This derby may have lacked the drama of Manchester's but it was notably more conclusive. "Tottenham are back" rang around Stamford Bridge at the end but the chant was gloatingly ironic. This has been a sobering nine days for Spurs, their opening burst of four victories followed by successive defeats to "Big Four" clubs with three goals conceded in each. And, with Ledley King and Sébastien Bassong departing with injuries yesterday, making a quartet of lame centre-halves at the club, their defensive insecurities will continue.
For Chelsea, however, it was confirmation that Carlo Ancelotti's low-key arrival could have high-profile results. The Premier League leaders took a while to come to terms with Spurs' formation, and were fortunate to survive a strong penalty appeal at 1-0, but their class and strength won through.
Didier Drogba epitomized both elements and none of the Spurs defenders came to terms with him. His Champions League ban has had the unintended benefit for Chelsea of rendering Drogba fresh for the domestic programme and he set about Spurs' defence with gusto, making the first two goals and scoring the third. However, he then limped off after a mis-hit shot. Ancelotti said it was a calf problem which he hoped was "just cramp". Fortunately Chelsea's next major test is not until Liverpool visit on 4 October.
"We are very happy because we won a difficult, important game," added Ancelotti, who has surpervised the last six of this club record 11-match winning run.
For Redknapp the game swung on two incidents early in the second half, King's exit and Robbie Keane's denied spot-kick. "Ledley's going was a big turning point for us," the Spurs manager said. "Once we lost him there was no way we could deal with Drogba. He's too strong, too powerful." As for the penalty Redknapp, whose ire was aggravated by the memory of Howard Webb wrongly giving a match-changing penalty against Spurs at Old Trafford last spring, said: "If Robbie goes down at first contact it's nailed on, but he tried to keep his feet. He's too honest really. If [the referee] felt he dived, why not give him a yellow card?"
Redknapp's disappointment at the result was compounded by the hope engendered by his side's bright start. He went with a tight midfield three, to counter Chelsea's diamond midfield, with an equally narrow attack which featured Aaron Lennon and Keane buzzing around behind Jermain Defoe. "We caused them problems with our movement and were much the better team for the first half-hour," said Redknapp. However, packing central midfield left a lot of space on the flanks which Jose Bosingwa, who crashed a shot against the bar in the seventh minute, and Ashley Cole utilised.
Chelsea's front men also went wide at every opportunity and the tactic brought reward in the 32nd minute. The home side worked an overload on the right and Drogba delivered an excellent, deep cross which Cole, sneaking in on Vedran Corluka's blind side, headed in at the far post.
It was a grievous blow to a Tottenham side which should have been ahead. Wilson Palacios split the Chelsea defence after 11 minutes to send Defoe clear but the in-form striker's shot hit the outstretched leg of Petr Cech. The keeper then scrambled away a deflected Palacios drive before watching Jermaine Jenas whistle a shot wide. At this point Michael Essien looked lost but he, and Chelsea, adjusted to Spurs' shape and Cole's goal was not a surprise.
Nevertheless, the match seemed in the balance at the break. Then King, soon after the resumption, turned with Drogba to chase a through ball but crumpled to the ground. As he limped off Redknapp, he revealed later, turned to his assistant Kevin Bond and said, "We're in trouble now." He was right, but not before Spurs had one last glimmer of hope. Keane wriggled in to the area before appearing to be tripped by Ricardo Carvalho. Webb, who was close but poorly sighted, waved play on. Keane, furious, demanded to be booked for diving. It was an example of where one of Michel Platini's additional assistant referees might have seen the offence, but only if he was on that side of the goal, and even then it was not clear-cut.
Soon after Nicolas Anelka ran off Palacios to collect a ball down the line and crossed. Drogba held off Hutton and though Carlo Cudicini parried, Frank Lampard, reacting quicker than Corluka or Bassong, squared for Michael Ballack to score. Then Drogba muscled Corluka aside for the third and it could have become a rout.
Chelsea (4-1-2-1-2): Cech; Bosingwa, Carvalho, Terry, A Cole; Essien; Ballack (Mikel, 61), Malouda; Lampard; Anelka (Borini, 88), Drogba (Kalou, 83). Substitutes not used: Hilario (gk), Ivanovic, Belletti, Hutchinson.
Tottenham (4-3-2-1): Cudicini; Corluka, King (Hutton, 48), Bassong (Kranjcar, 79), Assou-Ekotto; Jenas, Huddlestone, Palacios; Lennon, Defoe (Crouch, 67); Keane.
Substitutes not used: Gomes (gk), Bentley, Naughton, Giovani.
Referee H Webb (S Yorkshire).
Booked: Tottenham Bassong, Jenas.
Man of the match: Drogba