest.

"We are out of the competition and we have to apologise."

Arsenal have won the FA Cup a record 14 times, with their last triumph coming in Arteta's first half-season in charge. But while they will lament being on the end of a giant-killing, they have the chance to bounce back from only their second third-round exit in the past 26 seasons when they face Liverpool at Anfield on Thursday in the first leg of a semi-final in England's other major domestic cup competition.

Initially, the Anfield fixture of this EFL Cup tie was due to be played second but Liverpool's coronavirus crisis, which Jurgen Klopp revealed was ultimately down to several false-positives within the squad, led to the postponement of the first leg at Emirates Stadium, originally set to be played on January 6.

The Gunners lost 4-0 at the home of the Reds in November's Premier League meeting, as Arteta's men were dealt a harsh dose of reality after a 10-match unbeaten run across all competitions.

A further 10 games have passed since then, with Arsenal losing four and winning six.

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang having been stripped of the captaincy and ostracised before travelling away for the Africa Cup of Nations, Arteta has once again turned mostly to youth as he looks to continue to grow a new "culture" at Arsenal, who sit fourth in the league.

Claiming some measure of revenge at Anfield could just prove Arteta's plan is the solution for long-term success, and four players seem crucial to that blueprint.

Super-sub Smith Rowe

Aubameyang's omission for a breach of club rules brought unnecessary noise in December, though results were not immediately impacted. With the 32-year-old not playing since December 6, Alexandre Lacazette has stepped in to spearhead Arsenal's attack, but behind him Arteta has an abundance of talent to choose from.

Emile Smith Rowe started the season brilliantly, though has only started one league game since November. That has not stopped the 21-year-old from being effective, however, with three of his eight league goals this season coming from the bench in recent wins over West Ham, Leeds United and Norwich City.

Smith Rowe has only played 63 league minutes since featuring for 70 in the December 2 loss to Manchester United, meaning he averages a goal every 21 minutes in that period. 

Asked about Smith Rowe's game time before the defeat to Forest, which the midfielder missed altogether, Arteta explained he had been carrying an injury, one which also means he is a doubt for Thursday's clash.

"The only reason that changed the dynamic was that [injury], and obviously now there are others who are doing well and have been performing well. That changed the situation, but I am very happy with him," Arteta told reporters, before adding that competition for places can only be positive.

"This is why we need that, we raise the level. Each player raises the level of the player next to him, and this is how you evolve as a team, how you create a culture around the team."

Few could say Smith Rowe isn't embracing that "culture", with his recent hot streak off the bench reflecting a commendable attitude.

 

Martin the maestro

One of the "others" Arteta was referring to will surely be Martin Odegaard, who signed permanently from Real Madrid following a bright loan spell last season. Given the Norway international burst onto the scene at the age of 15 in 2014, becoming the youngest footballer ever to play in his homeland's top tier, it would be easy to forget he has only just turned 23.

Only Bukayo Saka (38) has created more chances than Odegaard (34) in Arsenal's squad in all competitions this season, with the midfielder topping that metric per 90 minutes when it comes to players to have featured over two times, producing 2.1 opportunities on average.

His eight direct goal contributions ranks him fifth in the squad while his shot conversion rate of 18.2 is good for a midfielder. Indeed, only the outstanding Smith Rowe, who has converted 32.1 per cent (nine goals) of his 28 attempts can boast better among Arsenal's midfield contingent.

Yet with Smith Rowe's recent spell as an impact player, Odegaard has started behind the striker in Arsenal's 4-2-3-1, his eye for a pass and knack of finding space on the edge of the area a key facet to some slick attacking play.

That playmaking ability was on show in the 5-0 thrashing of Norwich on Boxing Day, with Odegaard providing the assists for Arsenal's opening two goals and a key role in their final strike.

While Odegaard (33) has had fewer touches in the opposition box than left-back Nuno Tavares (35) and completed just 10 dribbles compared to Smith Rowe's 23 and the team-leading Saka's 27, no Arsenal player has attempted more passes in the opposition half than Odegaard (523), with 80.9 per cent (423) proving successful.

Odegaard's ability to keep Arsenal in possession with neat and incisive passing has been crucial for the Gunners. Indeed, only centre-backs Ben White (933) and Gabriel Magalhaes (822) have found a team-mate on more occasions than the playmaker (703).

