What said it all for Tottenham Hotspur, beyond the pained facial expressions, was that it didn’t actually matter who Chelsea had in goal.
They didn’t trouble Willy Caballero anyway. By contrast, it looked like all of the furore around the club and manager greatly mattered to the Chelsea players. They outfought Spurs in a fine 2-0 win, with the fact the key first goal came from Pedro taking advantage of a positioning error from Hugo Lloris adding a further twist. The Tottenham keeper could then only watch as Kieran Trippier put the ball past him for a ludicrous own goal to seal the game.
This was the kind of farce that was supposed to be happening to Chelsea of late.
Instead, they offered the response Sarri would have wanted. They proved the manager’s statement that all of the controversy from Sunday had actually brought them together and, in doing so, strengthened the Italian’s hold on the job.
This, by contrast, was anything but the response Mauricio Pochettino would have wanted. That makes it two defeats in a row, after the loss against Burnley at the weekend, and they are suddenly the big London side that look to have the most immediate problems.
Saturday’s north London derby is now so much more meaningful, with Arsenal four points behind Pochettino’s side.
Sarri’s decision to drop Kepa Arrizabalaga as punishment for Sunday’s “misunderstanding” didn’t seem that meaningful at all. It had no impact on the game, beyond all the coverage and context maybe firing Chelsea. Caballero didn’t even face a proper shot on target.
He didn’t actually have to do anything at all until the 22nd minute, but that did emphasise he was standing firm. Literally. The first time the goalkeeper had to do something was with his feet, and that was when he sprayed a pass out to Marcos Alonso in a manner that Sarri would have been satisfied with. There was then a strong punch clear on 27 minutes, before coming out bravely for a one-on-one as the ball ricocheted around the box moments later. The flag was up so it didn’t go down as a shot on target, but did go down as one of the game’s more ironic moments. The ball was hit so strongly that it actually winded Caballero, leaving him on heap on the ground. What happened next?
He signalled that he was fine to stay on. You could see that one coming.
Everyone could see Harry Winks’s shot coming just before half-time, too, but could do little about it, which was just as well for Caballero and Chelsea it cannoned off the crossbar.
Still no shot on target, though. And this pointed to the greater problem for Spurs. They were creating little and looked so flat. That should have been even more of a concern, since they hadn’t played since Saturday morning, while Chelsea had a full 120 minutes as late as Sunday evening.
That was undeniably why Sarri actually ended up having to take a jaded-looking Hazard off, but there were many moments when his team just looked more up for it, more willing to fight. Motivation wasn’t a problem here.
A key example, and key moment, came from Pedro shortly after his goal. He brilliantly won the ball with a fine challenge in his own box, before completely relieving the pressure by then carrying it all the way to the halfway line.
Of course, the goal itself displayed a similarly supreme persistence, as Pedro so easily surged past Toby Alderweireld and powered the ball through Lloris.
Against that, little wonder Pochettino resorted to the most rudimentary approach in football: bringing on the big man. Fernando Llorente introduced with 20 minutes to go.
It wasn’t like they were getting much service to him, though, so Pochettino had to bring on Lucas Moura. That was for Son Heung-Min, showing how bad things were for Spurs.
It then went from bad to worse, as Trippier and Lloris got caught in that awful mix-up.
There were only recriminations and pained expressions from the Spurs players. There was a defiant show of togetherness from the Chelsea players, and not just in celebrating the goal.
Everything at Stamford Bridge suddenly looks in better hands. Spurs, meanwhile, need to get a proper handle on things.
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