Three goals in the second half decided Sunday afternoon’s big London derby as the impressive beginning to 2021/22 continues.
There was no Romelu Lukaku on the scoresheet this time. Instead that joy went to three of our less-prolific performers.
Thiago Silva headed in a corner for his first goal since another set-piece one in a derby encounter, against West Ham just before Christmas last year, and N’Golo Kante followed it up with his first goal in a little under two years.
There was a touch of good fortune about the midfielder’s deflected strike but there was nothing undeserved about the victory given the way the Blues stepped up our performance after an evenly balanced first half of few opportunities.
It was Toni Rudiger who put the icing on the cake with a shot to make it 3-0 right at the very end of the game.
Kante had been introduced at half-time and as we quickly shifted up the gears, Marcos Alonso forced a good save and then had a shot cleared off the line, in addition to the team’s two goals that went in during that period.
The three points won in north London take us level on points with Man United and Liverpool, and to the top of the table over the Merseysiders on alphabetical order. We have identical records with 12 scored and only one conceded.
We also recorded our 15th clean sheet from 24 Premier League games under Thomas Tuchel, and this time it was collected by Kepa, in today for the injured Edouard Mendy.
It seemed very fitting that this particular fixture was the one played on this sad day. Chelsea was Jimmy's first club, Spurs was the other major part of his career, and it was at White Hart Lane where he made his debut for us as a 17-year-old in 1957. He scored, of course!
There was a surprise when the Chelsea team was named although perhaps not for anyone who saw the painful collision suffered by Mendy against Zenit St Petersburg in the previous game.
Before kick-off at Tottenham, Tuchel explained the selection of Kepa for this game instead.
'It was an incident from the last minutes in the Champions League game, Edou got a huge hit,' he reported. 'We tried everything in the last days but he never felt fully comfortable in diving and getting another hit on it, so yesterday in training we decided if not a miracle happens overnight we let Kepa play.'
There were two other changes from the Zenit match, with Thiago Silva coming into defence and Reece James dropping out, so Cesar Azpilicueta moved to right wing-back, and Kai Havertz replaced Hakim Ziyech in the attack.
This was our third away league game in a row against one of the traditional ‘big six’, and there was no doubting it would be a tough test of our good early season form.
Tight first period
Possession was evenly shared in the scoreless first half and for both sides, it looked as if a counter-attack was going to prove the best way of finding a route to goal. There was just one shot on target before the interval, and that was by Spurs.
An offside call halted a very promising Chelsea attack right at the very start of the game, but it then needed a great stretching interception by Andreas Christensen to prevent Tottenham finding Harry Kane in front of goal as the home side responded strongly.
When Chelsea attacked smoothly, a Havertz shot was blocked and the same fate befell an effort by Mason Mount with quarter-of-an-hour played when he counter-attacked and exchanged passes with Lukaku. The England international did not strike his shot cleanly and Tuchel was visibly frustrated his attacking players had not made the most of a threatening situation.
At the other end, Tottenham’s fluid attacking shape was asking questions of the Blues backline, which had to face a series of set-pieces as well.
Defenders making their presence felt
We were thankful to Rudiger racing back and cutting out a cross at full-stretch after Sergio Reguilon had broken behind our defence at pace.
With 25 minutes played, Christensen, from a Lukaku lay-back, was not too far away with a shot from 20 yards out.
That was the closest we came to working Hugo Lloris in a first 45 minutes that as expected, was played out as a keenly fought contest. Havertz typified that by winning the ball high up the pitch to allow Alonso to try to seek out Lukaku with a cross. Moments after that, Mount sent one Havertz’s way at the back stick but the young German was not able to adjust his position to make something of it.
Just past the half-hour mark, Spurs had their clearest opening yet when Kane found Son running in behind Alonso. Kepa was quickly on to the Korean to smoother, at the cost of some pain and treatment.
A switch and a set-piece success
There was a change at the start of the second half with Mount taken off and fit-again Kante added to the action. Kovacic moved further forward but it was one of our wing-backs, Alonso, who produced our first shot on-target, with a typical volley from a great Thiago Silva pass.
Lloris saved that but it led to a run of Chelsea corners from which we eventually scored. Alonso has so often caused Spurs trouble in the past and he did so again with the delivery, headed in expertly by Thiago Silva who had nipped in front of Dele Alli and Eric Dier.
Alonso himself then almost scored, but Dier made a goal-line clearance. Either way, the Blues had grabbed the initiative and were dominating the game.
The first goal had come in the 49th minute and the second followed eight minutes later when Kante’s speculative shot across the turf took a big deflection off Dier. Lloris thought it was going wide but the Spurs skipper had to watch agonisingly as it hit the inside of the post and rolled in.
The Chelsea fan section was in raptures. ‘Champions of Europe, we know what we are!’
And there was more..
Kepa saved a powerful drive by Kane before with quarter-of-an-hour to go, Thiago Silva nearly doubled his tally when he met another Alonso corner. This time Lloris frantically kept the header out.
With one more goal needed to take Tuchel’s men top of table, it looked like it would come during a frenzied minute in front of the Spurs goal with substitute Timo Werner and Alonso somehow denied.
Lloris later saved a header by Lukaku and a shot by Kovacic, but when Werner picked out Rudiger inside added time, the Tottenham keeper could do nothing about the German’s clean strike across the turf. After none in the first half, the Blues had managed 10 shots on target in the second.
By making it 3-0, we recorded our best league win at Tottenham in two decades.
Even prior to today’s result, Chelsea had beaten Tottenham in the Premier League more often than any other side, and we had scored more goals against them, and we are now unbeaten against Spurs in the league for six games.
Our good form across the capital city continues as well. We have won a sixth consecutive away league London derby for the first time in our history.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Kepa; Christensen, Thiago Silva, Rudiger; Azpilicueta (c), Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Mount (Kante h-t), Havertz (Werner. 70); Lukaku.
Unused subs Bettinelli, Chilwell, James, Chalobah, Saul, Hudson-Odoi, Ziyech.
Scorers Thiago Silva 49, Kante 57, Rudiger 90+2
Booked Werner 80
Tottenham (4-3-3): Lloris (c); Royal, Romero (Sanchez 83), Dier, Reguilon; Ndombele (Skipp 62), Hojbjerg, Alli; Lo Celso (Gil 62), Son, Kane.
Unused sub Gollini, Doherty, Rodon, Davies, Winks, Scarlett
Referee Paul Tierney