Maurizio Sarri is through to his first final as Chelsea head coach, with Kepa Arrizabalaga and David Luiz the heroes in a dramatic penalty shootout against Tottenham. Spurs had been beaten 2-1 in normal time at Stamford Bridge, with N'Golo Kante and Eden Hazard scoring for the hosts before Fernando Llorente gave the visitors hope.
Sarri has clearly found a way to motivate his players after all. This was exactly the reaction Chelsea needed, and it showed that palpable discord has not overrun the Stamford Bridge dressing room just yet. Hazard was Hazard again and anything can happen in finals, even if Manchester City are big favourites. It was nice to see Gonzalo Higuain in attendance watching and maybe he can provide a spark going forward.
Chelsea still have the ominous tendency to switch off for spells in games and, having utterly dominated Tottenham for 45 minutes, their drop in intensity allowed the visitors back into the tie. Olivier Giroud's wayward finishing also underlined why Higuain's success in the coming months is so crucial.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Sarri made smart changes to his starting XI, introducing Emerson Palmieri for the out-of-form Marcos Alonso and reinvigorating Hazard by moving him back to the left flank. He was outmaneuvered tactically by Mauricio Pochettino in the second though, and his players bailed him out in the penalty shootout.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, 7 -- With the visitors scoring from their only shot on target, he didn't have much to do. Kicked well under pressure and could not be expected to stop Llorente's header. Came up big in the penalty shootout when it mattered, diving to his left to foil Lucas Moura.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 6 -- Showed greater attacking intent than he has done for much of this season and was rewarded in the first half when his low cross found Hazard. Was drawn far too narrow when Tottenham switched shape though, giving Danny Rose all the time he needed to pick out Llorente. Took a great penalty.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 7 -- His manic physicality caused Tottenham problems from attacking set pieces and in general he was the most assured of Chelsea's back four. That said, Tottenham's success in stretching the game in the second half left him scrambling to recover too often for Sarri's liking.
DF David Luiz, 6 -- Took a leading role in Chelsea's fast start, passing ambitiously -- if not always accurately -- out of defence and looking to switch play often. Was culpable for Tottenham's equaliser though, allowing Llorente to get around him to nod in Rose's inviting cross. But when the time came, there was never any doubt he would score the decisive spot kick.
DF Emerson Palmieri, 7 -- His superior speed across the ground to that of Marcos Alonso certainly helped maintain Chelsea's tempo in possession, though his lapses in defensive positioning helped explain why Sarri has been slow to trust him. Overall though, this was an improvement on Alonso's recent displays.
MF N'Golo Kante, 9 -- His performance was emphatic vindication of the more expansive role Sarri has given him. Aside from his superbly taken goal he was everywhere, carrying the ball through the midfield lines and creating great chances for Hazard and Giroud. Booked for one naughty foul on Rose.
MF Jorginho, 7 -- Displayed his early-season form in the opening minutes, directing Chelsea's pressing and play. Getting booked for a foul on Rose was the turning point in his night as he had to take a step back and became less influential as a result. Is his penalty technique the most nonchalant in world football?
MF Ross Barkley, 6 -- Sarri seems to consider he and Mateo Kovacic utterly interchangeable at this point and watching both on the pitch, it's easy to see why. Barkley should be the main goal threat in this Chelsea midfield, but too often he takes the safe option rather than assuming responsibility in the final third.
FW Pedro, 6 -- His high-energy pressing and instincts for attacking space in behind always make Chelsea more dangerous, but his normally lethal finishing touch was nowhere to be found here. Replaced by Willian with 76 minutes on the clock.
FW Olivier Giroud, 6 -- His mere presence seemed to provide more clarity for Chelsea's attack, but his wayward finishing will have done nothing to make the watching Higuain worry about breaking into this team. Missed a gilt-edged headed chance to win the tie for his team at the death.
FW Eden Hazard, 8 -- Restored to the left wing starting position he favours, though it was ironic that he actually drifted into the No. 9 spot to score his goal. In truth though he was everywhere, running Tottenham ragged in the first half and carrying Chelsea's biggest threat in the second.
FW Willian, N/R -- Could not find a way through in the final 15 minutes, but dispatched his penalty nervelessly.
FW Mateo Kovacic, N/R -- Brought on to provide fresh legs for Barkley late on and was not needed in the shootout.