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Spurs end Chelsea’s top-four hopes with first ever Premier League win at Stamford Bridge

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Chelsea 1-3 Tottenham, Premier League: Match report

It had been 28 years since the last Tottenham win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. “Had” as this very record has been shattered by the red-hot form of a now 14-match unbeaten Spurs running straight into a 3-1 victory, leaving Chelsea eating dust on their tracks.

Strong opponents require strong lineups, which is what Antonio Conte went for today. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who has fallen out of place due to injury (and partially by bad form) was replaced by Wilfredo Caballero who has impressed with his skills in his latest appearances.

There were fears that Andreas Christensen would have to be replaced by Gary Cahill given his early return from international duty thanks to fatigue, the boy getting tired from all the games he already played this season. Thank the heavens that did not need to take place.

Moving up, perennial keeper of the backline N’Golo Kanté would have Cesc Fàbregas as his midfield partner, both flanked by Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso on the wings. And upfront a trio of Willian, Álvaro Morata and Eden Hazard would try to combine to break Tottenham’s defensive hold.

Tottenham also had its fair share of doubts due to fitness, mainly on the situation of star striker Harry Kane who could be available to start today upon his return from an ankle injury. But he did not, the stars once again aligning in Chelsea’s favour. His usual spot spearheading Tottenham’s offensive efforts was taken by Son Heung-min who while a good player, is not nearly as deadly as England’s main hope for the World Cup who had to be a bench option instead.

Chelsea were quick to lose possession on kickoff to Tottenham’s (expected) high-pressing game to start the match, forcing a long punt from Caballero only seconds into the game. But this was not as frightening as sight as it was when it took place in games against the likes of Watford and Bournemouth.

The first few minutes had Tottenham edging Chelsea on possession, exploring their right flank a lot with their four attackers — none of which a true centre-forward — drifting from their initial positions trying to find each other to string attacks along. But Chelsea were being quite effective with their plan of batting away any oncoming danger.

And neither side were getting anything going forward. Chelsea with deep passes to Morata and their wide attackers running at defenders were having their usual problems with the final pass while Tottenham, as aforementioned, could not find their way past Christensen and his teammates.

Eventually, Tottenham got the first goalscoring chance of the affair thanks to Christensen’s national team colleague Christensen Eriksen putting one of his customary pinpoint crosses into our box and finally managing to find a player donning a white shirt. Instead of Son, this was Dele Alli whose left wing alignment on paper was only a theory, the Englishman constantly attacking the ball with central runs or even playing pivot for his teammates. Nevertheless, Alli’s header veered right of Caballero who was less than pleased with Chelsea’s effort to keep him out of trouble.

Up until that cross, taken place at minute 11 of the match, Tottenham had been dominating the match even if not looking too likely to score. But the scare from Alli’s attempt woke Chelsea up.

The Blues started to play out of their half, finding chances on breaks with loads of help from the tidy work of Kanté recovering balls and quickly transitioning play from defence to attack. By catching Tottenham off-guard with their high lines, the hosts began to slice the visitors open, almost finding scores with their wing-backs. So much they tried that the Blues finally got the opener.

The right side of Chelsea had been forgotten, likely due to Spurs underestimating Moses’ skills. His teammate Antonio Rüdiger did not, changing flanks with a long pass to have the Nigerian run at acres of space to put an accurate cross into Tottenham’s 18-yard box while trying to find Morata. A collection of failures from Ben Davies being nowhere near Moses to try to stop the Blues wing-back to Hugo Lloris botching his attempt at clearing the cross had the Spaniard putting a simple header into the back of the net.

”Not again!”, thought the Tottenham fans at the Bridge, dropping shoulders and all of that jazz. “Yet again!”, screamed every Chelsea supporter across the globe.

The desperation resonated with the players on the pitch, who were still finding it incredibly hard to break past Chelsea’s stronghold. Their plan with Son, whose goalscoring form was all thanks to playing on the wings, as a no.9 of sorts was simply not working. In fact, it was Chelsea who was closer to finding yet another score.

There was however one thing going in Tottenham’s favour with Eriksen’s long-ball skills. For whatever reason, our midfielders were not keen on closing him down, the Danish international having time and space to take his usually amazing long shots directly at Caballero. In one of these occasions, we were punished.

A ball lost by Moses on the right flank of our defensive third was played to Eriksen, who had yards off Kanté and Fàbregas to try a shot at glory. And glory he found, Caballero taken aback with the curve and angle of his shot to get Tottenham level just at the end of the half.

