Jose Mourinho moved Tottenham Hotspur to within one game of their first trophy in 13 years as they earned a Carabao Cup semi-final win over Brentford.
Spurs have not claimed silverware since they beat Chelsea in the 2008 League Cup final and they were made to work hard before seeing off the Championship promotion chasers in this one-leg semi-final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Brentford had beaten four Premier League sides in the run to their first major semi-final but they were behind after only 12 minutes when Moussa Sissoko headed Sergio Reguilon’s cross beyond Bees keeper David Raya.
Thomas Frank’s side thought they had equalised after the hour when top scorer Ivan Toney headed in but the goal was ruled out for the most marginal of offsides when the striker was actually down on his haunches earlier in the move.
Spurs increased Brentford’s sense of injustice when Son Heung-min raced clear to add a second after 70 minutes before the visitors were reduced to 10 men following Josh Dasilva’s foul on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
Mourinho’s side will now meet either Manchester United or Manchester City the final at Wembley in April.
Mourinho’s familiar strategy for success
Mourinho makes it his business to win trophies – and this competition has always been a building block in his strategy for success.
He regards the EFL Cup as vital in not just making his mark at a new club but also in giving his players the confidence that comes with securing silverware.
Mourinho’s first trophy, in his first season at Chelsea, was the 2005 League Cup. It was the first trophy of his second spell there too, as he won it in 2015. He then marked his first season at Manchester United by winning it again in 2017.
He believes that if this competition can end Spurs’ long trophy drought, it can be the platform for bigger things. He wants to rid the club of their “nearly” tag, of a reputation for falling just short of success, as they did most recently in the 2019 Champions League final against Liverpool in Madrid.
Mourinho always takes the competition very seriously and rarely fields anything other than full-strength sides. If Spurs beat either Manchester United or Manchester City in the final on 25 April, that policy will be fully justified.
Brentford play their part
This was ultimately a disappointment for Brentford in their first major semi-final but there is no doubt bigger things await this talented side assembled by manager Frank.
They were never outplayed at any stage of this semi-final and will certainly argue the merits or otherwise of the decision that saw Toney’s goal ruled out, a VAR verdict that brought a rueful smile from their manager.
He has a positive, confident team and it is easy to see why Brentford lie fourth in the Championship and will be promotion contenders once more.
They look good to challenge again after missing out to Fulham in last season’s Championship play-offs, and then selling striker Ollie Watkins to Aston Villa and winger Said Benrahma to West Ham.
Brentford have proved their pedigree by seeing off a top-flight quartet of Southampton, West Bromwich Albion, Fulham and Newcastle United in this competition – and while there is disappointment in defeat it will not dent their belief they can make a real tilt at reaching the Premier League.
‘The game was under control’
Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho, speaking to Sky Sports: “It’s a game that takes us to a final at – probably, but I hope not – an empty Wembley but of course I’m very happy. We’ve had London derbies and other games but this is the match that took us to a final.
“The final is now in our pocket for three months. We have to wait for the final so we have to focus on what we have coming up. We have the FA Cup, the Premier League, the Europa League, so let’s forget the final for now. But when April arrives, we have to be ready and to fight for the trophy.
“The game was always under control. They had the offside goal, when the ball goes in the air you cannot press the ball, you just have to try to get to the first and second ball.”
Brentford boss Thomas Frank, speaking to Sky Sports: “First and foremost, I must say I’m very proud of my team.
“The first VAR decision, we were inches from equalising. It was an open game, we had a top attitude, we were brave and an equaliser wouldn’t have been a totally unfair result against a world-class team.
“If you want to go to a final against a top team, you need the margins with you but then they show class to get a second and after that it was game over. We need to remember Tottenham are a good team.”
Jose’s record run – the stats
- Tottenham have reached their ninth League/EFL Cup final (winning four) with only Liverpool appearing in more (12).
- In all competitions, Brentford have never won an away match against Spurs in eight attempts (D2 L6), with their last win against them coming in March 1948 in a league match at Griffin Park.
- Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho is just the third manager to reach the League/EFL Cup final with three different clubs (Chelsea, Manchester United, Spurs), after Ron Atkinson (Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa) and Ron Saunders (Norwich, Manchester City, Aston Villa).
- Brentford lost for the first time in 17 games in all competitions (W9 D7), since a 2-3 league defeat by Stoke in October.
- Moussa Sissoko netted his first goal in 37 appearances for Tottenham in all competitions, since scoring against Burnley in the Premier League in December 2019.
- Sergio Reguilon registered his fourth assist for Tottenham this season in all competitions, a total only Harry Kane (14) and Son Heung-min (8) can better for the club.
- Josh Dasilva’s red card was Brentford’s second in their past three away games in all competitions, as many as they picked up in their previous 35 on the road.
- 6D Sánchez
- 3ReguilónBooked at 52minsSubstituted forDaviesat 71′minutes
- 5HøjbjergSubstituted forTangangaat 86′minutes
- 27Lucas MouraSubstituted forWinksat 71′minutes
- 7Son Heung-MinSubstituted forAlves Moraisat 89′minutes
- 45Alves Morais
- 29Bech Sørensen
- 14DasilvaBooked at 84mins
- 27JaneltBooked at 18minsSubstituted forMarcondesat 74′minutes
- 19MbeumoBooked at 51minsSubstituted forForssat 81′minutes
- 7CanósBooked at 14minsSubstituted forFosu-Henryat 74′minutes
- Mike Dean
Match ends, Tottenham Hotspur 2, Brentford 0.
Second Half ends, Tottenham Hotspur 2, Brentford 0.
Attempt missed. Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Harry Winks.
Attempt saved. Emiliano Marcondes (Brentford) right footed shot from a difficult angle and long range on the left is saved in the top centre of the goal.
Foul by Serge Aurier (Tottenham Hotspur).
Rico Henry (Brentford) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Tanguy Ndombele (Tottenham Hotspur).
Emiliano Marcondes (Brentford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt missed. Rico Henry (Brentford) left footed shot from the left side of the box is too high.
Substitution, Tottenham Hotspur. Carlos Vinicius replaces Son Heung-Min.
Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Henrik Dalsgaard (Brentford).
Tanguy Ndombele (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Mathias Jensen (Brentford).
Substitution, Tottenham Hotspur. Japhet Tanganga replaces Pierre-Emile Højbjerg because of an injury.
Josh Dasilva (Brentford) is shown the red card.
VAR Checking: Possible Red Card.
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (Tottenham Hotspur) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Josh Dasilva (Brentford).
Substitution, Brentford. Marcus Forss replaces Bryan Mbeumo.