The sensation after beating our north London rivals is one of gratification, further enhanced by the fact that we had given them hope in the first-half of securing their first victory at Stamford Bridge in 24 years, only for it to be cruelly obliterated in the short space of three second-half minutes. And for Spurs to be the masters of their epic downfall, it was an evening the Chelsea supporters will fondly recall.
Prior to Samuel Eto’o’s opener, Tottenham had contested well during the first-half and were by far the dominant side. Tim Sherwood’s men had frustrated a vast amount of the home support with their possession play. Our squandering of the ball contributed to the air of displeasure around the Bridge after another lacklustre performance.
It mirrored our first-half display at Craven Cottage last week, excused with consideration of our Turkish adventure in the Champions League. That made our apathetic display here supposedly forgivable given the enervating nature of mid-week internationals. Jose Mourinho’s silent treatment may have been the watershed for an excellent second-half showing at Fulham, but tactical adjustments were required here.
We were shorn of a central attacking spark during the first 45, with Mourinho sensing similarly as he ushered Oscar on at Frank Lampard’s expense after the interval. Nevertheless, quality failed to play the most significant role in deciding the outcome of this match. Dismal defending from those in Tottenham white did.
The Brazilian’s designated role was to be the bridge between our midfielders and strikers, and it seemed to be paying dividends. In the first two minutes of the second-half, we had fashioned two chances, with Eto’o wasteful and Andre Schurrle’s technique failing him at the critical moment as he failed to generate enough power in his shot to properly work Hugo Lloris.
Capitalizing on Jan Vertonghen’s clumsy error, Eto’o’s accomplished finish evaded the last-ditch efforts of Michael Dawson to be followed by a humourous “old-man” celebration as he clutched his back and gripped the corner flag, wearing a spuriously pained expression. The Cameroon striker’s amusing antics were, as Jose stated, the best way to diffuse the well-documented debate, prompted by Mourinho’s comments, over the veracity of his age.
Any hope Sherwood harboured of ending Spurs’ lengthy wait for victory in the blue side of SW6 dwindled two minutes later, after Eto’o used all his experience to earn a penalty – duly dispatched by Eden Hazard – and reduce Tottenham to 10 men. With Hazard breaking down the left, the Belgian supplied Eto’o, who used his wisdom to get goal-side of Younes Kaboul and then await the challenge from the French defender, who ploughed into the back of the 32-year old, with the outcome being a harsh red card.
The two goals from Demba Ba which followed were consequences of Spurs’ horribly make-shift back-line. With Kaboul sent off and Dawson having succumbed to injury, the Senegalese striker could hardly believe his fortune. He profited from Sandro’s costly slip, with the Brazilian fortunate to not have seen red for a deliberate handball amongst the action, and slotted the ball in-between the legs of the despairing Lloris before netting into an empty goal after a calamitously short header back to the keeper from Kyle Walker.
Starting XI: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Matic, Lampard, Ramires, Hazard, Schurrle, Eto’o.
Subs: Schwarzer, Kalas, Mikel, Oscar, Willian, Ba, Salah.
Man of the Match – Samuel Eto’o
The Cameroonian was not bought to dazzle crowds with his silky skills and register twenty, thirty goals a season, and in recent weeks, that’s precisely what he has been doing. For the opening goal, he was alert to Vertonghen’s error and pounced, waiting for Lloris to spread himself before stroking home. Our second was another example of his treasured asset, inviting the challenge from Kaboul to hugely beneficial effect. The manner in which he managed his late inclusion into the starting eleven for such an important match, following Torres’s groin problem during the pre-match warm-up, was commendable and he should have earned a penalty in the opening thirty seconds (he was incorrectly ruled offside and Lloris would have seen red) and then wonderfully played in Hazard after four minutes, with the Belgian skipping past Lloris to sky over the crossbar.
As Spurs dominated possession during the first-half, I felt completely at ease. Walker and Vertonghen were making good runs down the wings with Nabil Bentaleb and Sandro proving to be the much more assertive force in the midfield. The fashion in which we dealt with their inefficient dominance was remarkable. Our defence did not, even on one occasion, look out of shape and disjointed as they exuded confidence. Mourinho’s previous double title-winning side was built on sound defensive foundations. Our side here seem so too.
Hallmark of Champions
This heading strongly links with the previous. Tottenham’s conservative play had lacked the required conviction, guile and penetration to trouble our stout resistance. All the same, our play during the first-half was unsatisfactory. We frequently gave the ball away in a needless and carefree manner (no pun intended), but it is the hallmark of champions to play poorly, be patient and pounce efficiently and ruthlessly. It is a hallmark of a side coached by the shrewd pragmatist that is Jose Mourinho.
Title Race Analysis
While Jose may claim he would prefer to have three games in-hand rather than boast a nine point advantage over Manchester City, it leaves Manuel Pellegrini’s side under pressure to accumulate maximum points from those trio of fixtures, which include a trip to Old Trafford, to cancel out our advantage. Additionally, with Liverpool and Arsenal seven points adrift of the league summit, despite their games in hand, it seems as if we possess the psychological advantage over our title rivals.
As we gain momentum going into our remaining games, the others have strict guidelines to meet – points must not be dropped.
Giddy-up, little horse! Nine more games to go!