Despite the cold water thrown at our intentions, Chelsea kept working until the very end. But it was not enough as all the smooth work put on by the team up until those last minutes of the first half were undone by one moment. Too common of a tale for Chelsea throughout this season.

A draw for Tottenham at the Bridge would already do wonders for their chances of getting Champions League football while handing plenty of damage to Chelsea’s cause. But this was probably the Spurs’ best chance at ending a 28-year-long streak that is always reminded every time the rivalry is brought up. And if the best Spurs team of the last several years were unable to beat a Chelsea side on one of their worst phases in recent history, none would do so.

And so they pressed forward, Chelsea following suit but in similar ways to the first half. Tottenham tried to work their way towards the goal with ball retention, while Chelsea stayed back and pounced on mistakes and quick releases.

Also on track with the first half was the luck of both teams in their attempts. Chelsea were a bit more effective on offence, and Tottenahm only made Blues keeper Caballero work with long shots. It was a nice setting until one long pass from deep broke us apart.

A Fàbregas-esque pass from defender-cum-midfielder Eric Dier was promptly attacked by Alli, inspired by his formerly injured teammate Kane who was closely watching the game on the sidelines. The attacking midfielder caught two Chelsea defenders snapping, running on the shoulders of Christensen and César Azpilicueta and lobbing the ball over Caballero who could do almost nothing to impede Tottenham from getting the 2-1 at the 62th minute.

Maybe you will not recall since the 2015-16 season is one that many Chelsea fans have (correctly) hid from their minds given the many atrocities that took place during that dreadful term. But one of the few highlights of that period was our home game against Tottenham at the Bridge.

At that time, Spurs were quite close to ending the Premier League’s best Cinderella story in Leicester City, the unlikely title contenders falling a bit in form and letting the North London side be within the grasp of a top place in the table. But for that to happen, they would need to beat Chelsea away.

The Blues, removed many steps from their usual form in big games — especially ones against Tottenham — even let the Spurs dream by letting their bitter rivals get a 2-0 lead at first half with goals from Kane and Son. But at second half things returned to normality, Chelsea denying Tottenham their return to any kind of glory via trophies by a Gary Cahill goal first, and then a score by Eden that deserved its own ode.

Back then, even with Chelsea on their worst form, there was still reason to believe we could muster an effort to put Tottenham back into their place. Today however was different.

A place once occupied by Eden was taken over today. Eriksen got Son to run at full speed and easily beating Alonso with pace down our left flank, as Chelsea’s defence and midfield were slow to recover from the attack. Still, his chance at confirming the end of a legendary streak in favour of Chelsea had the attacker funneling his vision and completely dismissing Erik Lamela standing right in front of the goal and in a much better position to convert any shots.

Son tried once, and twice, and failed to convert. But Chelsea also failed, the defence confused with how to deal with that hot potato called “ball” and having one of the players attempting to play second keeper at the goal line. Somehow, the ball was then stolen and finished by Alli to give the final stab at our collective hearts. 3-1 Tottenham, at Stamford Bridge.

Nevermind the 3-0 loss to Barcelona, or the 7-1 combined score collected versus Bournemouth and Watford over the span of two weeks. Or any of the many other losses we collected since August 6th, 2017. There is no stooping lower than this point anymore for Chelsea this season.

There was still some fight left on Chelsea, though the lenience of referee Andre Marriner on the constant harrassment against Chelsea players from names such as Erik Lamela and Jan Vertonghen did no favours to us.

That of course followed by good work from Tottenham’s defence whom aside from one glaring mistake from Davidson Sanchez, were never in true danger of giving Chelsea’s consolation goal.

To add insult to injury, changes on Chelsa’s camp were made way too late into the game. It was only until minute 82, with Kane back onto the pitch in place of Son and Wanyama subbed in for Dier that Conte brought on Olivier Giroud for Moses, and Emerson for Alonso.

Those changes created some havoc. Not on Tottenham’s end but rather on Chelsea’s who had little idea of which formation they were attempting to play. No wonder the game ended with the Bridge almost half-empty, the away fans cheering loudly and taking over the atmosphere while the home ones were rightfully thinking about returning home as quickly as possible and putting this disappointment past them just as swiftly.

It is in times like these that we should remember: better days will come.

Maybe not this season, but in the future they definitely will. Such is life in football - and everywhere else.


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