Tottenham 0-1 Chelsea (0-3 agg): Rudiger on target as Blues ease into EFL Cup final

By Sports Desk January 12, 2022

Antonio Rudiger scored the only goal of the game as Chelsea beat London rivals Tottenham 1-0 to seal their place in the EFL Cup final.

Thomas Tuchel's side put themselves well on their way to Wembley by winning the first leg of the semi-final 2-0 and they finished off the job at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Wednesday.

Rudiger's first-half header gave them a three-goal cushion and there was no way back for Spurs, who endured another frustrating evening as referee Andre Marriner overturned two penalty decisions he wrongly awarded to Antonio Conte's side, while VAR also ruled out what would have been Harry Kane's 250th goal in club football.

Chelsea will go in search of a second trophy under Tuchel when they face either Arsenal or Liverpool in the final on February 27. 

Romelu Lukaku came close to increasing the European champions' advantage when he shrugged off Ben Davies, but Pierluigi Gollini spread himself to keep out the striker's left-foot drive.

Gollini was at fault for the opening goal 17 minutes in, though, failing to deal with a Mason Mount corner and the powerful Rudiger rose highest to head home his second goal at Tottenham this season.

Spurs hopes of pulling one back were dashed when the VAR told Marriner to change his decision after he had awarded a penalty for a foul on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, but Rudiger had made contact outside the box.

Marriner got it wrong again when he pointed to the spot early in the second half, the official discovering on the pitchside monitor that Kepa Arrizabalaga had made contact with the ball when he came out to deny Lucas Moura.

There was yet more frustration for Tottenham when Kane lashed home, but the England captain had strayed offside.

Play was paused late on due to a medical emergency in the crowd but, upon its resumption, Chelsea cruised through added time untroubled to take their place in the final.

What does it mean? Blues hunting more silverware as Spurs' wait goes on

That is now 11 matches without defeat for Chelsea and Tuchel is the eighth different boss to lead an English team to the final of both major domestic competitions, and the European Cup/Champions League. Bob Paisley, Brian Clough, Alex Ferguson, Rafael Benitez, Arsene Wenger, Avram Grant and Pep Guardiola are the others to achieve that feat.

Tottenham's 14-year wait for a trophy goes on, with the FA Cup representing their only hope of finally getting their hands on some silverware this season. Chelsea, meanwhile, have progressed from all 14 two-legged ties in cup competitions after winning the first tie.

Transfer talk no issue for Rudiger 

Rudiger's future has been the subject of speculation for months, with the Germany international only under contract until the end of the season.

The 28-year-old is reported to have held talks with other clubs, including Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, but his commitment can certainly not be called into question as he produced another commanding display. The defender has scored 10 times for Chelsea, but all of those goals have come at just three stadiums (Stamford Bridge, King Power Stadium and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium).

Gollini gamble backfires

Gollini made a good save to thwart Lukaku, one of two stops he made in the match, but the on-loan goalkeeper failed to command his area when Mount swung in a corner and he was punished by Rudiger.

Spurs fans may have been questioning why Hugo Lloris was watching on from the bench, but much of the damage had been done in the first leg.

What's next?

Chelsea face a huge Premier League clash away to leaders Manchester City on Saturday, while Spurs take on fierce rivals Arsenal at home on Sunday.

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  • Does becoming NBA's all-time leading scorer make LeBron James the GOAT? Does becoming NBA's all-time leading scorer make LeBron James the GOAT?

    Debates around the greatest of all time in sport can often be as polarising as any other.

    Now that LeBron James has surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to stand at the top of the NBA's all-time leading scoring chart though, it seems appropriate to review the case for the 38-year-old to be considered the greatest basketball player of all time.

    In what has without question been at least one of the best careers ever seen, James has four NBA championships to his name, as well as four Finals MVPs, four NBA MVPs, 19 All-Star selections and three All-Star MVPs. His 13 All-NBA First Team selections are two more than anybody else.

    Enough to make any doubter's eyes water.

    Added to that, after overtaking Kareem on Tuesday, he not only stands alone atop the all-time scoring list, but has a real opportunity to pull away and perhaps even go past 40,000 before hanging up his sneakers. He has long been the playoff scoring king, with his 7,631 playoff points already 1,644 clear of second-placed Michael Jordan.

