Three things we learned from Chelsea’s win vs. Tottenham

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LONDON — Chelsea beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday as Antonio Conte‘s men went back to the top of the Premier League after a comeback win which handed Spurs their first defeat of the season.

Despite Spurs dominating much of the first half, they only led 1-0 through Christian Eriksen‘s screamer and right on half time Pedro‘s stunning curling effort made it 1-1 and totally changed the momentum of the game. Victor Moses scored the eventual game-winner early in the second half to hand Chelsea their seventh-straight win in the Premier League.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

Here’s what we learned from another feisty London derby between these teams as Spurs’ last league win at the Bridge is still back in 1990.


SPURS FAIL TO MAKE MOST OF BRIGHT START

There was no UEFA Champions League hangover from Tottenham after their disappointing exit from the UCL at the hands of Monaco on Tuesday.

The opening 30 minutes were perhaps Tottenham’s best of the season. But it wasn’t good enough.

Mousa Dembele and Dele Alli were dictating play in midfield. Eric Dier and Jan Vertonghen weren’t giving Diego Costa a sniff and Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen looked dangerous in attack.

Yet Spurs didn’t make the most of their chances when they were on top and it cost them, big time. In the first half Harry Kane had a goal disallowed for offside and rifled a shot towards the top corner which Thibaut Courtois pushed over. They dominated play with eight shots to Chelsea’s one inside the opening 35 minutes, but apart from Kane’s drive they lacked a true cutting edge. Then, Pedro’s goal on half time knocked the stuffing out of fragile Spurs and they never truly recovered despite Eriksen having a half chance and Alli shanking a shot over from a glorious chance.

Tottenham’s run as the only unbeaten team in the Premier League is over and it will be intriguing to see how Pochettino’s young side bounce back from a week which has seen their UCL dreams dashed and their unbeaten run end at the hands of their London rivals.


CHELSEA STRUGGLE WITH HIGH PRESS

Yes, Chelsea recovered from a poor start but they once again looked ruffled after a high-press approach from their opponents. The Pl leaders have looked imperious since their switch to 3-4-3 following the defeat at Arsenal in September but there were a few chinks in their armor.

Just like their defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool back in September, Conte’s side started sluggishly and Tottenham’s typically intense high-pressure looked to be getting the job done. Chelsea got out of jail with Pedro’s goal right on half time and they knew they had to make the most of the gift they’d been given.

Even when they went ahead, Conte wasn’t pleased with his teams sloppy play in midfield as they gave the ball away and almost let in Kane and Alli. Conte screamed in frustration on the sidelines, kicking over a water bottle when Nemanja Matic was guilty of a particularly poor giveaway. For the closing stages he was desperately shouting at his midfielders, urging them to slow down and take care of the ball. Going forward, Chelsea know they have to handle the high-press tactics employed by many PL teams better if they’re going to keep this incredible form going.


COSTA THE CREATOR

The Premier League’s leading scorer didn’t find the back of the net on Saturday but he made key contributions when it mattered most.

Diego Costa was a menace. For Moses’ goal he surged into the left side of the box and pulled a perfect ball back for the Nigerian to sweep home. Seconds later he did the same on the right side of the box as he teed up Marcos Alonso but he skied the ball over the bar. That was Costa at his best and he certainly had a tough time against Spurs’ two bruising center backs.

It was clear Costa was targeted by Spurs. After two minutes Eric Dier clattered into him and Jan Vertonghen looked at him and gave him the nod. For the first 30 minutes Costa didn’t get a kick but he battled on and proved decisive in the end.

With his key contributions the Brazilian striker is making a huge difference as Chelsea’s surge to the top of the table shows no signs of ending.

“Three trophies and CL”: Mourinho relieved after “most difficult season”

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Don’t try to tell Jose Mourinho that his first season at Manchester United wasn’t a raging success, because all you’d get in return is a simple shake of the head before he walks away.

[ MORE: Pogba, Mkhitaryan fire Man United to Europa League trophy ]

Following Wednesday’s Europa League final victory over Ajax, one which put Man United into next season’s UEFA Champions League, Mourinho was adamant that the club’s 2016-17 season was a success, despite the fact the Red Devils finished sixth in the Premier League.

“Three trophies in one season and the Champions League,” as Mourinho put it, in his “most difficult season as a manager” — quotes from the BBC:

“We totally deserved the win. I am so happy to see the boys with the crutches with the trophy and now I am on holiday. I don’t want to see any international friendlies, I am selfish. I can’t do it.

