SATURDAY 22ND FEBRUARY, 2020
CHELSEA 2(1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1(0)
Rudiger (o.g.), 89
Referee:- Michael Oliver
Assistants:- Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett
Fourth official:- Kevin Friend
VAR:- David Coote
Assistant VAR:- Adam Nunn
Chelsea (3-4-2-1):- Caballero; Azpilicueta (Capt.), Christensen, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Mount, Giroud (sub Abraham, 71), Barkley (sub Willian, 77)
Subs not used:- Arrizabalaga; Zouma, Emerson; Loftus-Cheek, Gilmour
Booked:- Christensen (foul on Lucas Moura)
Spurs (3-4-3):- Lloris (Capt.); Sanchez, Alderweireld (sub Aurier, 78), Vertonghen; Tanganga, Ndombele (sub Lamela, 63), Winks, Davies; Lo Celso, Bergwijn (sub Dele, 78), Lucas Moura
Subs not used:- Gazzaniga; Dier; Skipp, Gedson
Booked:- Winks (foul on Jorginho), Lo Celso (foul on Mount)
Is this the start of another hoodoo?
Remember that 3-1 win by Spurs at Stamford Bridge two years ago? Dele Alli scored two of our goals. Dele’s been getting a lot of stick from Spurs fans this season, and was hauled off against Leipzig on Wednesday. Jose Mourinho quite fairly made the point post-match about his lack of strikers, lamenting the fact that Chelsea had Giroud, replaced by top scorer Abraham, with Batshuayi in the wings. My point is that Dele (who did get on late in the game, and had his name sung by Spurs fans) might have been a better choice to lead the line today. Mourinho tried both Bergwijn and Lucas Moura in that role, but neither had success.
Not that we had many chances. Almost our only effort of note came early in the first half when Lucas Moura forced a save from Caballero getting the nod from Lampard for a third consecutive game. Spurs made very little headway against a well-organised Chelsea side to which Lampard had made four changes. It seems that Mourinho did have a spy in the Chelsea training camp this week as he correctly anticipated three at the back, and picked his team accordingly. The trouble is that Spurs were more like a five at the back, whilst Chelsea’s wing-backs Reece James and Marcos Alonso did offer a great threat to the Spurs defence with neither of their opponents (Tanganga and Davies) truly up to the job. When Spurs tried to get forward they were slower in their approach and the men in blue easily got men behind the ball to frustrate Spurs players who often struggled to control the ball at close quarters.
Remember that 3-1 win by Spurs at Stamford Bridge two years ago? It heralded a little run of three consecutive wins by Spurs against Chelsea. The next game was another 3-1 in which “Sonny” scored a terrific goal at Wembley. Dele scored in that game too. That was followed by a 1-0 Carabao Cup semi-final first leg win, but Chelsea have now won the last four meetings, three of which have been at Stamford Bridge. It truly is a horrible place to go to with ritual abuse the order of the day from the hordes of gloating Chelsea fans. One wonders if we are witnessing the start of another Chelsea hoodoo run of continuing failures to win by Spurs.
Chelsea kicked off but Spurs did win two early corners, both taken low by Lo Celso. Those corners reminded us of someone who struggled to beat the first man. However, after the second of these when Chelsea tried to clear, Spurs won the ball back and Lucas Moura got in a right footed shot which Caballero saved to his right. Mount had a chance at the other end, saved by Hugo at the expense of a corner. Now Chelsea had two corners and Giroud had a header blocked from the first by Davies. A shot by Barkley from 25 yards out was always going wide.
Chelsea did have the lead though in the fifteenth minute and it was that man Giroud with whom we had been linked in January who scored is first league goal since August. Giroud had a shot well saved but parried by Lloris. Barkley’s follow-up rebounded off the post and Giroud snapped up the second offering with a low left foot finish. This shot was squeezed inside the narrow gap between Lloris and his left post. There was a VAR review but thee goal stood. VAR would inevitably hit the headlines later at this and other games around the Premier League.
Chelsea had a free kick after 23 minutes when Harry Winks was booked for a foul on Jorginho. From the free kick Alonso hit a right foot shot just over the left corner of the Spurs goal.
