Chelsea - and Juan Mata in particular - were superlative as they took Tottenham apart
"It's Tottenham v Chelsea, it's not about me, says André Villas-Boas." Fair enough, we'll take you at your word. You just stand there and look pretty in your coat.
It is about Villas-Boas, though, isn't it. The young man's clearly already one of the best managers in Europe - look at the pots on the table - though things never quite worked out for him at Chelsea. He'll surely be looking for a modicum of revenge over Roman Abramovich today - "It's highly unlikely that [Abramovich] will be allowed into the dressing room or the tunnel," says AVB - while Spurs will be desperate to avenge their 5-1 humbling in the FA Cup semi-final last season.
It'll be a tough ask, though: Spurs have only won three of their 40 Premier League games with Chelsea. Oh dear. Still, the way the White Hart Lane fixture has panned out lately will give them a little hope: they've won three of the last six league encounters, drawing the other three. Chelsea haven't won here in the league since 2005, although they belted Spurs out of the cup two years later.
Recent form is probably more relevant, isn't it. And the league leaders Chelsea have won five on the bounce. As a result, they're favourites with the turf accountants. I would tell you the odds, but let's not encourage betting.
Kick off: 12.45pm.
Tottenham Hotspur, who are without Gareth Bale, who is off to witness the birth of his first little bundle of joy, taking a large bundle of Tottenham's hope with him: Friedel, Walker, Gallas, Caulker, Vertonghen, Huddlestone, Sandro, Lennon, Sigurdsson, Dempsey, Defoe.
Subs: Lloris, Adebayor, Naughton, Dawson, Falque, Livermore, Townsend.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Cole, Ramires, Mikel, Oscar, Hazard, Mata, Torres.
Subs: Turnbull, Romeu, Lampard, Moses, Sturridge, Azpilicueta, Bertrand.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)
PRE-MATCH LONDON SING-SONG:
With the greatest respect to Haringey and Hammersmith & Fulham, neither are God's own borough. All together now... "Ya won't be sorry that ya breeeeezed in..."
A rare old atmosphere at White Hart Lane. The crowd are giving it plenty. And here come the teams, Spurs in their trademark white with blue trim, Chelsea in their equally iconic blue, with gold flashes. Or they might be silver. My eyes are going. I probably shouldn't admit that, should I? "Let's not encourage betting, by, say, putting an advert on the bottom right of the screen for Blue Square?" tut-tuts Jonathan Leeuwenburgh. Erm. Hey, we're a broad church of opinion. Anyway, I can't control the whims of the marketing department. They're feral, I tells ya. Feral.
Andre Villas-Boas is a class act. He goes over to the Chelsea bench and shakes hands with as many of his old charges as he can reach. It's a lovely moment. Then a warm handshake with Roberto di Matteo, a gent himself. And, after a wee bit more faffing around, we're off! Both teams take turns to stroke it around a bit. Nothing to report yet.
2 min: Can you have a lull in the first two minutes? Why not. A lull. A pantomime moment when Cole fails to control a pass down the left. Roy Hodgson's in the stand. He looks depressed. Does someone want to go over and give him a hug?
4 min: The fans really are belting out their songs at the moment. This is a magnificent atmosphere. The players respond by battling over the ball in the middle of the Chelsea half. It's a free kick to Spurs, 40 yards out, just to the left of goal. Sigurdsson lifts a ball into the area down the channel. Chelsea are snoozing, allowing Gallas to swing a leg at the ball from six yards. He doesn't connect properly, the ball wafting out wide on the left. But that was half a chance.
5 min: Better from Cole down the left this time; he wins a corner. The set piece is an egregious disgrace, a waste of energy and time.
7 min: Mata dances dangerously down the inside-right channel. Just as it looks like he'll be breaking into the Spurs area, Sandro sticks a toe in to nudge the ball away. But all of a sudden Chelsea look up for this, with Hazard coming straight back at Spurs down the right. His low ball inside is godawful, but that was a decent run. "Champions of Europe, we know what we are," chant the Chelsea faithful. Will this Sloop John B trend ever end? Sail On Sailor is much more tuneful.
9 min: Torres is this close to latching onto a ball rolled into the Spurs area from the right, but Friedel is out quickly to smother, and put a stop to his gallop.
10 min: Hazard is given two chances to find a team-mate from a wide position on the right. He does so with the second, a low fizzing ball which finds Oscar on the edge of the area. Oscar looks to thread a shot into the bottom-left corner, and isn't far away at all. Chelsea have started strongly here.
12 min: Corner for Spurs down the right, after Cole is forced to bundle a low cross from the left out of play on the other side. The set piece is an obnoxious disgrace, cleared easily by Chelsea. Sandro tries to return the ball into the net from nigh-on 40 yards, but his hopeless blooter sails harmlessly into the stand.
13 min: Oscar rolls a sliderule ball down the inside left to release Torres, but the
Liverpool Chelsea man is marginally offside.
16 min: A nice end-to-end feel about this now. First Oscar goes on a blithering left-to-right diagonal run and nearly breaks clear into the Spurs box. Then Dempsey rattles down the left and isn't far from skinning Ivanovic, but his heavy touch runs the ball out of play at the last.
18 min: WHAT A GOAL THIS IS!!! Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Chelsea. A corner down the left for Chelsea. It's swung to the far post. Gallas heads clear to the edge of the area. Cahill runs in from the left and meets the dropping ball with his right peg, sending a thunderous volley straight into the net. It's straight at Friedel, but hit with such screeching power that the keeper had no chance. Possibly a slight deflection too, but take nothing away from the violent beauty of that strike. Wow.
20 min: Spurs respond brilliantly. Defoe makes good towards the Chelsea area, skittering down the inside-right channel. He skelps a low shot towards the bottom right, which Cech does well to parry. Dempsey gets on the end of the rebound, but can't guide the ball over the keeper and the ball's bustled out on the right for a corner. From which nothing comes.
23 min: Spurs are stroking the ball around quite a lot, but mainly in their own half. Chelsea are quite happy to let them do this, and look extremely comfortable at the moment. Mikel and Torres cause a wee kerfuffle in the Spurs area, though it's easily dealt with by Vertonghen and Gallas. "Jonathan should count his blessings, advert wise," writes Ryan Dunne. "Surely I can't be the only one wondering if those omnipresent Guardian Soul Mates adds are, rather offensively, assuming that MBM-haunters are painfully single?" I think they're aimed towards the staff, Ryan. State of us.
25 min: Ivanovic is booked for diving as he goes past Sigurdsson. There was no contact, so fair enough. But all this fuss about diving is manufactured outrage about bugger all, if you were to ask this scribe. But then I'm simple folk, so don't be listening to me. "Spurs must bring back Gareth Bale with an ambulance from the hospital!" cries Gokhan Evci. What do you want him to do with it, Gokhan? Doughnuts in the centre circle, with the siren on?
28 min: Another lull. But it's been a very entertaining game so far, so can't complain. "I'm pondering the really crucial question of the day," claims Gary Naylor, who as we shall see is doing nothing of the sort. "Is AVB a handsome man who, somewhat unluckily, is a bit ordinary in photos; or is he an ugly man who, somewhat luckily, is a bit ordinary in photos? I suspect we might need Hadley Freeman's judgement on this one." Hadley, I would hazard a guess, has a life, and is therefore not glued to either this match or this MBM report. My opinion will have to do, Naylor. And I'm saying he's a handsome chap. He certainly looks that way from my position, as a gent who somewhat unluckily photographs like a scuffed boot.
30 min: Spurs are coming back into this. Sigurdsson has a dig from a free kick. But he's nearly 40 yards out, so come on. Then Lennon drives down the right and chips a ball across into the middle. Sigurdsson takes up possession ten yards out, and swivels a shot goalwards in one smooth movement. It's not far off, fizzing inches wide of the left-hand post. Chelsea escape. The White Hart Lane faithful turn up the volume.
33 min: It's high-paced stuff, this, and Chelsea are again having the better of it. Oscar is close to breaking free down the left, but Sandro scuttles back to rob the ball from him. Torres dances down the right, and flicks a little pass forward with a view to releasing Mata, but Vertonghen is solid and staunch. "We need more like Luiz and Vertonghen, centre backs who will drive forward," writes Ben List. "I'd love to see a back four of Luiz-Vermaelen-Agger-Vertonghen. They'd leave some gaps." Aye. To hell with locking things down. And balls to tactics. Goals are underrated.