 

Wing wizards

Flanking Odegaard (or Smith Rowe), Saka and Gabriel Martinelli both head to Anfield in superb form. While Saka scored the opener in the 2-1 defeat to City on New Year's Day, Martinelli has directly contributed to six goals from 18 appearances.

Martinelli's devastating turn of pace was on show in a 4-1 rout of Leeds United last month, though the Brazilian flyer missed a golden chance to put Arsenal back in front in their defeat to City, slicing wide of an open goal – if we're being generous, perhaps he was put off by the referee. Still, he should have scored.

Nevertheless, his four goals have come from an xG value of 4.2, putting him just about on par based on the quality of chances he has been provided with, though that is in contrast to Saka.

The England winger's tally of seven goals is second only to Smith Rowe (nine), yet they have come from 4.6 xG, suggesting the 20-year-old is finishing chances the average player wouldn't ordinarily be expected to convert.

For example, his swept effort low into the corner against City was only the seventh-best chance of the game, while a wonderful solo strike at Norwich (his second goal of the game) registered an xG of just 0.03 – essentially, this translates to a three per cent likelihood of scoring.

 

Saka also leads the way for big chances created (defined by Opta as an opportunity from which a player would reasonably be expected to score) with eight, three more than any of his club-mates, and only Nicolas Pepe has provided more assists (five to four).

Not only is Saka already a proven creator of opportunities, but he is now putting them away with unerring accuracy.

Arsenal were dealt a harsh lesson on their last visit to Anfield, but with a second leg at home to look forward to and with Liverpool missing key duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, Thursday could see Arteta's counter-attacking youngsters thrive, with a north London derby against Tottenham up after that.

Even if it again proves a step too far, there's no doubt the future is bright.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel says Romelu Lukaku needs time to adapt to the physical demands of the Premier League, but insists he will not attempt to reinvent the striker.

The Belgium international returned to Stamford Bridge in a club-record transfer from reigning Serie A champions Inter in August.

However, the 28-year-old is yet to truly fire on all cylinders during his second spell with the Blues, amassing eight goals from 20 appearances in all competitions.

Lukaku was recently dropped by Tuchel following comments made in the Italian media, stating he was "not very happy with the situation" he finds himself in, while expressing a desire to return to the Nerazzurri one day.

However, the striker subsequently apologised to his manager and the fans, and was restored to the starting line-up for last week's EFL Cup semi-final first-leg win over Tottenham.

And Tuchel is confident it is only a matter of time until everything clicks into place for his number nine.

"Romelu had a huge physical impact in the game against Tottenham," he said. "Maybe he wasn't so spectacularly involved, but he was involved in playing a crucial part with his physical qualities.

"Once he adapts to the physical style of the league, there is no doubt he will have a huge impact. 

"We will not reinvent his style or reinvent the player. He can simply be Romelu, and then we are all fine, and then he will score because this is what he always does."

During his pre-match press conference ahead of Wednesday’s second leg against Spurs, it was suggested that Timo Werner could provide a link for Lukaku similar to Lautaro Martinez at Inter last season.

Responding to the suggestion, Tuchel said: "He could be, but I see no reason that we should copy Inter.

"We have our style and enough possibilities. We can play with two strikers; we can play 3-5-2; we have the possibility to play three strikers.

"We played a 4-4-2 against Tottenham in the first leg. I don't mean it in a harsh way; the players need to show they are good enough to start. 

"We are not inventing new stuff to make players better or happier. They have all it takes. It’s on them to show it."

Antonio Conte insists Chelsea have "created the gap" in quality between his former club and Tottenham ahead of their EFL Cup semi-final second leg.

Spurs were beaten 2-0 in the first leg at Stamford Bridge last week; Kai Havertz on target for the hosts before a Ben Davies own-goal.

The Blues have progressed from each of their last 13 two-legged ties after winning the first leg, last failing to do so against Liverpool in the 2006-07 Champions League semi-finals.

Meanwhile, Tottenham are looking to become only the second side – after Aston Villa in 1993-94 – to reach the EFL Cup showpiece after losing their semi-final first leg by more than one goal.

Following the defeat, Conte conceded the gulf in class by admitting there were no comparisons between the sides.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the Spurs head coach clarified those comments, acknowledging his former club are responsible for their superiority.

"When I speak about the gap; to reduce the gap, it means that I am not stupid to not understand the gap between the clubs," he said.

