Normal service having been resumed – as Chelsea supporters were singing during the 4-0 victory in the FA Cup quarter-final at White Hart Lane on Sunday – Tottenham took another of their customary hammerings from the west London side last night, which included a ferocious hat-trick from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
As normal, there was also a red card in the fixture, the fourth in five games between the teams this season. No prizes for guessing that Tottenham's Mauricio Taricco should receive it – his second dismissal in eight days – or that Graeme Le Saux, sent off for a foul on the Argentinian on Sunday, was on the end of the wild tackle.
After all the promise of the 5-1 Worthington Cup win in January, their first over Chelsea in 27 meetings, Spurs' season is disintegrating. Tired and inept performances have raised questions about the wisdom of Glenn Hoddle's ageing purchases, as did his suggestion earlier in the week that "our supporters didn't expect much this season."
The tempting reply was that it was just as well. Last night those supporters who bothered staying to the end had few kind words for either the manager or his players. "We were down to 17 fit players tonight," Hoddle said.
Chelsea, meanwhile, have moved above Leeds into fifth place, five points away from the Champions' League prize that their manager Claudio Ranieri still believes is possible.
In bringing back the abrasive defenders Taricco and Ben Thatcher, Hoddle was not so much setting out his stall as erecting the barricades. Until the Argentinian's red mist, neither had any time for fighting, however. Playing as full-backs, their hands were full helping the central defenders trying desperately to keep tabs on the quick strikers, Hasselbaink and Eidur Gudjohnsen.
Hasselbaink posted the first warning after just four minutes, and it was no surprise when the home side scored midway through the first half. Hasselbaink picked up Le Saux's pass 35 yards out, burst between Gus Poyet and Dean Richards and from just outside the penalty area curled an immaculate drive past Neil Sullivan.
Shortly afterwards, the Dutchman set up Gudjohnsen to glide round the goalkeeper, but Ledley King was able to clear off the line. Spurs' defence was opened up at will all evening and Tim Sherwood had angry words with Richards after the centre-half ushered Hasselbaink inside him for another shot.
Richards was spared further punishment by being called off at half-time. Chris Perry replaced him and was soon booked for attempting to slow Hasselbaink down by kicking him from behind. To no avail. Taricco could no longer restrain himself either, and on the hour he lunged in late on Le Saux to earn a straight red card from Alan Wiley.
Struggling with 11 men, Spurs could hardly expect to do any better with 10, and a second goal duly arrived after 68 minutes. The excellent Jesper Gronkjaer sped away from Davies and crossed for Hasselbaink to head his 26th goal of the season. The 27th was a left-footed curler, after which Frank Lampard inflicted Tottenham's third successive 4-0 defeat with the final goal.
Chelsea (4-4-2): Cudicini 6; Melchiot 6, Desailly 5, Gallas 5, Babayaro 5; Gronkjaer 7 (Stanic, 77), Lampard 5, Petit 7, Le Saux 6; Hasselbaink 9 (Forssell, 82), Gudjohnsen 8 (Zola 6, 73) Substitutes not used: De Goey (gk), Dalla Bona.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Sullivan 5; Taricco 4, King 5, Richards 3 (Perry 5, h-t), Thatcher 4 (Gardner 5, 67); Davies 6, Sherwood 4, Poyet 5, Ziege 5; Sheringham 5, Ferdinand 3 (Rebrov, 81), Substitutes not used: Keller (gk), Etherington.
Referee: A Wiley (Burntwood) 6.Reuse content