36 min: Huddlestone strokes a delicious diagonal ball to the left for Sigurdsson, who curls a deep cross towards Dempsey. Cole is forced to head out for a corner down the right. But nothing comes from Sigurdsson's set piece, and Chelsea stream forward, breaking upfield, winning a corner themselves down the left. And from that, Spurs stream upfield! They look very dangerous, until Dempsey checks, turns, and loses the ball, much to the crowd's displeasure. This is end to end alright.
38 min: What a miss by Mata! Ramires sashays down the left, cuts inside, and feeds Mata, who takes a low shot from the edge of the area. Friedel parries. The ball comes straight back to Mata, who is under pressure but has an open goal ahead of him with Friedel prone on the floor. He sidefoots powerfully over the bar. Highly profligate. The whole thing came seconds after, down the other end, Luiz left a ball to bounce through to Cech without looking, so nearly letting Defoe in. He's a slack sod sometimes. But, yep, this is end to end alright.
39 min: Gallas is booked for a crude slide from behind on Torres. It's the second booking in a couple of minutes, Huddlestone having gone in the referee's notebook for... I'll be honest, I have no idea. It might have been for a cheeky obstruction as Chelsea stormed upfield on 36 minutes, but don't bet the farm on that being the case.
42 min: Spurs instigate a couple of scrambles in the Chelsea area. First a low cross from the left isn't dealt with convincingly by Cech, and is hacked away. Then Defoe takes a whack from short range. Corner. From which Dempsey tries to guide the ball home from eight yards, level with the right-hand post. But he's bustled out of it. Spurs are turning up the heat on the leaders here.
44 min: Torres looks to break into the Spurs half with the home side light on defenders. But Luiz has been clattered on the noggin in the Chelsea area by Sandro, and the play is stopped. Torres has the face on. The Chelsea support isn't altogether pleased either. Luiz is fine, though, after a couple of minutes with a sponge.
45 min: Defoe tries to curl one into the top right-hand corner after cutting inside from the left. It's a great effort, but Cole is on the line and heads clear. Chelsea stream upfield through Ramires, looking dangerous as they do so. Walker slides in to send Ramires skidding across the turf on his face. He's booked for his trouble. No complaints, and nor should there be.
45 min +3: Ramires, having taken notes from Walker, executes a similar trip on an in-full-flight Lennon. He's booked too.
HALF TIME: Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Chelsea. And that's that, the end of a highly entertaining half. Chelsea deserve their lead, and it should be a two-goal advantage, Juan Mata having missed that superb chance towards the end of the half. But Spurs have had their moments as well. Should be a cracking second period. Don't go flipping and flicking.
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And we're off again! No changes. And no change in the atmosphere, either, which is still a belter. "With that Sideshow Bob mop of hair, how could Luiz actually suffer a head injury?" wonders Benoît Rivard. Split ends? Thinking too hard about positioning? No, it's got to be split ends, hasn't it.
46 min: GOAL!!! Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Chelsea. Fifty eight, maybe 59 seconds of the half have elapsed, and Gallas makes good his mistake for the Chelsea goal. Luiz clatters into Dempsey down the right. Huddlestone swings a ball towards the far post. Vertonghen heads the ball back across the goal, allowing Gallas to bundle home from a yard or so. That was a wicked free kick, but Chelsea were still in the dressing room. What a start to the half!
48 min: There's an atmosphere at White Hart Lane now, alright.
50 min: Lennon dances down the inside-right channel and stands one up into the centre for Defoe. The ball balloons out left to Sigurdsson, who ten yards out in space should really volley home, but hammers a shot straight at Luiz. The resulting corner - the ball having sailed over the bar - is a nonsense. "Your half time advertising waffle," begins Matt Dony, clearing his throat. "You may laugh about youngsters not being familiar with 'books', but I recently had to show an 18 year old how to use a tape deck."
51 min: Wow, Spurs have really come out all guns blazing. Sigurdsson powers in from the left, takes a touch inside to skate past Cahill, and hammers a low shot straight at Cech. The keeper snaffles. Chelsea are rocking.
