Sunday 1st April, Stamford Bridge – April Fool’s Day, and Chelsea’s first fixture after the International break: a potentially season-defining derby v Tottenham Hotspur at the Bridge. And the London is Blue crew were there to watch the game live.
The defending champions were struggling this season. They were out of the Champions League and the League Cup. They were fifth in the Premier League, five points adrift of European qualification, and in real danger of being caught up by Arsenal, five points behind them after a 3-0 win vs Stoke City earlier in the day.
Chelsea had only won two of their last five games in all competitions. They were easily beaten by Barcelona (3-0), Manchester United (2-1) and Manchester City (1-0), but scraped past Crystal Palace (2-1) in the league and Leicester City (2-1) in the FA Cup.
Their visitors had much better form, albeit against weaker opposition. They’d defeated Rochdale in the FA Cup (6-1), and Huddersfield (2-0), Bournemouth (4-1) and Swansea City (3-0) in the league. Their only reverse had come against Serie A champions Juventus at Wembley (2-1).
Tottenham were boosted by Harry Kane’s surprise return from injury, but Heung-Min Son was the designated striker today. Son had 12 premier league goals to Kane’s 24, but double his assists (4 to 2). Lucas Moura, fresh from PSG, was on the bench for this game.
Andreas Christensen also made an early recovery from injury suffered on international duty, but David Luiz, Ross Barkley and Ethan Ampadu were all unavailable for selection.
Caballero 5.5, Moses 7 (Giroud 5), Azpilicueta 5, Christensen 5, Rudiger 6, Alonso 7 (Emerson 5.5), Kante 7, Fabregas 5.5, Willian 6, Hazard 6, Morata 7 (Hudson-Odoi 5)
Subs Eduardo, Emerson, Cahill, Drinkwater, Bakayoko, Hudson-Odoi, Giroud
Lloris 7.5, Davies 6, Sanchez 7.5, Vertonghen 7.5, Trippier 6.5, Dier 8.5 (Wanyama 6), Dembele 7, Lamela 7 (Sissoko 5), Alli 9, Eriksen 8.5, Son 8 (Kane 5.5)
Subs Vorm, Aurier, Rose, Sissoko, Wanyama, Lucas, Kane
Wingers Working Wonders
Tottenham were content to sit back and soak up pressure at the start of the game: they only needed a draw to keep a five point gap to Chelsea in fifth.
Chelsea had to force the pace, and Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso were especially effective in advanced positions. Chelsea kept getting caught by Tottenham’s offside trap though.
Alonso peeled off Tottenham’s defence to side-foot into the bottom corner early on, but the ref’s assistant correctly disallowed the goal for offside.
Moses had Chelsea’s next chance – he ran inwards on the counter, but opted to shoot rather than cutting back to Willian. His shot deflected off Ben Davies, but Hugo Lloris saved and held the ball.
Half an hour in, Antonio Rudiger pushed up into midfield, spotted Moses wide open and played a beautiful cross-field pass out to him. Moses paused, then lifted another perfect cross into the box, past a flailing Lloris and just over Davinson Sanchez. Alvaro Morata glanced the ball into the bottom corner for 1-0.
Tottenham pressed up the pitch trying to restore parity. They had a lot of possession in Chelsea’s half, but not many actual shots on goal.
Christian Eriksen whipped in a warning strike from distance, and Caballero had to palm the ball away before making it safe.
Alonso had a great chance three minutes before half time and shot from the left, but Lloris reacted quickly to parry it out. Alonso created another chance on the counter a few minutes later, this time with a low cross into the box, but Sanchez blocked it. N’golo Kante drove the rebound in, but it came back out off Sanchez again.
Chelsea’s lead looked safe going into the break. Spurs had possession on the edge of their attacking third, but there didn’t seem to be any real danger.
Then Dele Alli charged down a clearance from Moses to recover possession on the right wing and passed to Davies, who set up Eriksen thirty yards out.
Neither Kante nor Fabregas was quick enough to close Eriksen down, and he sent an absolute cannonball arcing over Caballero, before it whacked off the crossbar and into the net for 1-1.
The goalkeeper might have saved it, but he misjudged the arc – it looked to be going just over before it dipped downwards and in.
Hazard gave Alonso the chance to score a second for Chelsea straight from the restart, but his shooting wasn’t at Eriksen’s level and the ball sailed wide.
Hazard found Moses out wide again early in the second half. The Nigerian winger dribbled inside past Davies and tried a shot, but this time Jan Vertonghen blocked it.
Spurs were playing far more positively now. Mauricio Pochettino had probably realized, like many other EPL managers this season, that it was a tactical error to sit back and invite pressure from Chelsea.
This year’s team had not lost much potency in attack compared with previous seasons, but they were extremely shaky in midfield and defence. Apply a little pressure and they were almost certain to cave in.
And so it proved: Heung-Min Son had a long range curler parried out by Caballero on 61 minutes.
Barely a minute later Eric Dier went route one, lobbing a long ball over sleepwalkers Christensen and Azpilicueta, to Dele Alli. Alli took one touch to control the pass, and another to finish off the inside of the post, 2-1 to Spurs.
They weren’t done yet. Just four minutes after, Eriksen put Son in behind Alonso on the right wing, and he raced all the way to the six-yard box before Caballero stopped his shot.
There was absolute chaos in the Chelsea area now. Neither Alonso nor Christensen could seem to clear the rebound. Son shot again but Caballero blocked once more, before Alli got control, and passed the ball into the far corner for 3-1.
Alli had been criticized and dropped by England manager Gareth Southgate during the international break, but he produced the perfect response in this game.
Cesc Fabregas almost got a low cross through to Morata in the six yard box, but Vertonghen intercepted.
Harry Kane was subbed on for Son on 73 minutes, but he didn’t have much left to do really. Alli, and Chelsea’s pitiful defending had done all the work for him.
Olivier Giroud and Emerson came on for Moses and Alonso in the last few minutes of the game, but it didn’t make much difference to the scoreline or the balance of play.
Emerson did break through on the left to put the ball into the box, but Lloris snatched his cross out of the air.
Vertonghen escaped a red card for a crunching tackle on Hazard with a few minutes left to play.
Spurs held on though, and recorded their first away win v Chelsea since 1990, Stamford Bridge resounding with the songs and cheers of their celebrating fans.
Final Score Chelsea 1-3 Tottenham
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Sky Sports
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