The student has become the master. In Sunday’s London derby between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, Blues manager Frank Lampard showed his tactical chops by thoroughly out-coaching Jose Mourinho of Spurs, winning the first Premier League meeting with his longtime mentor on the strength of Willian’s two first-half goals.
Here are three quick thoughts on a match that was marred by despicable racist abuse of Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger by some Spurs fans in the in the second half.
A deserved win for Frank Lampard and Chelsea
The visitors came into Sunday’s contest having lost four of their last five matches in the Prem. But you wouldn’t have known it based on the way the Blues started this one. Chelsea was by far the better team, Lampard’s young and dynamic dominating the play and the ball as they pinned the hosts back from the opening whistle.
Lampard’s high-energy game plan clearly made Tottenham uncomfortable. It took less than 12 minutes for Chelsea to capitalize. Brazilian midfielder Willian — who hadn’t scored against Spurs in 11 previous outings — played a short give-and go with Mateo Kovacic off a corner kick, skinned Spurs defender Serge Aurier and drove a powerful left-footed shot inside Paulo Gazzaniga’s far post to give Lampard and Co. a deserved lead:
Chelsea didn’t let up after the opener. But just when it was beginning to look as though Spurs might get into the dressing room at halftime trailing by just the single goal, the visitors doubled their advantage following a mistake by Gazzaniga, who continues to spell injured starter Hugo Lloris.
Referee Anthony Taylor initially called a foul on Blues wing back Marcos Alonso, but video replays clearly showed that Gazzaniga missed the ball and clattered into Alonso on an attempted clearance. Sure enough, VAR determined it was a penalty and Taylor reversed his decision and pointed to the spot. Willian made no mistake, with a visibly frustrated Mourinho descending down the tunnel before the ball had settled into the net:
Mourinho inserted Christian Eriksen off the bench to start the second half. But any impact that Eriksen might have had went out the window when Spurs attacker Son Heung-min was sent off for kicking out at Antonio Rudiger with just under a half-hour to play. It was the second time VAR had punished the hosts on the day. But while the decision might have been harsh, a different one almost certainly wouldn’t have changed the outcome or prevented Lampard from picking up the most impressive result of his young coaching career.
A disgraceful showing from Tottenham’s supporters
Following the red card to Son, Chelsea right back Rudiger was racially abused by the home fans, leading to three separate in-stadium announcements admonishing their behavior — believed to be a first in the English top-flight. A object thrown from the stands also narrowly missed Blues keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga. A few idiots and all that, but certainly not Spurs supporters’ finest hour. Here’s hoping the perpetrators are identified and punished accordingly.
Meantime, Spurs players and Mourinho won’t have much time to lick their wounds. With the busy festive period now officially in full swing, Tottenham faces two more matches (against Brighton and Norwich) in a 48-hour span later this week before traveling to Southhampton on New Year’s day.
As much as losing to his former team, at home, won’t sit will with the Portuguese manager, he has no choice but to move on quickly. Tottenham has steadily climbed the table since Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino last month. It’s next three games are winnable
Christian Pulisic’s run of consecutive Chelsea starts ends at 12
For the first time in a long time, Pulisic’s name wasn’t on Lampard’s lineup sheet. After beginning the season as a starter following his $73 million transfer from German Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, the American lost his spot in September. He forced his way back into Lampard’s preferred 11 in October, though, and was in red-hot form through most of the fall.
Pulisic continued to play well into December. But goals and assists are expected from the 21-year-old, and after five games (including a Champions League group stage win over Lille) without either, he was back on the bench.
U.S. fans need not worry. Lampard’s low-block defensive scheme at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium probably contributed to Pulisic being sacrificed, and squad rotation is a fact of life at any elite European club. With Prem matches against Southampton, Arsenal and Brighton plus an FA Cup tilt versus Nottingham Forest scheduled over the next 14 days, Pulisic will get his next shot at another run of starts soon enough.