The enigma that is Tanguy Ndombele, signed for so much money by Spurs and yet rarely able to start, let alone complete 90 minutes of a game, showed flashes of skill in the middle. He is at his best when he is able to run with the ball through or around challenges, but sadly he often over-ran the ball today. He did get the ball to Lucas Moura after 33 minutes which produced a corner for Spurs after Lucas’s shot was deflected. This corner was taken by Lo Celso and headed goalward by Davinson Sanchez. Caballero pushed the ball over for another corner. In another move, Tanganga was onto a long ball by Alderweireld and pushed it past caballero but couldn’t catch up with the ball before it went out of play.
Barkley hit the side netting with a shot after play had been allowed to continue by referee Michael Oliver despite what had looked like a foul no Lo Celso near the touchline.
Spurs kicked off the second half but were soon on the back foot, and soon two down as well. James got forward and hit a right foot shot wide across the goal before Alonso scored Chelsea’s second goal. The goal followed a throw taken in the Chelsea half (and thrown forward please note Spurs). Giroud fielded and headed down the throw for Mount who passed to his left. Next in line was Barkley who saw Alonso advancing in acres of space. Alonso hit a rocket of a shot which beat Lloris low into his left corner. Alonso gets loads of abuse from Spurs fans (I am not aware of other teams’ fans haranguing him so much) and had only played in one FA Cup game for Chelsea since their away win before Christmas. He enjoyed his goal. We didn’t.
Within a minute of the goal, Hugo was having push over a Ross Barkley shot from the right. There followed a VAR controversy best picked up by those watching on TV. Azpilicueta had actually fouled Lo Celso who, it is alleged, stamped on Azpilicueta’s shin in the resulting action. VAR took its time, but the end result was “no foul play” although the message pushed out by Stockley Park after the game was that there had been a human error (om the part of the reviewing officials) and that a red card should have been issued. The initial view and no doubt Lo Celso’s defence was that the player had been unable to avoid the contact in the momentum of the incident. I understand that the decision cannot now be reviewed and therefore Giovani is a lucky boy. Spurs are lucky not to be missing him for three games too.
Bergwijn had a useful run down the left side before Lo Celso passed to Ndombele who got into the box and fell to the floor with no chance whatsoever of getting a penalty. Ndombele was replaced by Lamela, who did offer life to Spurs. Christensen (wearing a protective black mask) was booked for a foul on Lucas Moura and Lamela took the free kick which was blocked by the wall. Following the corner, taken by Lo Celso, Caballero punched the ball back out to the left. Winks crossed and Toby Alderweireld hit a header which Caballero just managed to hold in front of his line. I observed referee Mr. Oliver checking his watch regarding the goal-line technology.
Harry Winks got into the box after 73 minutes on the right-hand side and went down under a challenge making an appeal to the referee, but Mr. Oliver quite fairly showed no interest. Chelsea were defending their two goal lead well. Barkley was replaced by Willian who had scored both goals in the December win at Tottenham. Jose made a double substitution with Dele replacing Bergwijn and Aurier coming on for Toby Alderweireld. Tanganga moved inside to the centre-back position.
Mount crossed low from the right into the path of Abraham who couldn’t get a strong enough touch on the ball, enabling Lloris to make the save. Lo Celso did get booked for a foul on Mount outside the area. Alonso’s free kick hit the top of the bar and rebounded out of the Spurs area.
Spurs got a goal back in the 89th minute. Lamela took a return pass from Lucas Moura as he advanced into the left side of the Chelsea area hitting a cross which went into the net off Rudiger. Lloris made a save from Willian’s shot and also picked up Mount’s cross as we entered four minutes of added time. The only satisfaction we can draw is that at least the Chelsea fans were desperately whistling for full time, but the only effort in this period by Spurs was a looping shot by Lo Celso comfortably held by the goalkeeper.
So, this was game set and match for Frank Lampard, once Mourinho’s player, now his conqueror in two consecutive league games. That’s a league “double” for Chelsea and a four point gap over Spurs who can be overtaken by Manchester United later today. On this form Spurs don’t deserve Champions League football and the trophy cabinet will lie barren for yet another season.
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