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.