Chelsea struck a significant blow in the fight for the top four places in the Premier League with a fully deserved victory over Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.
In a confrontation billed as a battle between Frank Lampard and his old mentor Jose Mourinho, Spurs could have leapfrogged Chelsea with a victory but were outplayed and are now adrift by four points.
Lampard made four changes from the team that lost 2-0 at home to Manchester United on Monday and they paid rich dividends as they all made a contribution to only their second win in seven league games.
Olivier Giroud, in for Michy Batshuayi with Tammy Abraham on the bench after injury, fired low past Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris for Chelsea’s opener in the 15th minute after the recalled Ross Barkley hit the post.
And all four of those brought into the team linked up for Chelsea’s second three minutes after the break as Giroud’s flick found Mason Mount, who played in Barkley. He produced a perfectly weighted pass to Marcos Alonso, who did not even break stride before a sweet finish past Lloris.
Spurs’ day could have been even worse as Giovani lo Celso should have been sent off for a dreadful second-half challenge on Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta. The video assistant referee decided against punishment, although officials in Stockley Park later admitted a mistake had been made and he should have been sent off.
Mourinho’s side gave themselves late hope when Erik Lamela’s shot deflected in off Antonio Rudiger but in reality, Spurs deserved nothing and Chelsea were worthy winners.
Lampard knew he had to act after the loss at home to Manchester United on Monday continued an indifferent run of form and he responded with a changed team.
It was a brave move to make four changes in a game with the stakes so high but Giroud fully deserved his place ahead of the struggling Batshuayi. The 33-year-old France striker is still a wily operator and deserved the standing ovation he received when he was substituted late on.
Alonso also got on the scoresheet and the key for Chelsea here was that they actually scored while dominating the game and possession, a knack that has eluded them on so many occasions this season.
Lampard celebrated jubilantly at the final whistle, completing a double over Spurs and Mourinho this season – and he can now plot the future with Chelsea remaining in control of their own destiny in pursuit of a place in next season’s Champions League.
What a difference six days have made to Spurs and manager Jose Mourinho.
Spirits were soaring last Sunday after Son Heung-min’s last-minute winner gave them a 3-2 win at Aston Villa that left them only a point behind Chelsea.
Since then, Son has been ruled out – possibly for the rest of the season – with a broken arm and Spurs are now struggling to survive in the Champions League last 16 after losing at home to RB Leipzig in the first leg.
And here, for the most part, Spurs were flat and uninspired, looking like a team struggling to come to terms with Son’s absence having already lost captain Harry Kane with a long-term hamstring injury.
Mourinho must somehow galvanise a Spurs team that looks a bit sorry for itself. A defeatist attitude and body language is a very bad sign with still so much to play for.
It was a joyless, lifeless display, with the additional shambles of VAR initially clearing Lo Celso for a challenge on Azpilicueta that looked the clearest of red-card offences – only for those examining the incident to later admit a mistake had been made.
Spurs have been dealt with serious injury blows – but they must do much better than this.
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Source – BBC