54 min: Vertonghen makes good down the left and smacks a ball straight at Cech. Spurs definitely have the upper hand here. Anyway, to hell with this football. Some breaking news: Hadley Freeman does not have a life! "And, as it happens, I was pondering this question earlier this morning as I read my trusty Saturday Guardian sports section," she begins. "After much musing on the matter I have decided that, yes, M Villas-Boas is a handsome chap - but in a very Euro way. There's just a bit too much care in the wave of the hair, too much sculpting in the stubble, too much handsome twinkle in the eye for my grubby New York / London tastes. Everything is clearly in the right place (on his face, anyway, I have no insight on further detail), so much so that he looks a bit like a Disney Prince. And I'm no royalist. Sorry to break your heart, AVB." Oh dear. But at least he doesn't look like a scuffed boot, the favoured style of the craggy MBM hack. So he's still got that.
55 min: GOAL!!! Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Chelsea. Spurs have the upper hand here, that's for sure! Lennon skates down the inside-right and shoots for goal, but drags his shot diagonally across the box. The ball flies towards Defoe, eight yards out, the striker sidefooting powerfully past a helpless Cech. What a turnaround! Spurs have been superlative since the restart!
57 min: A couple of questionable refereeing decisions in the space of 30 seconds, Chelsea coming out evens pretty much. First Cole goes down in the box as he looks to break down the inside left. He's nudged by Gallas. There's not much contact, but you've seen them given. Clumsy defending. And then from the resulting corner, Torres swings a haymaker at Sandro! He doesn't connect. Hmm, perhaps it's more of a petulant waft, but you're still not permitted to act like Ali. That could easily have been a sending off, were the referee so inclined.
60 min: This game is belting along at 100mph, good old-fashioned Premier League fare. Mata looks to break up the right but is robbed by a thundering challenge from Caulker. Spurs break upfield, Sandro coming in from the right and hammering a low shot straight down Cech's throat. This really could go either way. It's a very entertaining, open game played out by two attractive (if you don't count AVB, let's listen to Hadley) teams.
63 min: Oscar scoops a pass down the right for Torres, who goes racing into the box before falling to the ground. There are the usual pious screams for a dive, but the guy clearly just lost his balance while racing at full pelt. The referee, thankfully, takes no action. "As I sit pondering your MBM on my ownsome indulging in a bargain all you can eat buffet at the Jade Palace, a Chinese restaurant in Crouch End, I can't help but reflect the coverage of this game is one mass advertorial or product placement," writes James Randolph. "It rather makes me glad I'm following on my iPhone not my Sony laptop." Ah the Jade Palace. A fine establishment. It's no La Bota, though, the tapas place a few doors down. Kidneys in sherry, chorizo, and espresso with Spanish booze in it. It's healthy and hearty. They can have that slogan for free.
66 min: GOAL! Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 Chelsea. Vertonghen goes on a sortie upfield, but is stopped abruptly in his tracks. He's jogging back shaking his head, having demanded a free kick, but he was fairly robbed. And he really could have done with picking up his legs, because he's left a massive gap down the right. Oscar screams into it, then wheechs a low ball into the centre. Gallas hacks clear, but only to Mata on the edge of the area. Mata takes one touch, and passes powerfully into the bottom right. Friedel was planted. A magnificent finish.
68 min: Defoe has an ambitious hack from 30 yards, just to the left of goal. It may or may not be going into the right-hand corner, but Cech takes no chances, and palms out on the right. The corner's wasted.
70 min: GOAL! Tottenham Hotspur 2-3 Chelsea. What a match this is! First Torres tears down the inside-right channel. He's clear on goal, but hesitates, allowing Vertonghen to come back and nick the ball away from him. No matter, though. Chelsea come straight back at the home side within 30 seconds, Mikel cutting in from the left and sliding the ball to Hazard, who strokes a delicate first-time pass down the inside-left to release Mata into the area. Mata has the confidence Torres doesn't, and steers the ball past Friedel with power and precision. This is a marvellous game of football.
72 min: What a response by Chelsea, who were all over the show at the start of this half. Now it's Tottenham's turn to show us what they've got. In fairness, they've done that once already. Can they do it again? let's see. (By the way, they've replaced Huddlestone with Livermore.)
73 min: Mata is once again found in space down the left. He tries a first-time dink over Friedel from a tight-ish angle, but doesn't get any power on the effort. No hat-trick for him. Yet.
74 min: Dempsey is replaced by Adebayor.
75 min: Oscar, tight on the left, one-twos with Mata and advances on the Spurs box. He lashes a low shot towards the bottom-left corner. Friedel does well to parry clear. Chelsea are playing some marvellous stuff at the moment. Way to early in the season to say, but they've got the swagger of title-winners right now.
