Chelsea welcomed city rivals Tottenham Hotspur to Stamford Bridge on Saturday as the two teams clashed in the 27th round of the 2020/21 Premier League season.
With only a point between them and Manchester City potentially banned from the Champions League next season, games between opponents in this part of the table have been added extra spice. Chelsea entered the contest sitting fourth, with 41 points to their name, while Spurs sat directly below on 40. Manchester United, Sheffield United, and possibly even Wolverhampton Wanderers and Everton, will all be hoping to finish within top five and play in the Champions League next term, which means both Chelsea and Spurs will have to make sure they don’t spill too many points.
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard was without the services of wingers Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi, as well as midfielder N’Golo Kante. Striker Tammy Abraham had just recovered from injury and took a place on the bench.
Willy Caballero was in goal. Captain Cezar Azpilicueta joined Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger to form a three-man back line. Marcos Alonso and Reece James marched up and down flanks as wing-backs, with Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho in central midfield. Striker Olivier Giroud was supported by Ross Barkley and Mason Mount.
As for Jose Mourinho in the away dugout, he was without his star striker Harry Kane who will be out for a while yet, as well as Son Heung-min who is probably out for the season. The Portuguese also couldn’t count on defender Juan Foyth and midfielder Moussa Sissoko.
Hugo Lloris stood between the posts. Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez all started in a back-three. Harry Winks anchored the midfield, joined by Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso. Ben Davies and Japhet Tanganga covered the flanks for the full length of the pitch, while Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn played as an attacking duo.
The First Half
Chelsea endeavored to show who was the home team in this game from the start, taking the game into the opposition half. It was only expected from Spurs to drop back and play defensively, given that there was no real striker in their team. Moura and Bergwijn are both pacey attackers and while their teammates defended resolutely, they waited patiently for counterattacking opportunities. It wasn’t a bad approach from the visitors, with Chelsea’s midfield not too careful with their passing.
With nine minutes gone, good work by Bergwijn earned Spurs successive corners, and after the second, a good position opened up for Moura to shoot from the edge of the box, and he forced a fine save from Caballero. Chelsea hit back straight away as a great paralel from Alonso down the left found the run of Mount into the box, and the youngster hit it low to the near corner, but Lloris was alert as well. A few minutes later Barkley was allowed too much space outside the visitors’ box but his shot went wide of the far post.
Nonetheless, the Blues were ahead in the 15th minute. A great pass behind the Spurs’ back line from Jorginho was picked up by Giroud and the Frenchman hit it on target. Lloris saved it, Barkley picked up the rebound and hit the post, before Giroud picked up the second rebound and slotted into the bottom corner.
The goal conceded early must’ve impacted Mourinho’s plan to defend and play on the counter, but with the team set up the way they were and no strikers available, it wasn’t easy to change it. They weren’t finding it easy to keep hold of the ball and play through the Chelsea lines, and Lampard’s men looked in complete control of what was going on. Naturally, Chelsea now dropped slightly deeper and slowed the play down, and when Spurs had the ball the hosts forced them to pass backwards before suddenly pressing high in numbers.
Long balls were not an option for Spurs with no proper target to aim for and they continued their attempts to play through, but in the 23rd minute Winks lost the ball in his own half and was forced to take Kovacic out, earning a booking in the process. Chelsea moved quickly from the set-piece and eventually Alonso hit a volley from the edge of the box, missing the top corner by a foot.
From that point on, the visitors grew into the contest slightly. They moved around the pitch more quickly both on and off the ball and started winning duels in the middle. The battle was getting more physical and there were quite a few fouls committed on both sides. After one such moment, Spurs swung the ball into the Chelsea box and Sanchez just failed to reach it on the far post in what would have been a great chance.
Spurs had several more chances straight away. Ndombele combined well with Bergwijn to set Moura up, but Azpilicueta managed to produce a superb block at the last possible moment. The resulting corner was headed dangerously by Sanchez, and Caballero barely managed to save it. Then a great diagonal from the back found the run of Tanganga in behind and the youngster proved he was faster than both Alonso and Caballero, but he couldn’t control the ball well enough and it trickled out for a goal-kick.
Chelsea felt it was time to step up again and they worked a few moves well to get into the Spurs’ box, but there was always a sufficient number of white shirts in there to thwart their efforts.
But there was no reason to hurry. They had the lead and time was on their side, and when the half-time whistle sounded, they were probably happy with the way the game had gone in the first half.
The Second Half
The second period began with the home team moving in for the kill. They attacked right from the restart, and with three minutes gone they got what they wanted.
Mount did extremely well on the right before cutting inside and passing along the edge of the box towards Barkley. Barkley extended it for Alonso on the left, and the Spaniard hit it first time with superb accuracy, low and straight into the far corner.
