A Blue Up North reviews Chelsea’s win over bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
This Wednesday evening Chelsea hosted bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge in their Premier League clash. And after recent events, this important match up couldn’t have come at a more poignant time.
The Blues had lost to the North Londoners twice already this season at their temporary home of Wembley Stadium – a poor 3-1 defeat to end Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the season and a slender 1-0 loss in the League Cup semi final.
However, Chelsea put in a strong performance in a 2-1 victory back at Stamford Bridge in the the second leg, which The Blues won via a commanding penalty shootout.
The build up to this match however was under the cloud of Kepa Arrizabalaga’s refusal to be substituted in the League Cup Final on Sunday. His final punishment came from manager Maurizio Sarri who dropped the young keeper to the bench and replaced him with Willy Caballero. A move which was hugely talked about but in the end made little difference to the match.
Gonzalo Higuain returned to the starting line up as Eden Hazard moved back to the left flank and Willian dropped to the bench. Otherwise Marcos Alonso and Mateo Kovacic also returned.
Mauricio Pochettino’s team had lost away at Burnley over the weekend just after they had been reintroduced as potential title contenders once again in the media. However the manager’s over the top rant at referee Mike Dean in the middle of the pitch at full time was hardly mentioned compared to Kepa’s antics at Wembley.
The Argentine manager kept with his 4-2-3-1 formation with Lamela, Son and Erickson supporting Kane as he wanted desperately to return to winning ways.
Chelsea, clearly bolstered by their improved performance in Sunday’s Cup Final, started well and Higuain hit the post early on when he probably should have scored. The Blues continued to appear to be the more likely side to break the deadlock despite Harry Winks hitting the post for the visitors.
But then as the match approached the hour mark, Pedro made one of his mazing runs and fired his shot through the legs of Hugo Lloris. Suddenly the atmosphere was filled with joy, only 9 days after the home crowd had turned on Sarri and his poorly performing team.
Harry Kane missed an opportunity to level the match which was then capped off in hilarious fashion. Substitute Olivier Giroud harmlessly flicked the ball on and then Kieran Trippier and Hugo Lloris turned into the Keystone Cops. The English full back’s touch rolled past his keeper and into his own net.
It proved to be an almost perfect night for Sarri. He was able to prove himself against his players as Kepa quietly took his punishment and his team outplayed their opponents. Big performances from his players meant not only a clean sheet but also no attempts on target from the visitors.
This result was not only what should be the final nail in Spurs’s hopes of challenging for the title, but opened up the battle for top 4 places even further. There are now 4 clubs fighting for 2 places in next season’s Champions League and The Blues are definitely back in that race. Maybe it is time for more to having faith in Sarri’s abilities and for the club to still finish in the top 4.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue