The goal that set Chelsea on the road to a much-needed victory at Stamford Bridge was a thing of real beauty.

Hakim Ziyech’s curling left-foot strike high to the right of Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in the opening moments of the second half was so geometrically perfect that it seemed to receive a kiss from both the post and the crossbar on its way in.

Lloris didn’t dive and that didn’t matter. He wouldn’t have saved it.

Equally, it was not the beautiful things that separated Chelsea from their capital rivals here. Not really.

This was at times a functional, pragmatic performance from a team looking to ease itself from a difficult run of results. The second goal, for example, was a set-piece header from defender Thiago Silva. That one was much more straightforward.

So, no, Chelsea were not brilliant. They were just better than Tottenham. Much, much better.

They were more energetic, braver and more assertive. They didn’t make the mistakes Tottenham did and were much more patient. And because of that they won comfortably. They may well move on from this in to better form.

Tottenham did have a moment to look back on with regret in the first half. When Harry Kane turned the ball in to the Chelsea goal, his hand seemed to have brushed the back of Silva. It looked like nothing but when Silva fell referee Paul Tierney blew for a foul. That was probably a mistake. It should have been left to VAR at the very least.

So that was a big decision but it didn’t disguise what we saw for the rest of the 90 minutes.

Tottenham manager Antonio Conte chose a team that seemed to send a message to his board. A silent plea for money, for investment.

No Dele Alli, Giovanni Lo Celso or Tanguy Ndombele in the 20-man squad. Matt Doherty, a defender Spurs are happy to let go to Wolves as part of a proposed deal for Adama Traore, was picked on the right side of midfield.

It was a selection that appeared to say much about Conte’s state of mind but it didn’t work. So, from a footballing point of view, it was a mistake.

Tottenham were vaguely competitive in the first half but were gone from view once Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea hit them with a flurry of punches at the start of the second. By the time we reached the end of the afternoon, Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga had made only one real save and that came once his team were clear and coasting.

Chelsea will be satisfied and a little relieved. Tuchel has not been under real pressure during his team’s recent travails. He has credit in the bank and is just about to take Chelsea to the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi. Regardless, no Chelsea manager can go without wins for too long so this one came at exactly the right time.

In the first half, Chelsea had been superior without hitting their straps. In midfield, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic ensured the home team had a steady supply of the ball and Ziyech and Mount were progressive down the right side.

But when they did create chances they didn’t take then. Almost inevitably given recent issues, centre forward Romelu Lukaku was at the centre of all that.

Mount provided him with one chance in the first minute that he volleyed over and another one later in the half that he didn’t manage to make contact with at all. Later, he seemed to stoop beneath a driven cross from Ziyech.

For sure, it was not the Belgian’s day but he put in a shift at least. In the end, it was someone else’s day and that player was Ziyech.

Coming so soon after the start of the second half, his was a goal that must have felt brutal to Tottenham.

Had they seen out the first 15 minutes against a Chelsea team lacking form, they may have sensed an opportunity. As it was, they were quickly one down and then two. The game, largely, was over.

The work of Callum Hudson-Odoi should not be ignored in the build-up to the opener. He had been industrious on the left side earlier in the game and it was his willingness to carry the ball laterally to feed Ziyech that created space. The curled finish that followed with the left foot was simply lovely.

Ziyech almost did it again almost immediately. This time the shot from an identical position was struck flat and with more power and Lloris dived right to save.

Not that Tottenham were to last much longer before being breached again. Just eight minutes.

It was the increase in the intensity of Chelsea’s play that Conte’s team could not cope with and when Eric Dier was penalised for a foul on Hudson-Odoi on the far side, Silva advanced between markers to head down, across and in from the edge of the six-yard box. It was Silva’s third such headed effort so Spurs could not say they hadn’t been warned.

After that it was all huff and puff. Chelsea had Tottenham where they wanted them for the third time in a matter of weeks and knew it. Kane brought a save from Kepa with a header but not even a consolation would come.

Chelsea won this game comfortably. The gap in quality between these teams remains.


Courtesy: Daily Mail UK


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