Man of the Match: In one of the season’s best games, Juan Mata gave one of the campaign’s best individual performances. Two nice second half finishes turned a 2-1 Blues deficit into a 3-2 lead, with a great individual effort to strip Kyle Walker and set up Daniel Sturridge producing the match’s final goal. On a night where Chelsea’s other attackers failed to make their mark, Mata led his team to big derby victory.
Packaged for takeaway:
- Coming off another impressive London derby performance, Chelsea provided more proof that last season’s sixth place finish was an aberration (not part of a trend). They were exactly as good as the final score. Their vulnerability in defense combined with a potency going forward that led to great Saturday morning entertainment.
- How much John Terry’s absence had to do with that vulnerability will be debated (or, perhaps overshadowed by the four goals). The captain started his four-game suspension today, with Gary Cahill sliding into the starting XI. By now, he and partner David Luiz are familiar with each other, which makes it more difficult to explain why Spurs looked to capable of moving through them at any time in the second half.
- In the first half, though, Chelsea was able to dictate how the game was played, getting an early goal from Cahill to take a 1-0 lead into intermission. Though most of the first period, Chelsea held a three-to-two possession advantage.
- Their only goal, however, came on a mistake by William Gallas, whose weak clearance fell right to Cahill just above the circle. The England international volleyed into the top of the goal, giving Brad Friedel (back in the starting XI) no chance to prevent the opener.
- The game changed at halftime. Spurs came out a different team. They dominated play, getting goals from Gallas and Jermain Defoe within nine minutes of the whistle. Though those would be their final goals of the match, they’d go on to outshoot Chelsea 15-6 over the game’s final 45 minutes.
- For Chelsea, however, it was all about execution, converting on three of their last six shots. More accurately, it was all about Juan Mata’s execution. The Spaniard’s equalizer camw off another terrible clearance for Gallas, while the game winning goal featured a nice near-post finish of an Eden Hazard pass, Mata making a good run to get behind Gallas.
- Those defensive breakdowns are going to obscure the fact that Spurs performed relatively well, particularly with Gareth Bale and Moussa Dembélé unavailable. He both men been at Andre Villas-Boas’s disposal, Spurs may have been able to keep up in a shootout. On Saturday, however, they needed one more threat. Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson provided minimal contributions.
- Without it, Spurs fell victim to what’s becoming Chelsea’s modus operandi – being carried by one of their attackers. Early in the season, it was Eden Hazard. We saw Oscar do it against Juventus. Today, it was Mata. At any point, one of those players can step up, control a game, and lead Chelsea to victory, even when they’re facing the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham.
- Spurs need to get their defense back. They need Younes Kaboul healthy. They need Benoit Assou-Ekotto healthy. They need the ability to bench Gallas or Kyle Walker.
- The only concerns for Chelsea: Their defense and their inability to prove more dangerous with the possession they had in the first half. Will this team always be at its best on the counter, when they can play a game that protects that defense? And if so, will they always be in danger of replicating the Juventus game?