Chelsea boss Antonio Conte hailed “amazing” midfield performances from David Luiz and debutant Tiemoue Bakayoko after the dramatic victory over Tottenham.
Marcos Alonso scored his second goal with two minutes remaining in Sunday’s match at Wembley to give the Premier League champions a morale-boosting 2-1 triumph.
Conte sprung a tactical surprise with David Luiz deployed as an extra man in midfield alongside N’Golo Kante and Bakayoko, who unexpectedly played the full 90 minutes despite being short of full fitness after a knee injury.
And Luiz and Bakayoko drew the Italian’s praise after the match, which got the Blues back on track after their shock opening defeat at home to Burnley last week.
“It was an amazing performance from David,” said Conte. “He played with great experience, with great personality and was a real point of reference for the other players.
“Don’t forget we played with four new players if you compare to last season.
“When you change two players of your three central defenders – we change David Luiz and [Gary] Cahill and replaced with a young player like [Andreas] Christensen and then [Antonio] Rudiger in his second appearance – it is not easy.
“Despite this, we showed a great desire to stay compact, not to lose the balance and to show also that we are the champions – this was very important.
“It was the first game for Baka. I was a player – don’t forget that sometimes the motivation brings you to get over your physical condition even if you are not at the top.
“But a great stadium, great opponent, great occasion, great atmosphere brought him to have an amazing performance. But for sure he can improve and he needs to adapt more to our style of football.”
Conte insisted he was not surprised Alonso was his match-winner, given he had scored six league goals last season, a tally he felt could have been higher.
“I am not surprised,” said the Chelsea boss. “If you remember last season, he scored five or six goals last season. The same with [Victor] Moses.
“Alonso missed a lot of other chances to improve his [number of goals] last season. I know very well the wing-backs are the real wingers and sometimes they must become strikers.”