Tottenham bounced back from a tough decision in the league over the weekend to outlast Chelsea 5-4 on penalty kicks following a 1-1 draw in regulation.
Tottenham Hotspur are in a busy stretch of the schedule and have to find a way to balance minutes and competitions as they look to advance on three fronts simultaneously.
Having insinuated before the match that they would de-prioritize the Carabao Cup, Jose Mourinho and company had a side strong enough to come level with Chelsea and advance on penalty kicks.
Tottenham in the first half
It was obvious from the off that Mourinho had set up his side to shorten the game. The less his side had to run, press, and chase, the more energy they would have late on and for two more games this week. Instead of the traditional back four, Jose set up Spurs with a back five. While, yes, it was a back three with two wing-backs, it was clear the wing-back role was first and foremost to play defense in the first half.
Both Serge Aurier – who made his second appearance of the season for the club – and Sergio Reguilon – making his Spurs debut – pushed forward when they could, but definitely played with a defensive first strategy. Joining Aurier and Reguilon on the backline were Eric Dier on the left, Toby Alderweireld in the middle and Japhet Tanganga – making his season debut – on the right of the center-half trio.
Overall, the defense was solid, but definitely not great. There was just too much time on the first goal, both for Cesar Azpilicueta to get his pass into Timo Werner and for Werner to place his shot around both Toby and Dier into the lower right corner.
Positively for Tottenham, despite parking the bus most of the first half and conceding the lion share of possession, they only gave up the one shot on target and kept the game close, which was the goal in shortening the game. Being 0-0 or 1-1 would have been better, but down only one goal after staying so compact and inviting the attack was a good place to be heading into the second half.
Spurs second-half surge
As is becoming the norm with Tottenham Hotspur under Jose Mourinho, the team came on stronger in the second half and really changed the complexion of the match. First, we saw much more aggression from both wing backs in the second half. Aurier was in and around the box on multiple occasions and it was Reguilon who ultimately put in the cross that led to the goal.
With the wing-backs further up the pitch and Chelsea nursing the one-goal, lead it was the substitutes for Tottenham that ultimately set things right. First, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg came on to replace Gedson Fernandes.
Fernandes did whiff on a clearance chance that could have prevented the Werner goal, but that happens sometimes. He also nearly drew a penalty in the first half as he was tackled from behind in the box by Kurt Zouma. Ultimately, Gedson did nothing spectacular but also did not look completely out of place in his 60 minutes, which is good for the young Portuguese player.
Hojbjerg’s introduction buoyed his fellow midfielders Tanguy Ndombele and Moussa Sissoko, allowing them both to move further up the pitch and participate more in the attack. Over the next 10 minutes or so, Jose introduced Harry Kane – bringing him on for Tanganga, which changed Spurs’ formation to a more traditional 4-2-3-1 – and then Lucas Moura coming on for Steven Bergwijn.
As the Tottenham line-up grew stronger, Frank Lampard tried to respond, but Tottenham continued to grow their holding in the game and it grew increasingly likely Spurs were going to tie the match. Harry Kane had a decent chance or two, Reguilon just missed a diving header, and before coming off, Bergwijn had blasted high and wide from in the box. The point was after only two shots in the first half, Spurs have nine in the second and eventually the work paid off.
The play started with a big switch of possession from Alderweireld to Reguilon far up the left side. Reguilon dribbled up the left and put in a little chip toward the back post. It looked like an opportunity lost when it went over Kane’s head, but the ball bounced nicely for Erik Lamela who took a touch and calmly tucked the ball into the net past Edouard Mendy for a 1-1 tie. Tottenham continued to push for the last few minutes as the game opened up, but neither side could score again, leading to the penalty shootout.
Spurs in the shootout
There are two ways to win a shootout, one is to just keep making the shots until the other team misses. The other is to get spectacular play from your keeper to save the day. On this day, it was the former that came through for Spurs, as all five spot takers came through, meaning just one miss in five from Chelsea was enough for Spurs to advance.
First, Eric Dier drilled his penalty in the lower left corner, then Tammy Abraham followed suit for Chelsea. Erik Lamela went second for Spurs and did well staying over the ball and kept it down nicely as he slotted it into the same lower left corner as Dier and Abraham before him. Azpilicueta then stepped up and did the same for Chelsea, keeping the score level at two.
As the two number-fives took turns, both Hojbjerg and Jorginho calmly slotted the ball past Mendy and Hugo Lloris respectively. Jorginho was the first of the six kickers to go to the right side of the goal and Lloris, who guessed right (his left) on four of the five kicks, was just inches away from getting a glove on the ball. As Moura stepped up and buried the ball inside the post, the pressure was clearly beginning to grow.
Emerson came through, keeping Chelsea level, leaving things up to Harry Kane to keep Spurs ahead. Kane seemed to take an extra second before kicking after Lee Mason had blown an early whistle, but it did not matter as Kane was the only Spur to go to the lower right corner and drilled his spot kick. This left everything on the shoulders of Mason Mount. Mount stepped up and just pushed the ball a bit too wide to the left as it skidded off the post wide of the goal.
From here, the draw for the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup, to be played in December, takes place this Thursday, Oct. 1, the same day Tottenham host Maccabi Haifa in the Europa League playoff.