“For me, enough is enough. It has been a very hard last few months, we were short of numbers.

“Three trophies in one season and the Champions League. I am very happy in my most difficult season as a manager.”

[ WATCH: Pogba gives United an early lead ]

As for his summer shopping list and Wayne Rooney‘s future at the club, well… Mourinho was much clearer about one than the other — quotes from the BBC:

“Ed Woodward has my list, what I want, what I would like for more than two months. So now it’s up to him and the owners. But I don’t care about football for now.

“Wayne Rooney was ready to play, he was a big option. But I didn’t need to attack at 2-0. I told him yesterday that he could be the key man but he can perfectly be here next season. He is a very important player for us. If he stays next season I’d be very happy.”

USMNT’s Gedion Zelalem out 6-9 months with knee injury

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Following much fanfare as he rose through the ranks of Arsenal’s youth academy system, and even more after officially pledging his international allegiance to the U.S., Gedion Zelalem‘s progress stalled a fair bit this season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | U-20 World Cup ]

After failing to force his way onto the fringes of Arsenal’s first team, the 20-year-old was sent out on loan to VVV Venlo, where he made just nine league appearances (one start) in the Dutch second division. Now, with the U.S. U-20 national team at the U-20 World Cup in South Korea, his tournament is over after just 34 minutes.

Zelalen suffered ligament damage to his left knee during the first half of the Americans’ tournament-opening draw with Ecuador. The Washington Post received confirmation on Wednesday, from Zelalem’s family, confirming that he’ll be sidelined for at least six months. An earlier report, from Football.London, pinned the recovery time at up to nine months.

[ MORE: Pogba, Mkhitaryan fire Man United to Europa League trophy ]

“For Gedion, this was his second U-20 World Cup, so his experience was invaluable for us,” said U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos. “His passing ability is second to none in this tournament, and we’ll miss that. He was running the team from his position.

Europa League final: Man United too tough for Ajax, qualify for UCL

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Though it may have required a minor detour in the journey to the intended destination, Jose Mourinho’s first season as Manchester United manager ultimately reached the promised land: qualification for next season’s UEFA Champions League.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Once it became clear that Man United’s season was unlikely to result in a top-four finish in the Premier League (they eventually wound up sixth), Mourinho put every Mancunian egg into the Europa League basket, and it paid off on Wednesday, as United topped Ajax, 2-0, in the Europa League final inside the Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.

Paul Pogba put United 1-0 ahead after just 18 minutes (WATCH HERE), benefitting from a wicked deflection off a defender’s shin, and Mourinho’s famously rigid, organized midfield and defensive structure frustrated a young Ajax side (a starting lineup with an average age of just under 23 years old) that reached the final on the back of a free-flowing, attacking tidal wave.

[ WATCH: Pogba gives United an early lead ]

Down just a goal, Ajax needed little more than a moment of brilliance from any number of rising stars sure to fetch massive transfer fees and land big-money contracts elsewhere in Europe, in the not-so-distant future.

That hope lasted less than 180 seconds into the second half, though, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan doubled the lead, thanks to some unbelievably quick reflexes and a tidy overhead kick from three yards out. Ajax would manage just two shots on goal all night (four for United).

Not only did Mourinho deliver Champions League qualification, alongside a European trophy, United also claimed the EFL Cup back in February. With the allure of UCL football next season, expect another busy (and expensive) summer of spending at Old Trafford.

AT THE HALF: Man Utd lead Ajax in UEL final, thanks to Pogba (video)

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After 45 minutes of Wednesday’s Europa League final, between Manchester United and Ajax, in Stockholm, Sweden, Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils have one foot in next season’s UEFA Champions League.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

After a cagey opening 15 minutes that saw neither side create anything of consequence, Man United pulled ahead on a fair bit of luck in the 18th minute. Paul Pogba received the ball 25 yards from goal, took a touch toward goal and fired a low shot toward goal. Davinson Sanchez did everything he could to get his body in front of the strike, but the ball glanced off his shin, sending it one direction and goalkeeper Andre Onana the other.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Europa League final ] 

Having conceded just eight goals in 14.5 Europa League games thus far this season, would you bet on United conceding an equalizer in the final 45 minutes? Hit the link above to follow along, live.