The Blues produced a superb performance at the Bridge tonight and secured a crucial victory courtesy of a fine individual effort from Pedro and a comical late own goal by Kieran Trippier.
Chelsea were impressive from the first whistle in a typically well-contested London derby that remained in the balance for the large part.
Both teams struck the woodwork in the first half, Gonzalo Higuain for us very early on. The opening goal tonight was always going to be critical and it was Pedro’s nimble footwork in a tight spot that created the space for him to fire into the net from a tight angle shortly before the hour.
Resolute defending throughout was rewarded by a second clean sheet against top opposition in four days as Tottenham couldn’t muster a shot on target.
In fact Pedro’s was the only such effort because our second goal, with five minutes left, stemmed from a misunderstanding in the visitors’ defence that led to Trippier passing the ball into his own net and not to Hugo Lloris, the intended recipient.
With Arsenal and Man United also winning tonight, the result keeps us in check with them as well as ending a run of two straight league losses to Spurs.
No wonder the Bridge was bouncing at full-time!
Willy Caballero started his first league game of the season with Maurizio Sarri deciding to drop Kepa Arrizabalaga after what happened on Sunday.
There were three other changes to the side that started the Carabao Cup final. Higuain replaced Willian to spearhead the attack, Marcos Alonso returned at left-back, and Mateo Kovacic came in for Ross Barkley.
Tottenham also made a quartet of alterations from their last outing - three of those in defence - and changed shape, too, implementing a back four.
Despite that, the Blues’ intensity with and without the ball in the opening stages meant we engineered plenty of space from where we could threaten the visitors’ backline.
Marcos Alonso had already had a free-kick from a dangerous area blocked when we so nearly took the lead with six minutes played.
A very high Cesar Azpilicueta cross was dealt with badly by Moussa Sissoko and fell into Higuain’s path, 14 yards out. He hit across the ball, but with Hugo Lloris rooted to the spot it agonisingly thumped against the inside of the post and bounced out.
It was the 18th occasion we have struck the woodwork in the league this season, comfortably more than any other team.
By the midway point of the half, By the 10-minute mark tonight, we had already made four successful tackles, to Tottenham’s none. Our start couldn’t have been in starker contrast to the reverse fixture three months ago.
Higuain was given another good sight of goal after a mistake by Lloris. Trying to play out from the back, the goalkeeper succeeded only in passing to Pedro, who in turn found Hazard. He teed up our Argentinean striker who curled a couple of yards wide on his left.
Tottenham began to stem the tide by the midway point of the half, and it needed a superb intervention from Alonso to stop Son Heung-min in his tracks when it looked like the South Korean might get a clear sight of goal.
On the half-hour, David Luiz blocked a Son effort before it could test Caballero. That was shortly after tempers had risen when Harry Kane closed the Brazilian down as Tottenham returned the ball so Trippier could be treated. Kane and Azpilicueta were given a talking to.
That duo were involved in the next meaningful goalmouth action as the interval approached. We had succeeded in keeping Kane relatively quiet, but he worked a yard inside the box and it needed a trademark Azpi block to divert his left-footed strike wide.
There was no blue shirt in the way of Harry Winks’s 25-yarder on the stroke of half-time, but thankfully it rattled the crossbar and so an engaging opening 45 minutes ended goalless.
Tottenham had finished the half on top but it was the Blues back in the driving seat when play resumed. Unfortunately Higuain and Pedro couldn’t make the most of being picked out in space inside the box.
That was certainly not the case the next time Pedro ventured forward! It all started with Caballero catching a cross and getting us on the front foot. Further upfield Eden Hazard swept the ball wide to Azpilicueta who slipped a pass inside Ben Davies for Pedro to burst on to. The Spaniard’s twinkle toes left Toby Alderweireld in a daze close to the byline and the low shot that followed went through Lloris’ legs and in.
With 57 minutes gone, it was the first shot on target of the game and it put us ahead. Shortly after the goal Willian replaced Hazard.
Pedro then made an equally telling contribution at the other end when it looked for all the world like Christian Eriksen would equalise after dancing his way into the box. But there was Pedro with an immaculate sliding tackle to retrieve the ball. For good measure he deceived Son with a stepover as he carried the ball away from danger. The home faithful sang his name again, and it was no surprise when he was selected as the man of the match later on.
At the end of Tottenham’s next attack, Davies crossed hard to Kane who couldn’t make a clean connection with his volley.
With a one-goal lead to defend, the key for Chelsea now was finding the right balance between sitting on our advantage and threatening Spurs on the counter. Understandably after our exertions at Wembley, fatigue was a factor and we dropped a little deeper.
Sarri’s next move was to bring Ruben Loftus-Cheek on for Kovacic, who had had one of his best games in a Chelsea shirt, destructive and creative in equal measure.
Olivier Giroud for Higuain was our third and final sub with five minutes to go, and the Frenchman’s first involvement brought about consequences he could never have imagined.
Flicking a long Caballero kick on, the ball looked to be rolling harmlessly back towards the Tottenham box. But Trippier and Lloris didn’t deal with the situation immediately, and then the full-back grew concerned with Willian running towards him. Without looking he passed back but nowhere near Lloris. The ball trickled joyously into the empty net with the Matthew Harding stand already dancing in celebration before it crossed the line.
What a way to round off a superb home victory, and how everyone of a Chelsea persuasion enjoyed the closing stages and the celebrations at the end!
Chelsea (4-3-3): Caballero; Azpilicueta (c), Rudiger, David Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic (Loftus-Cheek 77); Pedro, Higuain (Giroud 84), Hazard (Willian 60).
Unused subs Kepa, Christensen, Barkley, Hudson-Odoi.
Scorers Pedro 57, Trippier OG 84
Booked David Luiz 90+4
Tottenham (4-3-1-2): Lloris (c); Trippier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Davies; Sissoko (Rose 85), Winks, Eriksen; Lamela (Llorente 70); Kane, Son (Moura 80).
Unused subs Gazzaniga, Foyth, Aurier, Wanyama.
Booked Kane 90+4
Referee Andre Marriner