    It isn't just racking up the points, he has also passed on his fair share of assists, recently pushing past Steve Nash on that all-time leaderboard, with James now fourth for NBA assists.

    As the first pick of the 2003 NBA Draft, it was hardly surprising that James impressed from the start with the Cleveland Cavaliers, averaging 20.9 points per game (PPG) in his debut season from 79 games.

    It was the 2005-06 season where he really exploded, though, averaging 31.4 PPG in the regular season, which remains his highest ever for a campaign, before recording 30.8 PPG in the playoffs, where the Cavs were eliminated in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals by the Detroit Pistons.

    James took Cleveland to the postseason for five straight campaigns, agonisingly losing the 2007 Finals to the San Antonio Spurs, before taking the mantel again in 2009 as he put up 35.3 PPG in 14 playoff outings before more Conference final heartbreak against the Orlando Magic.

    The television event titled 'The Decision' was controversial, though undoubtedly captivating as James dramatically revealed he was leaving the Cavs for the Miami Heat in 2010.

    However, it turned out to be the catalyst for him to reach the next step as he was immediately surrounded by more talent in Miami, and before long, much-deserved silverware.

    Linking up superbly with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, James reached the Finals every year in Florida, winning his first championship in 2012, before following it up in 2013 with another.

    His numbers were slightly lower at the Heat than they had been in Cleveland, though that perhaps owed to the fact that when deciding to join Miami, he was joining forces with arguably the league's second-best player at the time in Wade.

    James' first title win in 2012 saw him average 30.3 PPG during the postseason, and led the way as he got some revenge on the Spurs in 2013, excelling in Game 7 to win his second championship.

    In 2014, James came back to Cleveland with the Ohio-born star's desire to take his team to the promised land for the first time, and he did just that.

    Just as he had in Miami, James went to the Finals every year of his second spell with the Cavaliers – resulting in eight consecutive Finals appearances – and every year they played against the dominant Golden State Warriors.

    After losing 4-2 in 2015, they returned to get revenge in 2016 as James starred on their way to an almost Hollywood-ending win against the Warriors, securing their first NBA championship after coming back from a 3-1 deficit against a team that set the record for the best regular season ever at 73-9.

    They were unable to repeat the trick as the Warriors, with the addition of Kevin Durant, beat them in both the 2017 and 2018 Finals, but reaching four Finals in a row was still more than Cavs fans could have realistically expected.

    Unfortunately for them, James was getting itchy feet again.

    James had a solid enough start to life in Los Angeles, posting 27.4 PPG for the Lakers in 2018-19, though injury issues sustained by him and several of his new team-mates led to a wobbly season, and therefore, no postseason for the first time for James since 2005.

    Inevitably, he came roaring back the following year and in spite of the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, James and the Lakers returned to win the "bubble championship", the fourth title of his career with a third different team. In doing so, he became the only player in NBA history to win Finals MVP with three franchises.

    However, the 2020-21 campaign was one to forget as James recorded his lowest PPG for a season (25.0) since his rookie year, before the Lakers were dumped out of the playoffs in the first round by the Phoenix Suns.

    Was it all over for LeBron? Not likely. He responded to that setback by scoring 1,695 points in just 56 games last season at an average of 30.3 PPG, his best regular season return since 2005-06.

    James also reached a notable landmark last March, becoming the first player in NBA history to record 10,000 assists and 10,000 rebounds in a career.

    Unfortunately for him, his team-mates were unable to match those efforts and the Lakers again failed to even make the playoffs, which could be why they were so desperate to find the funds to tie James' immediate future down as he was given a bumper contract to make him the highest-paid player in the league.

    LeBron has thrived again this season, averaging 30.0 PPG from 43 appearances as he tries to drag the Lakers back to the playoffs.

    Arguments can of course be made for the player with the most NBA titles Bill Russell, or the man whose name is synonymous with so many NBA records Wilt Chamberlain, while Lakers legends Abdul-Jabbar and Kobe Bryant have to be in the conversation also.

    However, ask most people who they believe to be the greatest of all time and you wil have to go a long way to find someone who doesn't immediately blurt out the name of Michael Jordan.

    The Chicago Bulls icon was a five-time NBA MVP, six-time NBA champion, six-time NBA Finals MVP, 10-time All-NBA First Teamer, 14-time NBA All-Star; won 10 scoring titles and retired with the NBA's highest scoring average of 30.1 PPG.

