Harry on tar­get for Spurs as Chelsea suf­fer first de­feat

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID HYTNER

MAU­R­IZIO SARRI has reg­u­larly of­fered the im­pres­sion that his Chelsea work in progress has been ahead of sched­ule. Do not get car­ried away, the man­ager has warned, there are many im­prove­ments to be made. And as for the Premier League ti­tle, well, do not look be­yond Man­ches­ter City.

Chelsea have been due a de­feat but, when it came here against a ram­pant Tot­ten­ham team, who have had their share of dif­fi­cul­ties dur­ing a strange sea­son, it felt as though ev­ery­thing that could have gone wrong did go wrong; that all of Sarri’s worst fears crys­talised at the same mo­ment.

Af­ter­wards, the Chelsea boss re­vealed that he be­lieved this was a re­sult wait­ing to hap­pen. The Ital­ian said: “I knew very well we had some prob­lems. To­day we have seen that.

“We have to work and have to im­prove. We were against a very strong team, es­pe­cially when they can go in counter at­tacks. We lost a lot of balls in our half, and it was a very big prob­lem.”

The Ital­ian had warned of the cost of a slow start. He said: “It was clear in the past two or three games we had a prob­lem in the be­gin­ning of the match, to­day, the dif­fer­ence was the op­po­nent.

“Tech­ni­cally it was the same [per­for­mance], but tac­ti­cally it was a big prob­lem, and we have to work for re­ac­tions.”

His team in­deed started dread­fully and their day did not get any bet­ter, as their un­beaten record folded. It was im­pos­si­ble to give any Chelsea player more than five out of 10 — apart from Eden Haz­ard, pos­si­bly — and their woes were summed up by David Luiz’s non-chal­lenge on Son He­ung-min ahead of Spurs’ third goal.

Chelsea were 2-0 down af­ter 16 min­utes and the dam­age could have been heav­ier. An­to­nio Rüdi­ger was beaten on more than one oc­ca­sion for pace, Luiz did not have any sort of bear­ings, Ma­teo Ko­vacic laboured, and sea­soned Chelsea ob­servers could not re­mem­ber César Azpilicueta look­ing this rat­tled.

Then there was Kepa Ar­riz­a­bal­aga; the goal­keeper’s er­ror for the se­cond goal was in­ex­pli­ca­ble. He had al­ready got his fin­ger­tips to Dele Alli’s header only to fail to keep the ball out and, when Harry Kane took aim from dis­tance, hav­ing picked up pos­ses­sion and saun­tered for­ward un­der no chal­lenge, the dan­ger ap­peared to be min­i­mal. Kane’s con­nec­tion was not ex­actly sweet.

Yet al­most in slow mo­tion, Luiz turned his back on the ball, ap­pear­ing sim­ply to leave it, and Kepa did like­wise. At first, it seemed as if Kane’s low shot must have de­flected off Luiz. It did not. The ball bounced and skimmed, al­most apolo­get­i­cally, into the net.

Po­chet­tino had started with Alli at the tip of a di­a­mond mid­field, be­hind twin strik­ers in Kane and Son He­ung-min, and the ap­proach worked beau­ti­fully.

Alli found the break­through, though, from a free-kick, which was whipped in vi­ciously by Chris­tian Erik­sen. Alli got in between Ko­vacic and Jorginho too eas­ily and the at­tack­ing mid­fielder was free to cel­e­brate his sixth goal in five games against Chelsea.

Haz­ard ought to have had a penalty on 14 min­utes when Juan Foyth went into him from be­hind — a rash de­ci­sion the young­ster got away with — but the Chelsea winger went down too eas­ily on 45 min­utes to de­serve one, fol­low­ing Moussa Sis­soko’s chal­lenge.

Apart from that, it was all Tot­ten­ham. Son lifted a half-vol­ley high, af­ter a lovely one-two with Erik­sen, and the South Korean was also de­nied by Kepa af­ter beat­ing Rüdi­ger. Kepa did well to keep out Toby Alder­weireld’s flick — Foyth was nar­rowly wide with the re­bound — and Son curled an­other ef­fort over, be­fore be­ing thwarted by the goal­keeper af­ter good work by Alli and Erik­sen. Chelsea needed the smelling salts.

Their de­fen­sive record away from home in the league un­der Sarri had been im­pres­sive. Prior to this game, they had con­ceded only once. At half-time, that had felt like a mi­rage and it looked even more ridicu­lous when the third went in.

Once again, Spurs’ pace and in­ci­sion con­trasted with Chelsea’s slug­gish­ness as Alli fun­nelled a pass up the in­side-right chan­nel and Son tore away from Jorginho. Luiz mis­judged the sit­u­a­tion ter­ri­bly, over­com­mit­ting him­self, and he was last seen head­ing to­wards Wem­b­ley Park tube sta­tion. Son con­tin­ued his cut in­side, held off Jorginho and fin­ished low into the far cor­ner.

Sarri re­sponded by hook­ing Ál­varo Mo­rata as well as Ko­vacic and Wil­lian. Wil­lian had gone close on 53 min­utes but the only re­main­ing ques­tion was how many more Spurs would score. Kane blew a gilt-edged chance, Alli was nar­rowly off tar­get and it felt al­most in­con­gru­ous to see sub­sti­tute Olivier Giroud head the most hol­low of con­so­la­tions.

Serge Aurier cel­e­brates with Harry Kane af­ter scor­ing his side’s se­cond goal against Chelsea yes­ter­day. Photo: Frank Aug­stein

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