Chelsea stretched their record streak of league wins to 11, by defeating a spirited Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge. Though threatening in a lively opening, Spurs were ultimately outclassed, goals from Ashley Cole, Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba sealing an emphatic victory.
Ancelotti recalled Jose Bosingwa and Didier Drogba after missing the midweek win against Porto through suspension, with Branislav Ivanovic and the infuriatingly inconsistent Salomon Kalou dropping to the bench. The bench had a youthful look about it, with Sam Hutchinson and Fabio Borini taking their places.
Harry Redknapp made just once change to his side, with Jermaine Jenas replacing Peter Crouch. Happily, Carlo Cudicini was selected for the fifth straight match in goal and got a deservedly passionate ovation from the fans when he was presented with an award prior to kickoff, in honour of his 216 sterling appearances for Chelsea. Always a blue.
The opening twenty minutes was fabulously fast paced and high on entertainment. Tottenham refused to sit back and in a welcome change from regular visiting side policy, looked to sting Chelsea early.
After Bosingwa’s long range missile struck the woodwork, Cech was forced into two smart saves in quick succession. The first, with his legs, denied the lethal looking Jermain Defoe, whilst the second was a reaction stop to deny a stinging effort from Tom Huddlestone. Then, Jenas struck a shot well from the edge of the box but with Cech scrambling and perhaps beaten, it flew wide of the post.
Then ensued a ten minute lull, punctuated by the odd burst forward from the resoundingly impressive Bosingwa. However, there’s nothing quite like a goal to bring a game (back) to life, and so it proved in the 31st minute. Bosingwa’s run opened up space on the right, allowing Didier Drogba to cross to the back post, where Ashley Cole finished with a neat diving header. So often the provider of such crosses, it was just his fourth goal for Chelsea and being an ex-Gunner, it was made all the sweeter.
It could, and probably should have been 2-0 immediately after the interval. Drogba, menacing all day, broke down the left before pulling the ball back to Lampard who to the surprise of most, sidefooted wide. During this attack, Ledley King pulled up with a hamstring injury and was substituted, Hutton coming on and playing right back, Corluka moving to centre half.
54 minutes in came the most contentious moment of the match so far. Keane raced into the area, before seemingly being tripped by the backtracking Carvalho. Keane however, delayed his fall, enough to allow referee Howard Webb to assume simulation, thought he didn’t book the forward. Spurs fans were further incensed when Chelsea doubled their lead just three minutes later.
A cross from the right found Drogba, whose right footed strike was well saved by the excellent Cudicini. However, Lampard somehow kept the ball in play and turned it back towards goal where Michael Ballack was on hand to steer it home, to his obvious delight. He was substituted a few moments later with an injury though, to be replaced by Mikel.
A minute later and it was three, and game over. Ashley Cole’s ball forward was beautifully brought down by Drogba, who out paced, out muscled and out smarted the hapless Corluka, before rounding the unlucky Cudicini. His goal sent Stamford Bridge into raptures and sealed the result that saw us move back to the top of the table.
Chelsea could have had a penalty when Assou-Ekotto handballed when defending a Lampard free kick in the wall, honours even in that respect. Defoe was replaced by Crouch, who looked threatening, whilst Mikel saw a fierce volley turned around the post by Cudicini, who did well to react after the initial strike went through him and appeared to be going in. He leapt backwards and dragged the ball sideways and out, much to his own relief.
Bassong suffered a serious looking head injury and was replaced, leaving Spurs with no fit centre halves. Drogba too was stretchered off, to be replaced by Kalou. The substitute striker went on to force two good saves from Cudicini, one at his near post, the other with his legs. Finally, Nicolas Anelka was replaced just before the commencement of the eight minutes of stoppage time, Fabio Borini coming on to make his debut at just 18 years of age. Peter Crouch has a goal correctly ruled out for offside, as the last few minutes are played out in relative comfort.
A crushing derby win for Chelsea means we can now turn our attention to another derby, this time in the League Cup in midweek. Our opponents are Queens Park Rangers, and they’ll be coming up against a Blues side in clinical form, and one that could welcome back Yuri Zhirkov, Paulo Ferreira and Joe Cole after long absences through injury. 3-0 though, at home to Tottenham, and normal service is resumed after the international break.
Chelsea (4-3-2-1): Cech; Bosingwa, Carvalho, Terry (c), A Cole; Essien, Ballack (Mikel 61), Malouda; Lampard, Anelka (Borini 89); Drogba (Kalou 84).
Manager Carlo Ancelotti.
Tottenham (4-3-2-1): Cudicini; Corluka, King (Hutton 47), Bassong (Kranjcar 81), Assou-Ekotto; Palacios, Huddlestone, Jenas; Lennon, Keane (c); Defoe (Crouch 66).
Manager Harry Redknapp.
Referee Howard Webb.