"It means that you have to improve the squad, the work and to have a project and vision. 

"The gap is a space that you have with other teams and I think that, in this moment, we are to work a lot to reduce this gap. 

"Chelsea work well, they win the Champions League and then invest a lot of money to improve their squad. This creates a gap, this is the truth. Chelsea have created this gap."

Conte also revealed that Tottenham are in negotiations over a new deal for club captain Hugo Lloris.

Now in his 10th season with Spurs, the goalkeeper's existing contract is due to expire at the end of the campaign, but the Italian is confident he will remain with the club.

"I think they have started talking," Conte added. 

"You know what I think of him, I have said previously he is our captain and a top goalkeeper. [He] has great experience and knows the club. 

"For me, he is an important player. I am not the person who renews contracts; that is the club, and they are the people that do this, but I am confident."

Antonio Conte has met with the Tottenham hierarchy to discuss January transfer plans, but also appreciates he must also focus on coaching and improving the players he already has.

The Spurs boss also appeared to deny speculation that Dutch forward Steven Bergwijn could be about to depart the club.

Speaking at a media conference ahead of Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea, with Spurs trailing 2-0 after the first leg, Conte confirmed he has met the club's owners and the managing director Fabio Paratici to talk over plans for the current transfer window.

"It was a good meeting," the former Inter manager confirmed. "The owner and Paratici they started together at the start of this season and I came in halfway. A good meeting to speak and to tell them my thoughts about the two months I spent in Tottenham.

"But what I want… I spoke with the club and I had my thoughts about the situation and this is the most important thing. Then the club has to decide the best way to go. I don’t have expectations. I am a coach and I know that we have to solve many problems.

"For me, in this moment, the best possible way is to get the best from my players and improve the squad... This is the only way I can go to improve the situation, to improve the squad. Then the club knows very well our situation and it has to take the best decision."

Conte was also asked about recent stories linking Bergwijn with a move to Ajax, and the Italian responded by seemingly suggesting the player is still a part of his immediate plans.

"Bergwijn, he knows very well what I think about him. I consider him a player that can play all three roles, as a number nine and number 10.

"In my period at Tottenham, he was injured for a long time, but I showed him that when he is in a good physical condition I gave him a chance. He is a Tottenham player and he is very close to coming back.

"After the game with Chelsea he can start a training session. I can count on him. He is a player with different characteristics than Harry [Kane], Son [Heung min] and [Lucas] Moura. He is a player we don’t have in our squad."

Conte also confirmed that centre-back Cristian Romero is close to returning after missing the last two months with a hamstring injury. 

Romero became the second-most expensive transfer in Spurs' history when he signed for a reported £47m from Atalanta in August after Tanguy Ndombele's £53.8m switch from Lyon in 2019.

"Today, Cristian had a little part of a training session with us," added Conte. "He's very close to coming back.

"We're talking about another important player for us. We lost him for almost two months and I think we faced this situation in the best possible way. Cristian for sure is an important player for us.

"Despite this, the players who played showed to be good and improved. For example, Sanchez is improving a lot. Now, Cristian is very close to coming back and being available."

Thomas Tuchel insists Kepa Arrizabalaga is a safe pair of hands as Chelsea bid to end Tottenham's Wembley hopes in the EFL Cup.

Kepa has been Chelsea's preferred goalkeeper in the competition this season and has shone so far, but the biggest test awaits as Tuchel takes his side to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Chelsea hold a 2-0 lead from the first leg, but Tuchel promised there would be no complacency from his charges on Wednesday, warning that "anything can happen" in such a game.

What he is confident about is that Kepa has matured as a goalkeeper, after enduring rocky spells during his Blues career.

The Spaniard made three errors leading to goals in just 14 games last season, with only four goalkeepers across Europe's top five competitions making more.

He only made two mistakes leading to a shot in 2019-20, but Chelsea still felt compelled to find a replacement ahead of last term, with Edouard Mendy coming in to provide a more reassuring presence behind the defence.

After a fine maiden campaign at Stamford Bridge, Mendy remains the Premier League first pick, but Kepa has been mostly exemplary when given a chance.

"I never experienced Kepa nervous, not one single day," said Tuchel. "The good thing is, it was a very genuine trust everybody had in Kepa once we let him play.

"He was very calm, very focused. I had the feeling he does not need to show in this 90 minutes [against Tottenham] that he is capable.