    Jordan was a force of nature who always seemed to raise his game beyond others exactly when his team needed it, while James has experienced more disappointment in clutch scenarios.

    He has also taken his team with him to ultimate success more than once, and arguably teams that had more limitations than Jordan's best times at the Bulls.

    When you consider that Jordan is also in the argument for the greatest sportsman of all time, it is testament to James that he's even in the conversation.

    "It's not heavy. I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to be in this league for at least a few more years," James recently said as he closed in on Kareem's record.

    Which is ominous for the rest of the league, quite frankly.

    Is he the greatest of all time? As with most discussions on the topic, it probably doesn't matter.

    James has scored more points than anyone else to ever compete in the NBA, and that is undisputed.

  • Does becoming NBA's all-time leading scorer make LeBron James the GOAT? Does becoming NBA's all-time leading scorer make LeBron James the GOAT?

    Debates around the greatest of all time in sport can often be as polarising as any other.

    Now that LeBron James has surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to stand at the top of the NBA's all-time leading scoring chart though, it seems appropriate to review the case for the 38-year-old to be considered the greatest basketball player of all time.

    In what has without question been at least one of the best careers ever seen, James has four NBA championships to his name, as well as four Finals MVPs, four NBA MVPs, 19 All-Star selections and three All-Star MVPs. His 13 All-NBA First Team selections are two more than anybody else.

    Enough to make any doubter's eyes water.

    Added to that, after overtaking Kareem on Tuesday, he not only stands alone atop the all-time scoring list, but has a real opportunity to pull away and perhaps even go past 40,000 before hanging up his sneakers. He has long been the playoff scoring king, with his 7,631 playoff points already 1,644 clear of second-placed Michael Jordan.

    It isn't just racking up the points, he has also passed on his fair share of assists, recently pushing past Steve Nash on that all-time leaderboard, with James now fourth for NBA assists.

    As the first pick of the 2003 NBA Draft, it was hardly surprising that James impressed from the start with the Cleveland Cavaliers, averaging 20.9 points per game (PPG) in his debut season from 79 games.

    It was the 2005-06 season where he really exploded, though, averaging 31.4 PPG in the regular season, which remains his highest ever for a campaign, before recording 30.8 PPG in the playoffs, where the Cavs were eliminated in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals by the Detroit Pistons.

    James took Cleveland to the postseason for five straight campaigns, agonisingly losing the 2007 Finals to the San Antonio Spurs, before taking the mantel again in 2009 as he put up 35.3 PPG in 14 playoff outings before more Conference final heartbreak against the Orlando Magic.

    The television event titled 'The Decision' was controversial, though undoubtedly captivating as James dramatically revealed he was leaving the Cavs for the Miami Heat in 2010.

    However, it turned out to be the catalyst for him to reach the next step as he was immediately surrounded by more talent in Miami, and before long, much-deserved silverware.

    Linking up superbly with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, James reached the Finals every year in Florida, winning his first championship in 2012, before following it up in 2013 with another.

    His numbers were slightly lower at the Heat than they had been in Cleveland, though that perhaps owed to the fact that when deciding to join Miami, he was joining forces with arguably the league's second-best player at the time in Wade.

    James' first title win in 2012 saw him average 30.3 PPG during the postseason, and led the way as he got some revenge on the Spurs in 2013, excelling in Game 7 to win his second championship.

    In 2014, James came back to Cleveland with the Ohio-born star's desire to take his team to the promised land for the first time, and he did just that.

    Just as he had in Miami, James went to the Finals every year of his second spell with the Cavaliers – resulting in eight consecutive Finals appearances – and every year they played against the dominant Golden State Warriors.

    After losing 4-2 in 2015, they returned to get revenge in 2016 as James starred on their way to an almost Hollywood-ending win against the Warriors, securing their first NBA championship after coming back from a 3-1 deficit against a team that set the record for the best regular season ever at 73-9.

    They were unable to repeat the trick as the Warriors, with the addition of Kevin Durant, beat them in both the 2017 and 2018 Finals, but reaching four Finals in a row was still more than Cavs fans could have realistically expected.

    Unfortunately for them, James was getting itchy feet again.

