The champions, meanwhile, have yet to concede a goal, and in reviewing their campaign thus far, Jose Mourinho was counting the number of chances offered by his miserly defence on the fingers of one hand - thumb not required. Unquestionably, they are stronger than last season, when the single Premiership defeat came against Manchester City, 34 matches and almost 12 months ago. Asier del Horno, the victim of Mido's challenge, is a more accomplished left-back than Wayne Bridge, Shaun Wright-Phillips showed his value in running at a tired defence and Hernan Crespo is much more confident than in his previous spell at the club. Then there is Michael Essien, the most expensive of them all, already knitting snugly into a tight midfield triangle with Frank Lampard and the peerless Claude Makelele.
In the circumstances it was not the day to judge the home side, though even Martin Jol, their manager, snorted at the suggestion that Spurs might be worried Chelsea were running away with the title again. "It's not my concern, it's maybe Arsenal's concern," he said.
At Blackburn in midweek, with Jermain Defoe, Edgar Davids and Michael Carrick all rested, Jol's team had been the Tottenham no-shot Spurs, fortunate to escape with a scoreless draw. Not surprisingly, that trio were restored, but to far less effect than in the previous home game against Middlesbrough.
As both managers agreed, Spurs started brightly, while causing no greater anxiety than Defoe's fierce strike from 20 yards and Michael Dawson's header past a post. Then two important decisions by Rob Styles went against them midway through the first half, both of which he appeared to have got right. First Teemu Tainio sent Davids haring towards goal, only to have his heels clipped by Essien on the edge of the penalty area. The verdict was a yellow card, as there was a covering defender, and a free-kick teed up for Andy Reid but charged down by Damien Duff.
Within five minutes Mido, for the second time in the game, led with his forearm in going for a high ball with Del Horno and left the defender on the floor holding his head. There was a long hiatus as the volatile striker declined to leave the pitch, Spurs' players protested and Chelsea's recorded their displeasure, John Terry collecting one of the game's six yellow cards for his vehemence.
After that, not even Defoe could prosper on his own in attack against Terry and William Gallas, and seven minutes before half-time Chelsea supporters were chanting "It's so easy at the Lane" after their side took the lead. Lampard, making an astonishing 150th successive Premiership appearance, swung over a corner from the right, and Del Horno - showing no ill-effects now - headed powerfully down inside a post. Gallas, fortunately for Chelsea, failed to make contact as the ball went past him, since he might well have been given offside. The other question, as so often, was why no defender was stationed on the post.
At half-time Tainio, again something of a square peg in the round hole out on the right of midfield, made way for Aaron Lennon, the youngster signed from Leeds in the close-season, whose first contribution was to slash a shot high into the crowd as Terry headed out Carrick's free-kick to him. His dart into the penalty area on the hour offered greater possibilities but Terry, injured when Dawson fell heavily on his leg, pulled off a crisp tackle. The howls for a penalty underlined the home crowd's frustration.
Spirit kept Spurs coming forward, but the visitors, passing smoothly, remained unflappable. Bringing Crespo and Wright-Phillips off the substitutes' heated seats for Didier Drogba and a quiet Joe Cole emphasised once again the resources available to them, and the Argentinian striker might have scored with his first touch. He met Paulo Ferreira's fine low cross at the near post, Paul Robinson saving with his leg, then blocking the follow-up from his England colleague Wright-Phillips.
Another couple of minutes and Chelsea had a second goal in any case. The troublesome Wright-Phillips hit the ball square and Duff defeated the goalkeeper by hitting a volley awkwardly down into the ground and up into the net. There would have been a similar third goal 10 minutes from time but for Robinson's instinctive parry as Crespo met another dangerous cross by Wright-Phillips, who will have impressed the watching Sven Goran Eriksson more than Cole. The greater concern for Eriksson ahead of Saturday's international in Wales will be whether Terry makes a full recovery from the bang on his knee.
"We had the feeling we could do something today," said Jol, who felt a yellow card would have sufficed for Mido. "Sometimes 11 men against 10 doesn't mean the 11 win," Mourinho countered. It does when the 11 are in Chelsea blue.
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