SATURDAY 26th NOVEMBER, 2016
CHELSEA 2(1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1(1)
Referee:- Michael Oliver
Assistants:- G. Beswick & S. Burt
Fourth official:- B. Madley
Chelsea (3-4-3):- Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill (Capt.); Moses (sub Ivanovic, 81), Kante, Matic, Alonso; Pedro (sub Oscar, 83), Diego Costa, Hazard (sub Willian, 77)
Subs not used:- Begovic; Chalobah, Fabregas, Batshuayi
Booked:- Luiz (foul on Kane), Willian (foul on Winks)
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Walker, Dier, Vertonghen, Wimmer; Wanyama, Dembele (sub Janssen, 83); Eriksen, Alli (sub Nkoudou, 73), Son (sub Winks, 65); Kane
Subs not used:- Vorm; Trippier, Carter-Vickers; Onomah
Booked:- Dembele (foul on Moses)
One quite unexciting run ends. Another distressing run goes on, and on, and on.
It had all started so well. Spurs had virtually camped in the Chelsea half in their home for the first 20 minutes, during which Christian Eriksen scored his first Premier League goal of the season to end Chelsea's run of six Premier League games without even conceding a goal.
Whilst Chelsea did work their way back into the game, arguably they did not deserve to be level at half-time, but Pedro's 45th minute equaliser put paid to the idea of Spurs holding a first half lead. After the break, Chelsea, led by Diego Costa gave Spurs a dose of their own high pressing game, taking a 51st minute lead that they never relinquished.
Thus ended Spurs' 12-match unbeaten run, which after all has featured 6 draws, and only two inspiring wins, and thus continued the sad, sad tale of Spurs' inability to win at a ground where even lowly Bradford managed a win in recent years. I begin to wonder if I will live to see a Spurs win at Stamford Bridge. It's been 26 years now.
Missing the injured Toby Alderweireld, Erik Lamela, and Ben Davies, along with the suspended Danny Rose, manager Mauricio Pochettino surprised some observers and possibly Chelsea manager Antonio Conte with a return to Spurs' traditional 4-2-3-1. I had expected us to match the Chelsea 3-4-3, but the back line featured Walker, Dier, Vertonghen and Wimmer from right to left and reverted to type in front.
Refreshingly in the opening phase of the game, Spurs played their high press, and incessantly played forward attacking football, with even Wanyama and Dembele in the opposition half.
Harry Kane was fouled on the right side and was in hand to tap in from Eriksen's free kick which Courtois failed to hold, but perhaps he was already aware that the offside flag was up against Kane. 6 minutes had passed, and we hadn't seen much of Chelsea in our half.
Kane was fouled again, this time towards the left of the Chelsea area. Eric Dier hit a dipping free kick, but it passed over the bar. The Chelsea fans were quiet, and they were stunned when Eriksen not only took on Alli's pass, but ran forward and beat the keeper with a left foot shot.
Chelsea were sparked into action and were awarded a free kick about 30 yards out. Moses tried to put Costa through, but he was offside. Luiz also got a booking for a foul committed on Kane in an earlier passage of play. After 22 minutes, Wanyama exchanged passes with Dembele in an advanced position, before hitting a right foot drive over the bar. Dembele also got a first half booking for a foul on Moses.
Kevin Wimmer hit a good long pass to Kyle Walker, often found in a advanced position. Walker's cross/shot won a corner, taken by Eriksen, and met by the header of Eric Dier, only for Courtois to hold.
Perhaps Spurs were already tiring after their early efforts, but Chelsea started to impose themselves. Diego Costa came off best despite the attentions of both Wanyama and Walker, but Lloris held his effort on goal.
Harry Kane made a good run from inside left to centre, and was hampered on his way, but still managed a good right foot shot, which Courtois was glad to push over. Wimmer hit a pass down the line to Alli, who reached Dembele via Son. Dembele hit a driven shot just over the target.
The proportion of chances created clearly indicates Spurs' first half dominance, but as half-time approached Hazard got a shot on target after Spurs reverted to trying to play the ball out from the back (and failing). Then, following a similar attempt (and failure) by Spurs to pass their way out of trouble, Matic floated a ball to Pedro, who beat Lloris's left hand with an excellent right foot shot into the corner.
Psychologically of course that was a good time for Chelsea to score, and they came out with their tails up, and sought to play a high pressing game to their advantage. Lloris held a shot by Kante after a cross from the left, before Moses scored (with one or two Spurs defenders' touches on the way) with a right footed drive, after Costa's low cross from the left. Chelsea manager Conte clearly wanted his players to spread the play and use the flanks more, which was seen often. Dembele and Wanyama had been culpable in losing the ball in the midfield in the run-up to the Chelsea goal.
Costa crossed from the right side of the Spurs area, and Alonso scooped over his attempt. Moses out in a dangerous cross, but Costa was already on the floor and unable to deal with the pass.
Eriksen sent Harry Kane away about 10 yards inside the Chelsea half, and Kane got just goal side of the defence, returning the ball to Eriksen, whose shot was saved.
Son was replaced by Harry Winks, who took up position next to Wanyama, allowing Dembele forward, with Dele Alli moving to the left flank. From this position Dele sparked a good attack with Harry Kane in tandem. Dele was given the final chance and had a shot on goal, but he was offside.
Now Alli was replaced by Nkoudou, who took a while to actually pass the defence, but after a while he did have some positive effect. For Chelsea, Hazard was replaced by Willian, and Moses by Ivanovic as Conte sought to shore up his defence and protect the lead.
An Eriksen ball was well fielded by Kane, who did win a corner, but nothing else. Willian got a booking for a foul on Winks, expressing his own frustration after being barged out of play on the touchline by Nkoudou. After the Spurs free kick Nkoudou did well to take the ball into the box with a flick or two, before hitting a shot that was held by Courtois.
At the other end Alonso crossed from his left flank, and this time it was Willian who was off target.
Chelsea saw out the three minutes of added time, and the win takes them to the top of the Premier League table, where they had started the week-end. Although this was probably one of Spurs' best performances of the season (along with the 4-0 win at Stoke and the home win against Man City), we are now seven points behind the leaders, and will do well to get into the top four this season. Certainly the way we played for the first quarter of the game must be the aim for future games.
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