"We trust him and he is capable. We have him and are so happy to have him and that's maybe the difference. We're happy for him that he can show it."

Since joining Chelsea in 2018, Kepa has played 116 games and made 10 errors in that time that have resulted in shots, three of which led to goals – last season's unfortunate bumper crop.

In the same period, Everton's Jordan Pickford has played 133 goals and made 20 errors leading to shots, of which 12 led to goals.

Liverpool's Alisson has played 154 games, making nine errors leading to goals, while Manchester United's David de Gea has featured 151 times and made 12 errors costing his side a goal, the joint-leader in that metric along with Pickford.

Tottenham's Hugo Lloris has been responsible for mistakes that have cost Spurs six goals in his 138 games since the beginning of the 2018-19 season, with such evidence suggesting the common perception of Kepa as being calamity-prone might be unfair.

In the EFL Cup alone this season, Opta data shows Kepa has conceded five fewer goals than expected, based on expected goals on target (xGOT), which examines the quality of shots he has faced.

 

Ahead of Kepa, Tuchel was toying with throwing N'Golo Kante and Thiago Silva back into his matchday squad after recent brushes with COVID-19, although that hinged on them being given the all-clear by club medics at training later on Tuesday, with cardiac tests required.

"If we do it, it's a gamble," Tuchel said.

Wembley beckons, but Tuchel says it remains a distant prospect for Chelsea, despite their healthy lead.

"I would say we have no foot in the final," he said. "We play another tough match in a tough stadium against a very good team and a top, top, top coach."

Clearly Tuchel believes Spurs boss Antonio Conte will still fancy turning around the tie. Yet the fact Harry Kane has not scored in his last six encounters with Chelsea appears to bode well for Wednesday night's visitors.

Tottenham will be looking to become just the second team to reach the EFL Cup final having lost a semi-final first leg by more than one goal, after Aston Villa did so against Tranmere Rovers in the 1993-94 campaign.

"We need to be prepared," said Tuchel, "and it's maybe better not to expect too much because nobody knows what's going to happen. We had a very good match in the first leg, but it's over. it's the past."

Tottenham have condemned a section of their fanbase that chanted homophobic abuse during their EFL Cup tie at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea beat Antonio Conte's team 2-0 in the first leg of the semi-final on Wednesday.

It has emerged there was homophobic chanting from a section of the travelling support during the derby encounter.

Spurs released a statement on Thursday making it clear there is no place for such conduct.

"The club is extremely disappointed by homophobic chanting from sections of our support at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night," the statement read.

"We work closely with our LGBTQ+ fan group Proud Lilywhites to create a welcoming and inclusive environment at our club and are proud to display the Progress Flag in our stadium on matchdays.

"No one should suffer discrimination because of their sexual orientation and/or their gender identity, and we urge supporters not to use this chant.

"There is no place for discrimination at Tottenham Hotspur."

Thomas Tuchel praised the performance of the returning Romelu Lukaku after Chelsea's EFL Cup win over Tottenham.

The Blues took a huge step towards reaching the final after claiming a 2-0 victory in the first leg of the last-four tie at Stamford Bridge.

Lukaku was restored to the starting line-up after he was left out of the squad for Sunday's Premier League clash with Liverpool due to comments made in the Italian media.

The former Inter striker was quoted as saying he was "not very happy with the situation" he finds himself in, while expressing a desire to return to the Nerazzurri one day.

However, the Belgium international subsequently apologised to Tuchel, as well as the fans on the club's official website.

He played the full 90 minutes against Spurs – recording game-high tallies of three shots on goal and two on target – and the head coach was pleased with his contribution under difficult circumstances.

 

Asked what he made of Lukaku's performance, he told Sky Sports: "Good, absolutely happy. I was pretty sure he was not affected. 

"I see him on a daily basis. Even the last days, he seemed relaxed, fine with the situation and mentally moved on. 

"Romelu can handle pressure and adversity. It was a good performance; he contributed a lot to our defensive setup and had chances."

Tuchel also praised the focus and commitment of his players, although he believes they could have increased their margin of victory.

"It seems like a deserved win, an excellent result because it reflects the game," he added. "We could have scored more, but it is hard to score against Tottenham.

"We did create a lot – some huge chances – it could have been possible to score more.

"We never lost the focus; [we] never lost the commitment."

