By Nick Purewal, PA
Chelsea put one foot in the Carabao Cup final with a commanding 2-0 win over miserable Tottenham on a wretched Stamford Bridge return for ex-Blues boss Antonio Conte.
Kai Havertz netted his fifth goal of the campaign before Ben Davies put through his own net as Chelsea prevailed in the semi-final first leg in west London.
The Blues will now hope to complete the job in north London next Wednesday, to reach their first League Cup final since 2019.
Chelsea were left to rue a string of missed chances despite dominating Spurs however, and will hope that profligacy will not backfire in the second leg.
The Blues drew first blood in a trio of January clashes between the fierce London rivals, with an absentee-induced 4-3-3 formation paying big dividend for boss Thomas Tuchel.
Havertz cut a battered and bruised figure on his half-time withdrawal due to a head knock and a suspected broken finger, with the Blues hoping the forward will not be sidelined for long.
Positive Covid-19 tests for Thiago Silva and N’Golo Kante were of more concern on the night, but Chelsea adjusted well for a fully merited victory.
Romelu Lukaku was back in action after his internal disciplinary omission from the 2-2 draw with Liverpool, but could not bag a goal to kick-start his redemption drive.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 5, 2022
The Belgium striker had fallen foul of Tuchel and Chelsea for a recent interview revealing unhappiness at Stamford Bridge.
After missing Sunday’s Premier League encounter, apologising and paying a fine the 28-year-old club-record recruit was back in action and determined to prove his commitment.
Such was Chelsea’s superiority and Tottenham’s malaise however that the Blues could comfortably cope with a quiet night from their £98million talisman.
Chelsea raced into the lead, hassling Spurs with precision pressing.
Marcos Alonso robbed Emerson Royal amid Tottenham’s pedestrian passing, then fed Havertz down the inside left into the box.
Germany forward Havertz latched onto the pass and pinged past Hugo Lloris, via Davinson Sanchez’s deflection.
A goalmouth melee left Havertz with a suspected broken finger, but after touchline treatment the former Bayer Leverkusen player was back in action.
Havertz should have doubled both his and Chelsea’s tally when a deflected clearance fell straight into his path, but a scuffed first-time shot allowed Lloris a routine stop.
Toni Rudiger’s far-post shot was deflected wide from a corner as Chelsea’s dominance continued, and then a major defensive bungle gifted the Blues their second goal.
Japhet Tanganga’s headed clearance ricocheted off the nonplussed Davies’ shoulder – and straight past the statuesque Lloris.
Lukaku should have made it three before the break, but the striker could only nod wide from Hakim Ziyech’s teasing cross.
Timo Werner replaced Havertz at half-time, immediately adding more width to the Blues attack.
Spurs were improved after the interval, and Harry Kane’s drilled free-kick forced a solid stop from Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Chelsea’s riposte was a hooked shot from Lukaku, but the first-time effort lacked venom.
Ziyech should have buried a golden chance when worked free by Werner’s neat link play with Lukaku.
But the Morocco winger failed to generate any power on his left-footed shot that gifted Lloris an easy save.
Werner had everybody beaten – including Lloris – with a curling shot cutting in from the left, only for the ball to whip wide of the post.
Ziyech conjured the pass of the night to send Werner clear through the middle, but Lloris extended a palm to his attempted chip to thwart the German.
Spurs started to overrun a tired-looking Chelsea, so Mateo Kovacic and fit-again Ruben Loftus-Cheek replaced Mason Mount and the much-improved Saul Niguez.