Thomas Tuchel praised Romelu Lukaku’s performance in the semi-final first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final that Chelsea beat Tottenham 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Lukaku was not among the scorers on his return to the squad after being barred from the squad against Liverpool following his incendiary interview, but he impressed the Chelsea manager nonetheless.
“He was strong and he got involved,” Tuchel said. “He showed great commitment in our defensive work and was always dangerous and used his body well.
“I was expecting this because I know he can handle pressure and adversity and seemed to be relaxed after the decision was made when we finished our talks that he would make such a performance.”
Spanish national team midfielder Saul Niguez was also positive for Tuchel, delivering his strongest performance with Chelsea since joining Atletico Madrid.
“He is happier and freer in training. I see him every day. He played better when he came on the pitch against the Wolves. [in the Premier League] and made a good impact. She is taking a step forward.
“It was an important moment for him. But I have the feeling that he digested his experiences in the beginning when perhaps he did not expect to struggle so much after the change. What he does is so good, because he is open, completely focused and totally. busy with the team. “
The disappointment for Tuchel is that the match didn’t end before the second leg began, given Chelsea’s dominance after taking a two-goal lead in 45 minutes.
“We could have created a bigger cushion because we created a lot of great chances for a third or fourth goal,” he added.
“Everyone knows it is not decided. We need to arrive with maximum concentration and in excellent shape for the next stage because we need another 90 minutes of great football if we are to move to Wembley.
“We had two bad news at the last minute with Thiago Silva and N’Golo Kante, both of which should have started. So yesterday we decided to switch to a back four and the guys were very busy, open and focused on playing as if we had played.
“It was a well deserved victory in a big match against a very strong opponent.”
Conte: The important gap between the teams is clear
Chelsea have lost only one of their last 36 home games in all competitions against Tottenham, winning 23 times.
The Spurs improved after half-time and Harry Kane’s free-kick forced Kepa Arrizabalaga to stop, but it was one of very few chances.
Antonio Conte said Sky Sport: “It was a difficult game from the start. Chelsea proved to be much better than us. We struggled a lot in the first half but we know we are talking about one of the best teams in Europe and in the world.
“Last year they won the Champions League and if you compare the two teams I think there is no comparison. We are talking about a team ready to win and they have played an important role in many years.
“Today we saw the difference between the two teams.”
“I said that these kinds of games can show us the difference in the gap between us and top clubs like Chelsea. We struggled a lot tonight and they showed us that they are much stronger than us.
There is a lot of work to do in many ways, because at this moment in the last two years the level of Tottenham has dropped a lot. Now we have to rebuild, and it takes patience and more time to rebuild.
“I understand that it is not easy to accept this, especially for the fans, but we are working hard to try and fight. Right now we are in the middle. We are not up or down, we are in the middle.
“When I talk about trying to improve the team and the group I now include all these aspects. I want to try to improve the mentality to make fewer mistakes during the game, not to lose stupid balls.
“It’s part of a process. We need the fans to stand behind us and they’ve been fantastic in the way they’ve supported us. But I want to tell the truth and make it clear we’re in the middle and we need time.”
Spurs have never won away against Chelsea in the League Cup, drawing one and losing four of their visits to Stamford Bridge in the competition.
Pressed on what the Spurs missed during the warm first 45 minutes, the Italian added: “It’s not easy to play at Stamford Bridge, the way they were very focused, they took the ball every time and then we also conceded a goal that we have been 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 is very clear at the moment that there is an important gap. We have to try to fight to stay in a good position in the championship, but if we think we are close, I think we are not. In the right direction. “
Dawson: Just the even interval
Former Spurs defender Michael Dawson told Sky Sports:
“It could have been a lot worse for Tottenham, but you’re still there at 2-0. It’s just the interval.
“If they perform like they did tonight and start like they did at Stamford Bridge, a hard place to go, then it’s going to be tough.
“We talked about the gulf of where Chelsea are and where the Spurs are, and they have a lot of work to do, but they can be positive on the second half because it was a lot better.
Paid the price of a poor first half. But the bond isn’t over yet. Great noise from the end of the trip.
– Harry Kane (@HKane) January 5, 2022
Now they have to stay on the front line and take the game to Chelsea. The full backs have never crossed the half way line.
“When you go to Stamford Bridge, you have to show great character and be calm in possession, but that’s not what we saw. They will be really disappointed but in the second half they changed formation.
“They are still tied, but this is the only positive aspect for Antonio Conte. Tonight Chelsea absolutely dominated the game.”
Have we seen the start of Saul’s career at Chelsea?
Saul Niguez was a starter in midfield alongside Jorginho and the Spaniard impressed on his 12th appearance with the club, scoring more tackles (six), interceptions (three) and 100% passing accuracy in the last third.
Dawson added: “He’s had a tough time since joining Chelsea, playing in different positions, but tonight he was fine with midfield and was fine with him. He took the ball and tried to break things up.
“For him and Jorginho, it was a comfortable night and what he did, he did it well, breaking things up and making tackles.
“Tonight was a positive performance from him because he had his critics. We certainly haven’t seen the best of him so far, but this was a performance he would have enjoyed. He took the opportunity tonight.”