It can now be a very merry Christmas for Chelsea followers after the Blues returned to Premier League winning ways in one of the best ways possible, with victory and a superb performance on our first visit to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The previous Chelsea away win against Spurs was in August 2017 when they played their first game with Wembley as their home ground. On that occasion two Marcos Alonso goals won the day and it was another brace which made the difference in 2019, Willian the hero with his fourth and fifth goals of the season.
Alonso was involved again when fouled for the penalty which gave Willian his second goal today. His first had been a fantastic open-play strike early in the game with the second coming on the stroke of half-time.
We had been committed and confident in our play from the off, and Tottenham’s job was made all the harder when Heung-Min Son was sent off for violent conduct against Toni Rudiger in the second half. Indeed it remained quiet for Kepa, with Spurs failing to register a single shot on target until the 97th minute of the game.
Following the disappointing showing against Bournemouth last weekend, and the run of form which had yielded just two wins in seven games in all competitions, Frank Lampard made a tactical switch to a 3-4-3 formation, from the previous 4-3-3.
Fit-again Fikayo Tomori was the extra centre-back, playing on the left of Kurt Zouma with Rudiger on the right. Marcos Alonso returned to the side to play left wing-back with Mateo Kovacic preferred to Jorginho alongside N’Golo Kante in the reduced central midfield. Mason Mount was pushed forward to play on the right of a front three with Willian on the left and Christian Pulisic missing out.
The plan worked. Chelsea, after keeping it steady early on, gave Tottenham problems throughout. Much of the home side’s attacking play was snuffed out before it reached anywhere close to our penalty area, and we restricted them to just two first-half chances which came in quick succession.
Early on, some battling by Tammy Abraham to create his own shooting chance set the tone, and Kovacic almost sent Mount through on goal but Jan Vertonghen had enough pace. Then Kante sent over a cross that Abraham was first to but the tall, young striker could not control his header.
The thunderbolt first goal, fired in on 12 minutes, came from a corner taken by the scorer. Willian initially played it short and received the return pass from Kovacic. There was space, and the Brazilian advanced to just inside the penalty area before letting fly with a shot across Paulo Gazzaniga and into the far side of the net. Unstoppable!
An Alonso cross found Abraham for another header as Chelsea continued to play on the front foot.
Midway through the half, we broke from the back but unfortunately Mount’s chest control was not tight enough when Abraham found him in the box with a superb pass. Mount’s movement was causing Spurs problems.
It took Tottenham until the 28th minute to have their first chance, happily skied over the bar by unmarked Harry Kane, who two minutes later picked out Son at the far post but the Korean missed the target too.
In between those moments, Abraham took a Mount cross square in the face, thereby depriving him of an attempt on goal.
With five minutes to go to half-time, there was a nasty looking collision between Kepa and Moussa Sissoko when Alonso under-hit a ball back to our keeper. Fortunately the impact left no lasting damage.
There were then bookings for Kovacic and Dele Alli after they tangled. That yellow card means our midfielder is suspended for the Boxing Day match against Southampton.
The drama before the interval did not stop there. Inside added time, an extraordinary piece of goalkeeping by Gazzaniga gifted the Blues a penalty. Alonso was chasing a Willian scooped pass into the box but was not going to get there in time, however the Spurs stopper rather than using his hands attempted to kick the high bouncing ball. He missed that, but he did not miss Alonso!
For some reason referee Anthony Taylor gave a free-kick to the home side but VAR was having none of that. The spot-kick was rightly awarded and was despatched by Willian who took a stuttering run and sent the keeper the wrong way.
We had a 2-0 lead to take into the changing room at half-time. In the other dressing room, Jose Mourinho was unsurprisingly making a change, with Christian Eriksson on for Eric Dier and his formation now matching Chelsea for three-at-the-back. He sent his players out early.
Despite that, it was Chelsea who showed first in the second half, Abraham narrowly missing out on playing a killer one-two with Mount in front of goal, although offside would probably have intervened.
Abraham had the ball in the net soon after, following a strike from Alonso which Gazzaniga spilled, but our striker had strayed offside again.
An hour into the game came the second big VAR call, and this time it reduced Tottenham to 10 men. A collision between Rudiger and Son had put the Spurs player on the turf with our defender falling over him, and as he did so, Son pushed his studs up into Rudiger’s stomach. Violent conduct. He was off.
In the aftermath of that, the game was stopped for the ref to talk to players and then the two managers following what is reported as racist abuse aimed at Rudiger. Announcements about that were made several times during the rest of the game.
With play back underway, Kante was not far away from scoring the third goal which may well have started to empty the stadium early when he shot from distance, and he could not finish off a well-worked Chelsea counter-attack late in the game, but with a third VAR check of the game going our way when it looked for a possible Spurs penalty, two goals were enough for three points.
Fittingly at the end of such a good display, Chelsea were still pushing for a third goal in added time and substitute Michy Batshuayi did not miss by much. And when Kane finally registered a Spurs shot on goal, Tomori made a great block to make the task easy for Kepa.
If anyone was in any doubt what this win means to Lampard, his players and his assistants, they were not after the final whistle when there were joyous scenes in front the visiting supporters’ section, with the boss even throwing his coat into the crowd.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Kepa; Rudiger, Zouma, Tomori; Azpilicueta (c) (James 80), Kante, Kovacic (Jorginho 68), Alonso; Mount, Abraham (Batshuayi 80), Willian.
Unused subs Caballero, Christensen, Pulisic, Hudson-Odoi.
Scorer Willian 12, 45+2 pen
Booked Zouma 31, Kovacic 43, Rudiger 78
Tottenham (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga; Aurier, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Vertonghen (Rose 75); Sissoko, Dier (Eriksen h-t); Moura (Ndombele 75), Alli, Son; Kane (c).
Unused subs Vorm, Foyth, Winks, Lo Celso.
Sent-off Son 62
Booked Alli 43, Gazzaniga 45, Sissoko 58, Alderweireld 67
Referee Anthony Taylor