Antonio Conte pulled no punches in his assessment of Tottenham after losing 2-0 to Chelsea in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final, acknowledging "there's no comparison" between the two teams.

Spurs were well beaten at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, with two defensively poor goals allowing Chelsea to build up what proved to be an unassailable lead before half-time.

Japhet Tanganga first saw his pass cut out by Marcos Alonso, who fed Kai Havertz to open the scoring five minutes in.

Tanganga then saw his unchallenged headed clearance strike Ben Davies and go into his own goal, with Spurs failing to even muster a single shot before the break.

Conte altered his system at half-time, changing to a back four and bringing on Tanguy Ndombele in midfield – Spurs were better, but their five shots was still only a little over half of Chelsea's nine in the second period.

According to Spurs' expected goals (xG) of 0.37, they would have been extremely fortunate if they had managed to breach Kepa Arrizabalaga's goal, while Chelsea's 2.2 accentuated just how much more threatening – and clinical – they were.

For Conte, it was a brutal reminder of how far Spurs still have to go to be able to consider themselves competitive rivals of the likes of Chelsea, whom he was facing at Stamford Bridge for the first time since leaving them in July 2018.

"It was a difficult game, difficult from the start," Conte told Sky Sports. "Chelsea showed to be much better than us.

"The first half, we struggled a lot from the start but we know that we are talking about one of the best teams in Europe, in the world.

"Last season they won the Champions League. If you compare the two teams, there is not a comparison.

"We are talking about a team ready to win – we have seen the difference between the two teams.

"It is not easy to play at Stamford Bridge, the way they were very concentrated, they won the ball every time and then we conceded also a goal [that was] unlucky.

"When you start the game and after a few minutes they score, for sure the game becomes very difficult, but I know the situation, it's very clear in this moment there is an important gap [between Spurs and the best teams].

"We have to try to fight to stay in the league in a good position, but if we think we are close, I think we are not in the right way."

The defeat and Conte's scathingly honest appraisal of Spurs' situation might be hard to stomach for some, but the Italian reiterated the need for patience and highlighted the importance of not sugarcoating anything for his team.

"There is a lot of jobs to do," he continued. "In this moment, it is very difficult to understand which part you take to improve because there is a lot of situations to improve.

"We need time, and patience. Everyone has to have patience, because Tottenham in the last years the level has dropped a lot and now we have to fight to win every game.

"I started my experience with Tottenham and every game we have fought, and now we struggle to win the game, it wasn't a game you could say it was easy.

"We have to be humble, to understand the situation at the moment and continue to work to improve our players, then we will see. It is not simple to say go in the transfer market, in January it won't be easy and now the most important thing is to be focused and work to improve.

"The results in the league were good, we reached the semi-final in the EFL Cup and for Tottenham at this moment that is a good target.

"I am always very honest with my players, we have to clap the performance of Chelsea. I like to tell the truth and with a good lie you don't go anywhere. They showed to be a really good team, much better than us.

"We have to try to change this situation, slowly, slowly. It is impossible to change the situation in one or two transfer windows.

"There is a lot of jobs to do in Tottenham and we need a lot of time. It is important for patience and for me also to have patience."

Chelsea put one foot in the EFL Cup final thanks to a comfortable 2-0 victory over Tottenham in Wednesday's semi-final first leg on a chastening return to Stamford Bridge for Antonio Conte.

Thomas Tuchel, seemingly eager to put recent indiscretions to one side after an apology, reinstated Romelu Lukaku to his starting XI, though Chelsea's victory arguably said more about Spurs' defence than the hosts' attack.

The Blues were ahead inside five minutes as Kai Havertz punished a Japhet Tanganga error at the back, and a comical Ben Davies own goal had Chelsea cruising at the interval.

Spurs improved somewhat in the second 45 minutes but were fortunate not to concede more goals, with Timo Werner spurning a couple of excellent opportunities, perhaps giving Conte's men a lifeline for the return leg.

Lukaku should have made a swift impact when released into the box in the first minute, only to bizarrely opt for a cut-back that went to no one.

Spurs gifted them another chance soon after, though, and Chelsea took it – Marcos Alonso cut out Tanganga's dreadful pass and fed Havertz, who found the net despite Davinson Sanchez's best efforts.

The dominant home side made it 2-0 just past the half-hour mark, Tanganga's unchallenged headed clearance bouncing back off Davies and going in.

