Wow! What an incredible win. The most satisfying game at White Hart Lane in years – that heady combination of entertainment, schadenfreude and success.
A Harry Kane inspired Spurs came back from a goal down to put five past supposedly the best team in England, while Mauricio Pochettino out-thought allegedly the best strategist in world football.
A bad start
I tried to be positive before the match but a look at the Chelsea team sheet dispelled my optimism – Fabregas, Hazard, Oscar, Matic, Costa – a line-up to scare the best in World football.
It all began predictably; a good start for Tottenham but a goal, against the run of play, for Chelsea. A quick throw from Courtois gave Hazard a chance to run at Rose. The Belgian easily beat the Tottenham left back, his shot hit the post but a mixture of Oscar and Costa forced the ball home. All I could think was “here we go again”.
Rose was partly at fault but the whole defence was slow to get back. Walker let Costa get free. Dembele – an early substitute for an injured Mason – was stuck appealing for a throw when he should have been racing back into position. It was a feature of the match that Tottenham could not cope when Hazard and Fabregas had space to launch an attack.
The goal seemed to briefly subdue Spurs, giving Chelsea their best period of the match. It looked like Mourinho’s team would add to their lead, including calls for a penalty for a Vertonghen handball that was clearly accidental.
Kane does it again
Spurs needed something to wake them from their malaise. It fell to the talismanic Harry Kane to provide the catalyst, grabbing the game with both hands and pulling us back into it. I keep trying not to expect too much from the young forward and he just keeps astounding me.
Cutting in from the left, as he did to great effect all game, the Spurs striker evaded the attentions of Ivanovic and Oscar, before drilling a low finish past the Chelsea keeper. The home players and fans had their faith restored – “we could do this”.
Next came a crazy twenty minutes where Tottenham seemed to have the power to score at will. All five Spurs goals came from breaking quickly and working the channels between the fullback and centre back. Particularly on the left where Ivanovic and Cahill were extremely vulnerable. Kane and Chadli had a field day.
This was the Belgian’s best match in a Spurs shirt. He has weighed in with some useful goals this season but has still been underwhelming at times. Here he gave a performance that would have won him the man of the match award if it wasn’t for Kane’s heroics.
The second Tottenham goal came from a dangerous break by Eriksen, feeding Chadli – this time popping up on the right – who’s shot hit the post. Danny Rose showed great determination and bravery to get to the rebound and guide it home despite Cahill and Terry’s desperate lunges.
The third came moments later after more work from Chadli and Eriksen, this time on the left. Cahill, who was having a torrid time, clipped Kane in the area. As the players debated who would take it, Townsend took responsibility placing a confident kick into the corner and out of reach of Courtois’ despairing dive.
Halftime was spent worrying how Spurs were going to throw the game away and what dastardly plans Mourinho was concocting. Whatever they were, they certainly didn’t work.
Kane made it four shortly after the restart with probably the best goal of the game. Chadli again made inroads on the left. He fed Kane, who beat Matic with a glorious turn, then waited patiently for the right moment to thread the ball through John Terry’s legs and past Cortois. The look on the Chelsea captain’s face was priceless.
Then came the moment all Spurs fans were dreading. A soft Chelsea goal to reduce the deficit and spark fears of a comeback.
At 4-1 all we had to do was keep possession and not make any mistakes. Fazio had a rush of blood to the head and tried to bring the ball out from defence with the rest of the team pushed up. Hazard gratefully took possession and played a simple one-two with Fabregas before finishing clinically.
But despite heavy Chelsea pressure and some frantic defending, Spurs were not in the mood to crumble. Instead, they went down the other end and made it five. The left channel, Kane-Chadli combination, was again the source – this time the Belgian finished.
We may have had a three goal advantage but there were still nerves. Chelsea missed some good opportunities to make it a tense finish, before Terry added a third, fortunately with too little time left for a late rally.
So how did Spurs score five against Mourinho’s Chelsea, who before this game had never even conceded four?
Our passing and movement was fantastic and there was a confidence and directness about our play. Running the channels and taking on the fullback gave us some much needed width and stretched the defence. Chelsea’s weakness is their slow centre backs and their fullbacks’ tendency to go forward. Kane and Chadli exploited this ruthlessly.
In addition, Chelsea looked tired, especially their defensive shield Nemanja Matic. Normally so dominant, he was unable to cope with the speed and movement of the Spurs attack.
He featured in all three matches over the Christmas period. Against Southampton he had Mikel to help him but here Mourinho picked Fabregas in a more attacking line-up. Although the Spaniard was great going forward, he didn’t do much defending. Maybe the Portuguese coach didn’t give Spurs enough respect.
So a famous victory for Tottenham and the new management. Not only are Chelsea arguably the best team in the league, but more importantly our local rivals. This was the game that Pochettino, and his system, truly arrived. Let’s hope there’s more like this to come.
Who was your man of the match? Has Pochettino finally stamped his mark on the team? Let me know your opinions in the comments below.