76 min: Spurs aren't out of this by any means, though. Adebayor wins a towering header to send Sigurdsson into the area down the inside-left channel. Sigurdsson juggles the ball a couple of times, then larrups a decent effort just over. Two of the best teams in the league, going at it in the swashbuckling style. The Premier League at its best.
79 min: Mata sliderules the ball down the inside right and is this close to releasing Hazard into the area. Nearly, but not quite. "As a 40 year old Scot who has been known to eat and drink a bit too much at times, I'm not really qualified to comment on the physical appearance of young, wealthy, successful European football managers," admits Simon McMahon, "but looks aside, there's a lot to like about AVB. He's no Sergio, though, is he?" Yes, but who is? Even Sergio struggles to live up to the beautiful concept of Sergio.
82 min: Spurs triangulate awhile, then Defoe is upended by Mikel as he looks to break into the area from the left. That's a free kick to the home side, just to the left of the D. Sigurdsson looks for the top-left corner, but his effort is obvious. Cech's got it covered, and anyway the ball flies over the bar. "Apparently the key question about the scuffed boot is whether you are deliberately scuffed in a euro way," writes Robin Hazlehurst. "Do you look like distressed leather that has had sandpaper carefully applied to artificially age it to make it look authentic and experienced, or do you just look, y'know, haggard, knackered and suffering the after effects of last night's gin? Hmm, I'm suspecting I can guess the answer here can't I." Yep. Here, rather deliciously, you've misspelt your own name as "Robin Hazlehurts". Very apt, seeing you're riffing and scatting on my pain!
83 min: Oscar, who has been excellent, is replaced by Sturridge.
85 min: Lennon juggles the ball to the right of the Chelsea D, eventually making enough space to whack a looping shot goalwards. But it's straight at Cech. Chelsea haven't looked too troubled since going in front, but Spurs aren't taking this lying down by any means. "Hadley Freeman has been on the cricket OBO at least twice before," reports Niall Mullen. "I think mentioning her name on the sports pages is like the Batman sign in the sky summoning her to help fashion troubled men too bashful to contact 'Ask Hadley'." Maybe we should see if Pamela Stephenson Connolly's about, too. Does anyone have any, y'know, ahem, problems they'd like to talk about?
86 min: Torres should have wrapped this up. He's released into the Spurs area down the left, but overcooks the low curler towards the bottom-right corner, and the ball slides out the wrong side of the post. Not far away by any means, but not particularly good with only Friedel to beat.
88 min: Chelsea are spurning chance after chance now. Hazard's in acres down the right, and racing into the box, but his ball across for Torres is hilariously useless, the clank of a lummox. The ball's recycled, and Mata's sprung clear down the right, but his touch is heavy and Friedel claims. Chelsea really should have four goals by now.
89 min: And are Chelsea going to pay for their profligacy? First Cech fumbles a low cross from the left, nearly gifting a close-range chance to Adebayor before snatching the second chance. Then Walker sends a daisycutter towards the bottom right from nigh on 30 yards; Cech does wonderfully well to palm round for a corner. The set piece is a nonsense.
90 min: Lampard replaces Hazard. There will be four adde minutes of this.
90 min +1: GOAL! Tottenham Hotspur 2-4 Chelsea. This is it now. Walker fannies around down the Chelsea left. Looking to usher the ball out of play, he's shoved off it by tiny Mata, who diddles into the area and rolls the ball across the face of goal, allowing Sturridge to tap in.
90 min +2: On the touchline, Andre Villas-Boas wears a haunted look. Mouth agape, a thousand-yard stare. He's aged about 40 years! I'm surprised his hair isn't falling out in clumps. Oh dear. Hadley Freeman was well ahead of the curve on this one.
FULL TIME: Tottenham Hotspur 2-4 Chelsea. And that's that. Villas-Boas regains his composure to shake hands with his successor Roberto di Matteo. No revenge for him today. But he shouldn't take this too badly. Spurs gave it a real go, playing some very nice stuff at times. But Chelsea were simply superlative. They've now won at Arsenal and Spurs, two huge results. It's not too early to talk of a proper title challenge. It'll take some team to beat them over the season, with the only question being their slightly shaky defence. But with that front line, they'll not need too many answers to that one.