Belfast Telegraph

Chelsea's 25-year record safe and sound as Jose Mourinho's Blues defeat Tottenham

By Sam Wallace

The 25-year anniversary of Tottenham Hotspur's wait for a victory at Stamford Bridge will pass in February, a run that began as an historical oddity but has become entrenched in the last decade as one has turned into a modern European super-club and the other remained a plain old club.

The gulf will rarely have been better expressed than last night when, in a four-minute first half burst that followed an excellent start to the game by Spurs, Eden Hazard and then Didier Drogba struck and the weight of history bore down on the away side.

This was what genuine league title contenders do, and when the surge came from Chelsea there was nothing that Mauricio Pochettino's team could do about it.

In their current form, it is not enough simply to be good if you hope to tame Chelsea at Stamford Bridge; you have to be outstanding.

Spurs let the home side in for the first goal after 19 minutes - sloppy defending by Aaron Lennon down the right - and then calamitous goalkeeping from Hugo Lloris for the second, and the game was up.

There were 22 minutes gone and Spurs were already coming to terms with the reality that they were not going to win at Stamford Bridge, again.

For the rest of the game, Spurs never so much resembled the proverbial younger brother locked in futile, determined pursuit of his older sibling - little legs propelling him on but the gap just getting wider and wider.

Substitute Loïc Rémy displaced any doubt in Spurs' minds that something could be salvaged from the tie with a third goal on 74 minutes which, in the course of scoring, he ruthlessly shrugged Jan Vertonghen to the floor.

There were some crumbs of comfort for Pochettino, not least the sheer bloody-mindedness of Harry Kane who refused to give up, watched from the stands by the England manager Roy Hodgson.

Otherwise there were mismatches all over the pitch, especially at right-back where Vlad Chiriches was co-opted to play against Hazard and did his very best.

In Chelsea's defence, there was little to be concerned about, a bright early start from Spurs aside, even when Gary Cahill had to go off at half-time - what looked like a precaution following a clash of heads with Vertonghen. Kurt Zouma replaced him and the door was once again locked tight, with Jose Mourinho able to give Cesc Fabregas the last 15 minutes of the game off.

They did not even miss the suspended Diego Costa, who will be back for Saturday's visit to Newcastle United.

Not so Nemanja Matic whose booking for a foul on Kane means he will miss that game and there must also be a doubt over Cahill.

Mourinho's team lost at St James' Park last season and he will not wish to cede any ground to Manchester City.

For the first 19 minutes, it might well have been Spurs' best start to an away game at Stamford Bridge in living memory, a well-coordinated, no-holds-barred full court press that had the league leaders rocked back on their heels.

That they were two goals down within 22 minutes was an unfortunate detail that rather spoiled the big picture for Pochettino's team.

In those moments Kane, the hurricane, was a constant problem for Chelsea's defence, not least Cahill who he assiduously hassled and pressured on 11 minutes, pinching the ball away and running on goal. His left foot shot missed the far post by inches, but was not quite as close as an earlier header that clipped Thibaut Courtois' bar.

On 19 minutes, though, Spurs were treated to the kind of ruthlessness that better, more successful, teams have in reserve for moments of high pressure. Branislav Ivanovic picked out Hazard on the left with a marvellous cross-field ball and the Belgian turned inside past Lennon to find Drogba in the area. Hazard took the return pass and beat Lloris at his near post.

It got worse three minutes later when Lloris's woefully miscued clearance dropped straight to Hazard and from there the ball was moved quickly on to Oscar and to Drogba, whose run had caught the Spurs defence square. Lloris was beaten for the second time in three minutes, Drogba's second league goal of his second spell at the club.

The fight seeped out of Spurs in the second half and Rémy struck on 73 minutes as Chelsea stayed in the old routine.

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