Chelsea’s victory over Tottenham this evening saw Frank Lampard completely outshine counterpart Jose Mourinho, when it mattered most.
Willian decides it
The capital rivals went head-to-head at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium a short time ago, in a crunch matchup in the Premier League’s top-4 race.
Chelsea headed into proceedings occupying the final of the English top-flight’s Champions League berths.
What was once a healthy advantage for the Blues over the chasing pack, though, had evaporated over recent weeks.
Ahead of kick-off this evening, Lampard’s men sat just a point clear of 5th-placed Sheffield United, having fallen to defeat in 4 of their last 5 league outings.
Tottenham, on the other hand, had enjoyed a major upturn in form since Jose Mourinho’s appointment late last month.
On the back of 4 victories from 5 in the Premier League, the Lilywhites had catapulted themselves back into the top-4 picture.
In fact, before this evening’s proceedings got underway in north London, Spurs were aware that a victory would have seen them leapfrog Chelsea on goal difference.
When the 90 minutes were said and done, however, form went completely out the window.
A superb display from visitors Chelsea eventually saw the Pensioners clinch all 3 points, courtesy of a 2-0 win.
Willian bagged both the goals for the away side, during a dominant first-half on Chelsea’s part.
The Brazilian’s first saw him cut inside from the left following a short corner, before bending a wicked finish beyond the helpless Paulo Gazzaniga.
Willian then went on to round out the evening’s scoring on the stroke of half-time.
After Gazzaniga had needlessly upended Marcos Alonso in the Tottenham box, Willian stepped up to take responsibility of the ensuing spot-kick, smashing home to round out a match-winning performance.
Lampard outfoxes Mourinho
While, as outlined above, Chelsea’s 3-point haul came on the back of a fine showing on the part of the Blues, it also must be highlighted that Spurs, particularly during the opening 45 minutes, looked an absolute shell of the explosive side that fans of the club have become accustomed to of late.
Along with looking as though they simply didn’t want the win as badly as Chelsea, the hosts appeared utterly lost over lengthy stretches this evening.
And this, for the most-part, must be pinned on the shoulders of Jose Mourinho.
The Portuguese tactician opted for a starting XI featuring star attacking quartet Dele Alli, Lucas Moura, Son Heung-min and Harry Kane, backed by a midfield pairing of Eric Dier and Moussa Sissoko.
This setup, though, frankly proved a disaster, eventually costing Tottenham the game.
Chelsea’s high press saw the duo of Dier and Sissoko, particularly the former, rendered completely ineffective, as the north Londoners’ lack of a player who could get his foot on the ball to link defence to attack allowed the visitors to easily control the tempo and flow of the game.
Only once Dier had been hauled off for Christian Eriksen at the interval did Spurs manage to establish a foothold in the clash, though Son’s needless dismissal just past the hour-mark eventually killed off any chances off a comeback.
Serge Aurier also proved a disaster defensively, with Juan Foyth perhaps a better option for Mourinho in games where his side could face long spells behind the ball.
Frank Lampard, on the other hand, got both his tactics and starting XI spot on this evening.
The Chelsea boss surprised many with his choice of line-up, opting for a trio of central-defenders, flanked by Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso.
This setup, though, allowed the home side to largely mask the defensive shortcomings of the latter, with the presence of both he and the superb Willian down the Blues’ left having nullified the attacking influence of Serge Aurier.
In addition, Lampard evidently targeted Tottenham’s shaky right-full from the off, a tactic which paid off in full when Aurier’s mistake handed Chelsea a corner, from which Willian skinned the Ivorian to open the game’s scoring.
CHELSEA STRIKE FIRST BLOOD 🔵
What a strike from Willian!
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 22, 2019
Elsewhere, the dovetailing midfield trio of N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Mason Mount worked to perfection, with English international Mount in particular having absolutely thrived in a free role of sorts.
As mentioned above, though, it was Chelsea’s high-press during the first-half which eventually proved the key to their crucial victory this evening.
Taking full advantage of the lack of a deep-lying playmaker of the ilk of a Harry Winks or even Christian Eriksen in Spurs’ starting XI, the Pensioners forced their hosts into turning the ball over time-and-time again.
This saw Tottenham’s defenders forced to go long as the half wore on, but the powerful defensive trio of Antonio Rudiger, Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori were on hand each and every time to pin the home side back in.
It was a truly masterful game-plan on the part of Frank Lampard, executed to perfection by his players, with Jose Mourinho left to lick his wounds after being thoroughly out-thought by his former midfield star.
3 – Chelsea have won three consecutive games against Spurs across all competitions for the first time since January 2008 – current Spurs boss José Mourinho oversaw two of the three wins in that previous run (2-1 in March 2007 and 1-0 in April 2007). Deserved. #TOTCHE pic.twitter.com/Q0tR5jQWuV
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 22, 2019