Spurs, who introduced Tanguy Ndombele at half-time, were brighter early in the second period, with Harry Kane testing Kepa Arrizabalaga via a 20-yard free-kick.

Still, the best chances went the way of Chelsea and Werner, who first shot agonisingly wide and then saw Hugo Lloris just about reach his lobbed effort after an exquisite pass from Hakim Ziyech.

A late Ndombele effort from Bryan Gil's pull-back was then well saved by Kepa as the Blues kept their clean sheet intact.

What does it mean? Chelsea in control of the tie

The last trophy Spurs won was via this competition in 2008 – on the evidence of this first leg, they will not be ending that drought in next month's final.

Sure, there was undoubtedly an improvement from Spurs in the second half here, but they could not really have gotten any worse – they failed to register a single shot in the first 45 minutes. Even then, Chelsea were still on another level after the break.

Conte has received a lot of praise for the impact he has had on Spurs in just a couple of months at the helm, but this was a reminder of how far they still have to go.

Fruitful from the flanks

Alonso and Ziyech were both impressive out wide for the Blues. The Spaniard was deployed as a left-back rather than wing-back but still got forward to great effect, making the interception and playing the pass for the first goal – that was one of three key passes. The only player to register more (four) was Ziyech on the right, whose use of the ball was often excellent in the final third.

You've been Tangangoed!

This was a day to forget for Tanganga. It was his poor pass to Emerson Royal that was intercepted in the build-up to the first goal, and then his header went in off Davies for the second when he was under virtually no pressure.

What's next?

These two will resume hostilities next Wednesday in the second leg at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but before that, both teams are in FA Cup action. Chelsea host Chesterfield on Saturday, while Spurs welcome Morecambe to north London the following day.

The first leg of Liverpool's EFL Cup semi-final tie with Arsenal on Thursday has been postponed.

Liverpool asked for the postponement amid a COVID-19 outbreak and they confirmed that request had approved on Wednesday.

The game had been thrown into further doubt after Liverpool assistant Pep Lijnders returned a suspected positive COVID-19 test.

Lijnders was poised to take charge of the Reds at the Emirates Stadium with manager Jurgen Klopp still isolating after his own positive test.

But Lijnders will now join the German in isolation and the news conference he was poised to lead was cancelled prior to official confirmation of the match's postponement.

The update comes a day after Liverpool formally requested for the first leg to be called off after confirming an "escalating number" of suspected COVID-19 cases, which led to the cancellation of training.

Liverpool will now host the rescheduled semi-final first leg on Thursday January 13, with the second leg to be played at the Emirates a week later on Thursday January 20.

The EFL Cup semi-final tie between Liverpool and Arsenal has been thrown into further doubt after Pep Lijnders returned a suspected positive COVID-19 test.

Liverpool assistant Lijnders was poised to take charge of the Reds in Thursday's first leg at the Emirates Stadium with manager Jurgen Klopp still isolating after his own positive test.

But Lijnders will now join the German in isolation and the news conference he was poised to lead on Wednesday has been cancelled.

The update comes a day after Liverpool formally requested the postponement of the first leg after confirming an "escalating number" of suspected COVID-19 cases.

Lijnders' result came in after that application, which Liverpool are still awaiting a response to. 

"Liverpool Football Club can confirm Pepijn Lijnders has returned a suspected positive test for COVID-19, further impacting the club's preparations for Thursday's Carabao Cup tie with Arsenal," read a statement from the club.

"The assistant manager had been due to handle pre-match media duties at the AXA Training Centre in place of Jürgen Klopp, who is continuing to isolate having tested positive for the virus last week.

"However, Lijnders recorded a positive test late on Tuesday evening, meaning he has now also gone into isolation.

"The 38-year-old took interim charge of Liverpool for the weekend draw at Chelsea in the absence of Klopp and had been set to continue at the helm at Emirates Stadium on Thursday.

"Lijnders' test result comes in addition to a number of suspected positive cases among players and football staff recorded earlier on Tuesday, which forced the cancellation of the day's scheduled training session.

"As a result of the outbreak and the suspension of preparations, as well as other illnesses and injuries recorded within the squad, the club submitted an application to the EFL for the postponement of Thursday's tie with Arsenal, with the news of Lijnders' positive result coming after the request was lodged.

"The outcome of this application is still pending."

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