By, Barnabas Gwaza (Twitter: @BarnabasTGS)
Two games into the season and if you let the chatter tell it, we’ve already been relegated and we’ve now won the league. However while the pandemonium over the Burnley loss last weekend was an over the top reaction, one would be forgiven for being over the moon today as Chelsea, against all odds managed to grab all three points from Tottenham in their adoptive home, Wembley.
Leading up to the game Chelsea were without club captain Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas both of whom were serving a one match suspension following their red cards against Burnley. Their suspension only served to further deplete a squad that was without Hazard, Pedro and Bakayoko due to injury concerns. There was some good news coming into the weekend however as both Bakayoko and Pedro were made available to the team and the former started the game in a make-shift midfield that also featured David Luiz alongside N’Golo Kante. Andreas Christensen started for the first time in the premier league as Antonio Rüdiger kept his place alongside Azpilicueta to complete the back three. Moses who might have been expected to play a more forward role started in his familiar wing back position and so did Marcos Alonso, leaving only Willian as a the creative link behind Alvaro Morata.
As the line-up suggested, Chelsea began the game compact and solid, smothering any real chances that Tottenham sought to create. While Tottenham had the greater share of possession, Chelsea had the earliest opportunity to take the lead when Azpilicueta delivered a perfect cross into area for Alvaro Morata but the spaniard failed to convert from close range, putting his header wide of the goal. Chelsea continued to pick their moments going forward and it was one such offensive trip that resulted in David Luiz winning the free kick that Marcos Alonso took expertly, giving Chelsea the lead on the night.
Chelsea had to sit back after that and absorb wave after wave of Tottenham attack as the spurs turned up the heat each passing minute leading to half time. They came closest when Harry Kane struck the post from a sharp shot just on the edge of the area, but the equalizer continued to elude them. Following a succession of conceded corner, Chelsea were relieved to hear the half-time whistle and a chance to regroup and prepare for what was sure to be a high tension affair in the second half.
No changes were made during half-time as both team sought to establish their game plan. It was Tottenham who came out swinging as they continued to push for the equalizer, Harry Kane particularly looked a threat, combining with Dele Alli to look for a way past Chelsea’s resolute defence. Although Tottenham continued to turn the screw there were no clear chances created and Chelsea dealt with their long balls into the box comfortably. The equalizer eventually came however through a series of unfortunate events for Chelsea. Michy Batshuayi who had just come on for Morata did brilliant work tracking back and defending but in the process conceded a throwing. That throwing then led to a soft free kick given against Bakayoko and it was the resulting in-swinger into the box which Batshauyi tried to defend with a header only to head the ball right past Thibaut Courtois to give Tottenham the lead. It was an unlucky turn on events for the young striker who was looking to put last weekend’s woes behind him. At that moment it looked as if Tottenham had claimed a point at the very least, but with the introduction of Jansen and Son, they continued to push for all three points. Chelsea held their nerve and after absorbing sustained pressure, managed to hold the ball up in Tottenham’s half enough to push the team up the field. Hugo Lloris, eager to get Tottenham forward again, threw the ball into the path of Victor Wanyama, whose attempted pass was intercepted by David Luiz. David Luiz then released the ball to Marcos Alonso who pushed it wide to Pedro and made the run inside the Tottenham area to receive the return pass. He return pass did come, and with the Spanish wing back needed no invitation, he snapped a shot straight at goal and past Hugo Lloris, to give Chelsea the lead in the 90th minute. All Chelsea had to do from then on was wait it out, and in the end they came out with an unlikely victory at Wembley.
And so Chelsea survived the cries of crises and despair, and seek to continue the upward trend against Everton next weekend. Eden Hazard continues his road to recovery, and Cahill and Fabregas will be back for contention next week. The squad is now almost at full strength and we can all look forward to the season with more optimism than the last weeks have presented. Conte faces some selection headaches next week with the return of Gary Cahill as Christensen looked stellar tonight, but in all likelihood we should see a return to a back three of Luiz, Cahill and Azpilicueta. Another choice will be made in midfield, wheather to leave Bakayoko in or return Fabregas into the starting line-up, and finally up front Conte has the selection headache of choosing between Alvaro Morata and Michy Batshuayi. This is all assuming the Conte sticks to the familiar 3-4-3 formation of course, we might see something different all together. More will be made clear in the coming weeks, until then, #KTBFFH.
Thumbnail image courtesy of: talkSPORT
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