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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 February 2019

Maurizio Sarri: Chelsea have found their enthusiasm again

Italian a happy man after his side reach English League Cup final by beating Tottenham Hotspur on penalties

Chelsea's Eden Hazard was on target as his triumphed, on penalties, to reach the League Cup final and a match with Manchester City on February 24. Action Images via Reuters
Chelsea's Eden Hazard was on target as his triumphed, on penalties, to reach the League Cup final and a match with Manchester City on February 24. Action Images via Reuters

Maurizio Sarri hopes Chelsea have overcome their motivational issues after advancing to the EFL Cup final at the expense of Tottenham Hotspur.

Sarri criticised his players' poor performance at Arsenal last weekend and singled out Eden Hazard as "not a leader" on the eve of the semi-final second leg with Spurs at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea overturned a first-leg deficit as N'Golo Kante and Hazard struck in the first half, but Fernando Llorente's header forced penalties, with the tie ending 2-2 on aggregate.

Eric Dier fired over and Lucas Moura's effort was saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga, before David Luiz kept his composure in a 4-2 shootout success as the Chelsea players answered Sarri's public rebuke with a fine performance to set up a February 24 final with Manchester City.

"I think the last three, four matches we had a problem," Sarri said.

"The problem was the motivation. The other problem was the players stopped to have fun on the pitch.

"Now, with the performance, with the result, we can find again enthusiasm. So it's very important.

"The reaction was really very good, but I think we need to have motivation with continuity now."

Hazard shrugged off Sarri's pre-match critique, which saw his team ethic questioned.

Hazard told Sky Sports: "To be fair I don't care - I just play my football and it doesn't matter what the manager says.

"I'm always focused on this team and I just want to do my best for this team."

Sarri enjoyed the "fun" performance of Hazard, who relished being freed from the 'false nine' role he had occupied of late.

Sarri downplayed the impact of Hazard's positional switch, saying: "We played with another mind, with another motivation, with another determination and so I think these qualities are more important than the position."

Sarri has the chance of a first trophy of his managerial career, but Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino's wait for silverware goes on.

Pochettino took pride in a performance which came in the absence of injured duo Harry Kane and Dele Alli, and Son Heung-min, who is on international duty with South Korea.

"I'm proud of my players. I told the players that the way we came back after the first half, it was one of the best games we played," Pochettino said.

Dier scored the decisive penalty for England in the World Cup last-16 shootout with Colombia.

Pochettino said: "Anyone can miss who takes the responsibility to shoot. For me, it's not a problem."

Left-back Ben Davies went off with a minor groin problem, Pochettino added.

Updated: January 25, 2019 10:33 AM

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