    James had a solid enough start to life in Los Angeles, posting 27.4 PPG for the Lakers in 2018-19, though injury issues sustained by him and several of his new team-mates led to a wobbly season, and therefore, no postseason for the first time for James since 2005.

    Inevitably, he came roaring back the following year and in spite of the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, James and the Lakers returned to win the "bubble championship", the fourth title of his career with a third different team. In doing so, he became the only player in NBA history to win Finals MVP with three franchises.

    However, the 2020-21 campaign was one to forget as James recorded his lowest PPG for a season (25.0) since his rookie year, before the Lakers were dumped out of the playoffs in the first round by the Phoenix Suns.

    Was it all over for LeBron? Not likely. He responded to that setback by scoring 1,695 points in just 56 games last season at an average of 30.3 PPG, his best regular season return since 2005-06.

    James also reached a notable landmark last March, becoming the first player in NBA history to record 10,000 assists and 10,000 rebounds in a career.

    Unfortunately for him, his team-mates were unable to match those efforts and the Lakers again failed to even make the playoffs, which could be why they were so desperate to find the funds to tie James' immediate future down as he was given a bumper contract to make him the highest-paid player in the league.

    LeBron has thrived again this season, averaging 30.0 PPG from 43 appearances as he tries to drag the Lakers back to the playoffs.

    Arguments can of course be made for the player with the most NBA titles Bill Russell, or the man whose name is synonymous with so many NBA records Wilt Chamberlain, while Lakers legends Abdul-Jabbar and Kobe Bryant have to be in the conversation also.

    However, ask most people who they believe to be the greatest of all time and you wil have to go a long way to find someone who doesn't immediately blurt out the name of Michael Jordan.

    The Chicago Bulls icon was a five-time NBA MVP, six-time NBA champion, six-time NBA Finals MVP, 10-time All-NBA First Teamer, 14-time NBA All-Star; won 10 scoring titles and retired with the NBA's highest scoring average of 30.1 PPG.

    Jordan was a force of nature who always seemed to raise his game beyond others exactly when his team needed it, while James has experienced more disappointment in clutch scenarios.

    He has also taken his team with him to ultimate success more than once, and arguably teams that had more limitations than Jordan's best times at the Bulls.

    When you consider that Jordan is also in the argument for the greatest sportsman of all time, it is testament to James that he's even in the conversation.

    "It's not heavy. I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to be in this league for at least a few more years," James recently said as he closed in on Kareem's record.

    Which is ominous for the rest of the league, quite frankly.

    Is he the greatest of all time? As with most discussions on the topic, it probably doesn't matter.

    James has scored more points than anyone else to ever compete in the NBA, and that is undisputed.

  • Allegri hails Juve response to adversity after Salernitana triumph Allegri hails Juve response to adversity after Salernitana triumph

    Massimiliano Allegri hailed Juventus' mental fortitude after responding to a troublesome period following their points deduction with victory at Salernitana.

    Juve had not won in three Serie A games, including a 5-1 thrashing by Napoli and a surprise 2-0 defeat to Monza, while the club had also been docked 15 points following an investigation into past transfer dealings.

    But Allegri's side bounced back on Tuesday with a dominant 3-0 victory at Salernitana as Dusan Vlahovic scored twice and assisted Serbia team-mate Filip Kostic for the other.

    Victory moved Juve up to 10th, albeit some 13 points off fourth-placed Lazio, and Allegri heaped praise on his side's resilience amid a difficult time in Turin.

    The Juve head coach told reporters: "The lads are responsible, we can tell each other many things, but I think it wasn't and isn't easy to keep your head in the championship after 15 points were taken away from you.

    "We set ourselves some goals, which is to catch those in front of us. Then there's the Coppa Italia [semi-final] with Inter and the Europa League.

    "It was important to win. We have 26 points, no one remembers that we scored 41 and we would be third in the standings. Look at the current standings."

    Vlahovic took his tally to eight for the season with his first-half penalty and cool finish after the interval, with Allegri delighted to see his star striker returning to form, along with some vital minutes for Angel Di Maria.

    "If Di Maria always plays 60 minutes, I'm happy, he's a champion. Vlahovic is coming back well, meanwhile [Moise] Kean has had important chances," Allegri added.

    "We need all these players, it's normal that we need to improve in possession. We play every three days, so everyone is important."

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