Chelsea take a two-goal lead into the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final against Tottenham after a dominant display at Stamford Bridge; Antonio Conte says: "There is a lot of work to do in many aspects, because... the level of Tottenham has dropped a lot"
Thursday 6 January 2022 12:04, UK
Antonio Conte felt the gap between Tottenham and Chelsea was clear to see as his side slipped to a disappointing 2-0 Carabao Cup semi-final first leg defeat.
The result leaves Tottenham with a mountain to climb in next Wednesday's second leg if they are to keep alive their chances of winning their first trophy for almost 14 years.
Spurs, who didn't have a shot in the first 45 minutes, slightly improved after the interval, and Harry Kane's drilled free-kick forced a solid stop from Kepa Arrizabalaga - but it was one of very few chances.
Conte told Sky Sports: "It was a difficult game, from the start. Chelsea showed they were much better than us. In the first half, we struggled a lot but we know that we're 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's not a comparison. We're talking about a team that's ready to win and they've played an important part over many years.
"Today, we have seen the difference between the two teams.
"I said that these types of games can show us the difference in the gap there is between us and top clubs like Chelsea. We struggled a lot this evening and they showed us they are much stronger than us.
"There is a lot of work to do in many aspects, because in this moment in the last couple of years the level of Tottenham has dropped a lot. Now we have to rebuild, and to rebuild we need patience and more time.
"I understand it is not simple to accept this, especially for the fans, but we are working a lot to try and fight. Right now we are in the middle. We are not up or down, we are in the middle.
"When I speak about trying to improve the team and squad I include all these aspects now. I want to try and improve the mentality to make less mistakes during the game, to not lose stupid balls.
"It is part of a process. We need the fans to stay behind us, and they have been fantastic in the way they've supported us. But I want to speak the truth and say clearly we are 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.
When pressed on what Spurs were lacking during a tepid first 45 minutes, the Italian added: "It is not easy to play at Stamford Bridge, the way they were very concentrated, they won the ball every time and then we conceded also a goal where we were 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 in this moment there is an important gap. We have to try to fight to stay in the league in a good position, but if we think we are close, I think we are not in the right way."
Former Spurs defender Michael Dawson told Sky Sports:
"It could've been a lot worse for Tottenham but at 2-0, you're still in it. It's only half-time.
"If they perform like they did tonight and start the way they did at Stamford Bridge, a tough place to go, then it's going to be tough.
"We've spoken about the gulf of where Chelsea are and where Spurs are, and they've got a lot of work to do but they can be positive about the second half as it was much better.
"They've got to be on the front foot now and take the game to Chelsea. The full-backs never got over the halfway line.
"When you go to Stamford Bridge, you've got to show big character and be calm in possession but that's not what we saw. They'll be really disappointed but in the second half, they changed formation.
"They're still in the tie, but that's the only positive for Antonio Conte. Chelsea absolutely dominated the game tonight."
Romelu Lukaku was not among the scorers on his return to Chelsea after being omitted from the squad against Liverpool following his incendiary interview but still impressed the Chelsea boss.
"He was strong and he was involved," said Tuchel. "He showed huge commitment in our defensive work and he was always dangerous and used his body well.
"I expected it because I know he can handle pressure and adversity and he seemed to be relaxed after the decision was made when we had finished our talks that he would put in a performance like that."
Saul Niguez was handed a start in midfield alongside Jorginho, and the Spaniard impressed on his 12th appearance for the club with six tackles, three interceptions and a 100 per cent passing accuracy into the final third.
Dawson added: "He's had a tough time since coming to Chelsea, playing in different positions but tonight it suited him in midfield and it suited him. He got on the ball and he tried to break things up.
"For him and Jorginho, it was a comfortable night and what he did, he did well, breaking things up and making tackles.
"It was a positive performance from him tonight as he's had his critics. We've certainly not seen the best of him so far, but this was a performance he would've enjoyed. He took his opportunity tonight."