Tottenham Hotspur 0 Chelsea 2

Mourinho draws on defensive strength to scent success
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The Independent Football

Most things, in fact, were going according to the instructions laid down by the Tottenham coach Martin Jol. "We were doing everything right,'' Jol said, "everything we'd spoken about. We pressed in midfield, caught them off side and worked at preventing [Claude] Makelele coming into the game.''

Tottenham had flown at Chelsea, going close when Michael Dawson headed Michael Carrick's corner narrowly wide, and they even carved through a vaunted defence, Edgar Davids exchanging passes with Teemu Tainio before the Dutchman was brought down on the edge of the area by Michael Essien, who escaped with a yellow card.

No such reprieve awaited Mido. With the game a quarter old, the Egyptian had to walk after clattering into Asier Del Horno with his forearm while challenging for the ball in the air. Some referees might have settled for a yellow card, but Rob Styles opted for red. Mido argued that he had done nothing wrong and took an age to leave the field.

"The red card killed the game,'' Jol said. "And I don't think the decision was correct. I think he was only trying to protect himself.''

Tottenham were left to play 65 minutes a man short. Worse, Jol must dash into the transfer market as a result of the three-match ban looming for Mido.

No team can afford to take on the defending champions with 10 men and after 38 minutes Chelsea made their advantage tell. They won a corner on the right and Del Horno, showing no ill effect from the incident with Mido, got clear of his marker to beat Paul Robinson with a low header.

If the game is ultimately about players, Chelsea have them in abundance, plus athleticism and terrific organisation. Even their closest rivals appear to be playing for second place. Chelsea have yet to concede a goal and Jose Mourinho can count the number of chances offered by his defence on four fingers.

"The smell will be like last season,'' Mourinho said. "We will not concede many goals because the team is very solid defensively.''

Chelsea are stronger than last season, when their single Premiership defeat came against Manchester City, 34 matches and almost 12 months ago. Essien, the £24.4m acquisition from Lyon, has settled quickly, forming an impressive midfield triangle with Frank Lampard and Makelele; Hernan Crespo looks more at ease with himself than in his previous spell at the club; and Del Horno makes the recent fuss over Ashley Cole seem like a waste of time.

Asked if he thought Chelsea were running away with the title again, Jol shrugged. "It's not my concern, it's maybe Arsenal's concern,'' he said.

Urged on by a home crowd still incensed by Mido's dismissal, Tottenham's response was suitably combative but they were chasing shadows at times, and they were deflated when Mourinho brought on first Shaun Wright-Phillips and then Crespo, emphasising yet again the deep resources available to him.

Crespo's first touch was a side-foot shot at close range from which Robinson made an improvised save, using a boot to keep out the ball, but with their purpose weakening, Tottenham fell further behind in the 71st minute.

Wright-Phillips' pace and trickery were soon being used to good effect as he ran at Tottenham's left flank, and he produced the game's sealing move, skipping around a bemused Stephen Kelly and crossing low for Damien Duff to scuff the ball past Robinson.

Tottenham sent Michael Dawson forward, but it was Chelsea who went closer to adding the game's third goal, Crespo forcing Robinson to save brilliantly after another stabbing run and cross by Wright-Phillips.

The England striker will have impressed the watching Sven Goran Eriksson but the national coach left concerned by the knee injury John Terry picked up ahead of next Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Wales in Cardiff. But, as the legend goes, Chelsea's captain would play on one leg.

Goals: Del Horno (39) 0-1; Duff (71) 0-2.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Stalteri, Dawson, Gardner, Kelly; Tainio (Lennon, h-t), Carrick, Davids, Reid; Defoe, Mido. Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Naybet, Keane, Brown.

Chelsea (4-4-2): Cech; Ferreira, Gallas, Terry, Del Horno; Lampard, Makelele, Essien, Duff (Huth, 89); Cole (Wright-Phillips, 63), Drogba (Crespo, 68). Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Gudjohnsen.

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).

Sent off: Mido (25).

Man of the match: Makelele.

Attendance: 36,077.