Chelsea go through to the FA Cup final with a hard fought 4-2 win over their London rivals and Premier League title chasers Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley. The game had everything and was eventually won by a superlative strike from Nemanja Matic.
Antonio Conte made five changes to the lineup that featured in a lost cause against Manchester United. Two of them were headline getters when Hazard and Costa were replaced by Willian and Batshuayi. Other changes include Nathan Ake replacing an ill Cahill, Moses for Zouma and Courtois back in between the sticks.
On the other hand, Pochettino rested Walker and Davies on the bench which meant 3 at the back for Spurs. Trippier at right wing back and surprisingly Son Heung-Min at the left wing back position. The back three and others get selected themselves in a settled unit.
Next, let us take a look at the formation of both the teams and analyse important moments of the game:-
The game started with Chelsea pressing the ball higher up the pitch and stopping the passes through midfield from Tottenham. Pretty soon, the first Chelsea goal was scored by Willian through a magical free-kick. But, the build-up to that goal had Spurs’ back three disjointed which resulted in Alderweireld making a challenge just outside the box on Pedro.
The above image shows us the build-up of the goal when Chelsea broke from the left-hand side with Spurs’ wingbacks caught higher up the pitch. This forced Alderweireld to go towards Batshuayi on the left wing and Dier was out of position by then as displayed in the image. Once Batshuayi flicked the ball towards Pedro, the Spurs’ back three were in disarray and the Spaniard had a free run on goal. Eventually, Alderweireld made the tackle just outside the box but it became irrelevant when Willian scored from the resulting set-piece.
Tottenham reacted well and created chances with crosses from right-hand side. They got a free-kick fairly away from goal to which Chelsea went asleep to allow Kane space outside the box, his shot was blocked by Azpilicueta. The second cross from the resulting corner was headed expertly towards goal by Kane to equalise for Spurs. At that moment, the team wearing white were on top, Chelsea’s pressing wasn’t there, they were just sitting back defending any danger thrown at them.
Just before the half-time, Son, who is playing in his least favoured position at left wingback made a clumsy diving challenge on Moses inside the box to hand Chelsea the penalty. We will see his starting position when Moses receive the ball, this is where Pochettino got it wrong by playing an attack-minded player in a critical wide defensive position.
The above image clearly shows the wrong starting position from the defender which allowed Moses plenty of space to run into and also invited Kante to play the ball in the box to attract the challenge. The challenge did come and Willian scored the resulting penalty to give Chelsea the lead back.
The second Spurs equaliser was a beauty, it had everything for viewers to show how to go in behind a deep line defence and also how to create space in between three central defenders.
The above image shows us the build up of that equaliser when Eriksen played a wonderful curving ball in behind the gap between Luiz and Azpilicueta. The good thing with that pass is the third centre-back Ake is out of the game and Alli made a clever run between the other two. Just a good example as to how to find a gap between three centre-backs, isolate two of them and try to run behind.
The game was stretched when Conte brought on his two resources Hazard and Costa which forced Spurs to be more careful of the Chelsea counter-attack while attacking themselves. The third Chelsea goal came from a corner when Hazard freed himself up at the edge of the box and got the knock down to score. It was clumsy from Spurs’ part as they didn’t have any player around Hazard to stop the shot.
All in all, a very good cup game which had everything. End to end stuff but Conte’s decisions were spot on and made the telling difference. He exploited the weakness in Spurs backline by deploying pace to start with, then reverted to his tried and tested personnel to win the game. Spurs did well to stay in the game for most parts but Chelsea defended well.
In counter-attack situations, Tottenham were too open at times flooding the wingbacks higher up to cause their own downfall. Once Hazard came on, he expertly found spaces in between the lines to cause plenty of problems.
This Chelsea win meant Spurs have to go all out chasing the title from their London rivals, they by far have the tougher fixture list but nothing can be said in the Premier League, 4 points is the gap and we are in for a tight finish to this season.