Sarri calls Chelsea’s defeat ‘a disaster’
It was the modern Tottenham Hotspur shot through with Mauricio Pochettino’s rebel spirit that has seen them crash the English game’s elite which turned up at Wembley, and did not so much gently snap Chelsea’s unbeaten start as bulldoze it into the ground.
All the good parts of Pochettino-era Spurs were in evidence, disrupting the Chelsea system, plucking at the insecurities of David Luiz and then picking their visitors off with a first-half goalscoring ruthlessness. They might have had many more if Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min had taken their chances, but then those that they did convert were glorious.
This was one of those days when everything thrown at Pochettino – the extended Wembley exile, the great transfer window non-event – seemed to matter not a bit and his side played like title contenders. The Argentinian showed up afterwards full of faux modesty, tutting away at the suggestions he had bested Maurizio Sarri in organisation and instead redirecting all credit towards his players.
But he did have one message for them as he reflected on a run of five straight wins in all competitions that sees them sitting third behind the unbeaten Manchester City and Liverpool. “With the right attitude we need to realise we are a team who can compete at this level,” he said. “The problem is when we struggle to show the real quality because of a lack of aggression and the right attitude and then it is difficult to perform the way we did today.”
Not much wrong with this performance, save a late headed goal from the substitute Olivier Giroud, after Spurs had missed a couple of second-half opportunities. Sarri said later that Pochettino had caught him out with a tweaked formation that had Kane and Christian Eriksen playing ahead of Alli, all partly responsible for a Chelsea defensive performance that the Italian described bluntly as “a complete disaster”.
The Spurs manager was not prepared to entertain discussion of his team’s effective nullifying of Chelsea’s best parts, including the close attention given by Alli to Jorginho. The high point was unquestionably Son’s goal, Spurs’ third, where he went past Jorginho and then Luiz, who bought the deceit in the attacker’s feint.
Luiz also seemed to get out of the way of the shot for Kane’s goal, in the manner of a line judge evading the big ace, and Sarri charitably suggested that his defender was trying to avoid putting a deflection on it. When it goes badly for Luiz, it does so in spectacular fashion, but at least he could say he did not hide away. He and Antonio Rudiger suffered at times but they might also point to the lack of traction gained by Willian and Alvaro Morata in attack.
In the final minutes, Chelsea had to endure the indignity of Erik Lamela introducing some late entertainment, brushing his foot over the ball, dropping a shoulder and generally taking whatever liberties he could. The away side should have had a penalty between the first two Spurs goals when the young Argentine defender, Juan Foyth, crashed into Eden Hazard in the area and although he escaped, Sarri was reluctant to say that it would have changed the course of the game.
Pochettino rested Jan Vertonghen, presumably with Wednesday’s Champions League group game against Inter Milan at Wembley in mind, which Spurs must win. This winning run now stretches five games, back to that defeat to Manchester City at Wembley on Oct 29, and it has given them momentum to take into Wednesday and then the derby against Arsenal next Sunday.
There were some marvellous moments from Spurs in the first half and not just in the two goals. From a long ball hit quickly over the top by Alli, there was a feathered touch from Son to stun and then spirit possession away from Luiz. Spurs cut their opposition into pieces all over the attacking third, between Alli, Eriksen and Son.
Then there was Kane, who scored the second, a shot taken way earlier than expected when instinct told him that there was a channel running behind Luiz and inside Kepa Arrizabalaga’s right post and the England captain went for it. Luiz swayed out of the way and the ball was in.
The first goal was a free-kick from the right perfectly placed by Eriksen for Alli to glance past Arrizabalaga. Spurs disrupted Chelsea all over the pitch, including N’Golo Kante, who was harassed in possession at all times.
The third goal was a delight for Spurs, with Son beginning out on the right, going first past Jorginho and then Luiz, whose confident sense of misjudgement never seemed stronger.
This was exhilarating stuff from Spurs and the home fans loved it. Sarri beckoned the dismal Morata to come off and also Mateo Kovacic, whose rabona straight to Alli had been one of the first half ’s low points for Chelsea.
Spurs managed the game from there, although they had a wobble when Giroud rose to meet Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross to head past Hugo Lloris.
Luiz got out of the way of Kane’s shot in the manner of a line judge evading an ace
Superb run: Son Heung-min adds a third goal for Tottenham in the second half