Chelsea recorded a second win of the season over Tottenham, re-establishing a four-point cushion over our rivals in the race for a top-four finish in the Premier League.
The Blues were set on their way by an early goal from Olivier Giroud, starting his first game since the end of November. The French forward finished emphatically from inside the box in front of the Shed End, capitalising on a bright start from Frank Lampard’s side.
Marcos Alonso then extended the lead three minutes into the second period, firing across Hugo Lloris’s goal and into the far bottom corner to hand us a healthy advantage in the London derby.
The hosts were much the better team throughout and also hit the woodwork through Ross Barkley and Alonso, although Willy Caballero did make a few important saves before being deceived by a hefty deflection when Spurs reduced the deficit in the 89th minute.
However, this was a day when confidence was restored throughout the Chelsea ranks, a crucial win acting as the perfect preparation ahead of our Champions League hosting of Bayern Munich on Tuesday.
Lampard selected Giroud to lead the line up front and tweaked his team’s shape to replicate the three-man defence deployed during our 2-0 victory away at Tottenham back in December, with Alonso also recalled for his first Premier League appearance since that win in north London.
Mason Mount and Ross Barkley were selected to support Giroud in attack, while Caballero retained his place in goal.
It was a patient opening from both sides as their similar systems matched up and the players worked out where the opportune spaces may appear. Spurs fashioned the game’s first chance after 10 minutes but Caballero was equal to Lucas Moura’s low effort from the edge of the box, diving down to his right to parry his fellow South American’s shot away from danger.
The Blues were encouraged to press their visitors in possession and started to enjoy more opportunities in and around the Tottenham box. Alonso found Mount with a delightful slide-rule pass down the left but the England midfielder was denied by Hugo Lloris at the base of his near post.
Barkley then fired a warning with a stinging strike across the face of goal after a neat turn and drive forward from midfield but it was Giroud who claimed the opener with 15 minutes on the clock, his first club goal since the Super Cup final in mid-August.
The Frenchman finally found the net with our third effort of a frantic flurry after initially seeing a shot saved by the legs of his compatriot Lloris and then watching Barkley’s follow-up effort cannon back off the woodwork. The ball fell back into the path of our number 18 and he made no mistake in firing it in through a crowded penalty area.
Chances pass by
Alonso almost took the roof off the Bridge after 23 minutes with a stunning attempt at goal. As the ball dropped invitingly for the wing-back 20 yards from goal, he took one touch to control and then hit a right-footed volley with sumptuous technique. It was aimed for the far top corner and dipped agonisingly close but just landed over the crossbar.
Down the other end, there were a couple of moments to remind Blues supporters that this contest was very much a two-sided affair. Cesar Azpilicueta threw himself brilliantly in front of Moura’s shot to divert the ball behind for a corner following Tottenham’s most intricate attacking move of the match, while Davinson Sanchez’s looping header from the resulting corner was expertly pushed over by the backtracking Caballero.
There was less conviction in the goalkeeper’s decision-making moments later, however, as a long ball forward from centre-back found Moura on the right and the Brazilian’s first touch deceived the man between the Chelsea posts. Stranded away from his goal mouth, Caballero was grateful to see the ball trickle just wide.
A 1-0 lead at the break was positive but there was a feeling that a second Chelsea goal would be needed to really safeguard the points in this contest. A quick restart to establish a two-goal cushion would be the perfect sequence of events and those in blue followed the plan as if Lampard had scripted it himself.
Giroud did well to keep the ball in play on the right before Mount moved the ball infield to Barkley, where his midfield colleague shifted it quickly further to the left towards Alonso in space.
The Spaniard didn’t need to take a touch such was the cushioned nature of Barkley’s pass and he let fly with power and precision to find the bottom corner. It was another goal against north London opposition for Alonso, who wheeled away to the West Stand in celebration.
Lampard and his staff were amazed when Giovani Lo Celso escaped a red card for a high stamp on Azpilicueta that left our captain with visible stud marks on his legs. It was a tackle that seemingly met all of the criteria for a sending-off, a late challenge that clearly endangered the safety of an opponent.
Referee Michael Oliver could be forgiven for missing the incident right in front of the dugouts but there was no excuse for the video assistant, who watched it back numerous times and still came to the conclusion that it did not warrant further action.
Seeing it out
Alonso’s goal stung Spurs and allowed us to manage the game pretty comfortably for the remainder of the contest. Barkley went close to making it 3-0 but was denied by a flying save from Lloris, while Tammy Abraham came off the bench and was inches away from turning in a teasing cross from the impressive Mount.
With eight minutes remaining, Mount drew another foul right on the edge of the box and Alonso stepped over the set-piece. The defender curled it beautifully over the wall but could only watch as the ball thumped back off the crossbar.
Tottenham did pull one back late on as Erik Lamela's effort took a big deflection off Toni Rudiger and spun past Caballero but the Blues dug deep to keep hold of a precious three points.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1) Caballero; Azpilicueta (c), Christensen, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Barkley (Willian 77), Mount; Giroud (Abraham 71)
Unused subs Kepa, Zouma, Emerson, Gilmour, Loftus-Cheek
Scorers Giroud 15; Alonso 48
Booked Christensen 65
Tottenham (3-4-2-1) Lloris (c); Sanchez, Alderweireld (Aurier 78), Vertonghen; Tanganga, Winks, Ndombele (Lamela 62), Davies; Lo Celso, Moura; Bergwijn (Alli 78)
Unused subs Gazzaniga, Dier, Skipp, Fernandes
Scorer Rudiger (og) 89
Booked Winks 23; Lo Celso 81
Referee Michael Oliver