On this cold, rainy evening in February, two London-based rivals faced off in a critical Premier League contest. A rejuvenated Chelsea squad traveled north to face a falling Tottenham Hotspur, who were in desperate need of a turnaround victory to keep their fading title hopes alive.
Despite the importance of the game, Spurs came out flat in the first half; actually, they looked half asleep at times and failed to control any part of the first 45. There was a clear lack of focus, effort, intensity, and cohesiveness that has been prevalent since Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino scored last week.
The culminating moment came in the 24th minute, where a sloppy tackle by Eric Dier on Chelsea’s Timo Werner gifted the visitors a penalty. Despite guessing the correct way, Hugo Lloris was unable to keep Jorginho off the scoresheet. For the remainder of the half, the same spell of uninspired play continued; down 1-0, Jose Mourinho’s men needed to wake up.
Credit to Spurs, their effort in the second half was significantly better. They began pressing the backline of the Blues, which allowed for more sustained possession and quality opportunities. After some traded chances between the two sides, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura entered the game in the 69th minute.
Their infusion made Spurs even more of a threat offensively. As time wound down, some golden opportunities fell by the wayside for the hosts. In particular, Carlos Vinícius’ header in 87th minute, off a brilliant Serge Aurier cross, sailed inches wide. It was unquestionably their best chance to level the tie, but in the end Chelsea saw the game through for the three points.
It was a tale of two halves for Spurs. They showed grit and determination in the second 45 minutes of action, but it is imperative they get off to better starts. Too often they’re passive early and pay for it on the scoreboard. Perhaps their strong play at the end is indicative of how they’ll perform this upcoming Sunday. Spurs will host West Bromwich Albion, who sit 19th in the Premier League, in an absolute must-win match.
A few more notes:
- For the first time in his managerial career, Mourinho has lost back-to-back league matches at home. It is a remarkable statistic for a couple of reasons. For starters, it speaks to Mourinho’s managerial prowess and ability to rally his troops throughout his lengthy career. However, for the cynical Spurs fan, it is an indication that he’s starting to lose the room. Those first 45 minutes were as poor as Spurs have looked since “the special one” has taken the reins.
- Chelsea’s Mason Mount deserves Man of the Match acclaim for his performance. Although he didn’t feature on the scoresheet, he was the consistent driver of play for the visitors. He could be a key piece for Thomas Tuchel’s side as they attempt to salvage their season in the Premier League.