In the 51st minute, Lo Celso battled hard for the ball against James and Azpilicueta and ended up stamping dangerously on the ankle of the Chelsea captain. VAR reviewed the moment for a possible red card, but it judged there was no serious foul play. The decision, just like the one when Manchester United’s Harry Maguire was let off the hook after hitting out at Rudiger the previous week, is certain to cause a lot of controversy. It’s hard to imagine anyone not seeing a red card offence in what Lo Celso did.
The consequences of the decision became obvious straight away as referee Michael Oliver had to verbally caution Mount after the Chelsea midfielder grabbed Sanchez from behind and threw him down to the ground.
Right on the hour-mark, a sudden chance came to Ndombele as he broke into the Chelsea box, but James stepped across his path and prevented him from going any further. Ndombele went down but the referee waved the penalty appeal off.
It was the last thing Ndombele did in this match, apart from walking off the pitch to be replaced by Erik Lamela in the 63rd minute as Mourinho saw the time ripe for a different plan. His team was now playing in a 3-4-3 shape as Lamela joined Bergwijn and Moura in attack.
Spurs had a good opportunity to put Caballero to the test two minutes later, when Christensen took out Moura around 20 yards out in a position good for a left-footed player. Lamela’s effort scraped the wall and went out for a corner, after which Alderweireld hit the target with a header but Caballero saved it.
Lamela’s introduction nudged the visitors into life a bit, while Chelsea looked drained of energy in any section of their team apart from the back line. With 20 minutes to go, Giroud made way for Tammy Abraham.
The ball was now being moved quickly from one end of the pitch to the other, and it seemed for a while that Spurs were the team to reap the benefits of the change of tempo. They were reaching the Chelsea box with some frequency, and in the 74th minute they had another penalty claim waved away when Winks went down after a duel with Rudiger. Lampard soon made his second substitution with Willian coming on to replace Barkley. Mourinho then withdrew Alderweireld, moved Tanganga to the back line and introduced Serge Aurier from the bench. He also sent on Dele Alli instead of the tired-looking Bergwijn.
Chelsea then had a great chance to put the game to bed as Mount broke down the right and employed Abraham on the edge of six yards, but Lloris read the young striker’s mind and made fantastic save.
Heartened by going unpunished for nearly breaking Azpilicueta’s leg, Lo Celso was playing rather recklessly and one such moment from him gave Chelsea a free-kick on the very edge of the box. Alonso took it and hit the place where the post connects with the crossbar to a chorus of sighs from the stands.
By the way things were going in the final 10 minutes, it looked as if Chelsea were the team in need of a goal, rather than Spurs. When Mourinho’s men did have the ball, their ideas were mostly predictable and easily countered, but the 89th minute luck was on their side.
Moura sent Lamela running into the box down the left and Lamela tried to square it across. It caught Rudiger and changed direction, fooling Caballero and ending up in the net.
Hoping to press hard in the final minutes Spurs went forward now in numbers, but Willian almost punished them from a quick counter, forcing another good moment from Lloris. Chelsea weren’t willing to give their opponents time or space needed to organize their last-ditch efforts. They chased them all over the park, barely allowing them to breathe, and in the end, the points stayed at the Bridge.
Looking very bitter, Mourinho watched Lampard celebrate and walked away just as his former player was coming to shake his hand.
It was a deserved victory for Chelsea. It nicely echoed the progress football in the Premier League has made in recent years, keenly playing into the hands of those who claim Mourinho’s approach to the game is now outdated. Chelsea were simply the better team, and Spurs can have no complaints. It could, of course, be argued that the picture would probably have been different with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min involved, but such discussions are pointless. The only undeniable fact is that Frank Lampard’s Chelsea have completed a league double over Jose Mourinho’s Spurs this season.
It was an important win for the Blues. They will now retain the fourth place in the table, now with four points between them and the North Londoners as they strive to secure a spot in the Champions League regardless of Manchester City’s potential ban.
Spurs, on the other hand, are left to look over their shoulder, and they could concede the fifth place to Sheffield or Manchester United before the weekend is over.
CHELSEA: Caballero 7, Christensen 7, Azpilicueta 7.5, Rudiger 7, James 7, Alonso 7, Jorginho 7, Kovacic 6, Barkley 7 (77′ Willian N/A), Mount 8, Giroud 7.5 (71′ Abraham 6).
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: Lloris 8, Alderweireld 7 (79′ Aurier N/A), Vertonghen 7, Sanchez 7.5, Davies 6, Tanganga 7, Winks 6, Ndombele 5.5 (63′ Lamela 7), Lo Celso 6, Moura 6.5, Bergwijn 6 (78′ Alli N/A).
GOALS: Giroud 15′, Alonso 48′, Rudiger (OG) 89′.
YELLOW CARDS: Winks 23′, Christensen 65′, Lo Celso 81′.
REFEREE: Michael Oliver.
DATE & VENUE: February 22, 2020, Stamford Bridge, London.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!