Chelsea triumph over Spurs in rollercoaster derby thriller
Premier League: Tottenham 2 Chelsea 4
Chelsea extended their lead at the top of the Premier League after triumphing over Tottenham in a thrilling, rollercoaster London derby at White Hart Lane.
The Blues led 1-0 at half-time through Gary Cahill but conceded twice in the space of 10 minutes after the break as William Gallas scored against his old club and Jermain Defoe netted his 200th club goal.
But Spurs were unable to hold onto their lead for long, and Juan Mata scored twice in four minutes to turn the match on its head again, while Daniel Sturridge came off the bench to hit a killer fourth goal in the 89th minute.
Roberto Di Matteo’s side remain unbeaten this season and are now seven points clear at the top – although their pursuers are yet to play this weekend.
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Meanwhile, Spurs’ encouraging sequence of four successive league victories has been ended as they missed the chance to claim second spot, however briefly.
Tottenham were handicapped by the loss of Gareth Bale, whose partner had gone into labour, and Mousa Dembele, who suffered a hip injury on international duty in midweek.
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The pair were replaced by Tom Huddlestone and Gylfi Sigurdsson, with Clint Dempsey moving to the left flank in place of Bale.
Andre Villas-Boas also faced a selection dilemma in goal and opted for Brad Friedel over Hugo Lloris, while Jermain Defoe was preferred to Emmanuel Adebayor up front.
Meanwhile, Chelsea captain John Terry started his four-match ban for racially abusing QPR’s Anton Ferdinand, with Cahill coming into the rearguard to partner David Luiz.
Spurs nearly made the perfect start as Sigurdsson chipped a clever free kick in to to Gallas, who had lost his defender but swung and missed as the ball dropped over the shoulder.
It was Chelsea who gained control of the game though, dominating the midfield and going close as Oscar whipped a 20-yard effort narrowly wide of the left-hand post.
The breakthrough came in the 17th minute from an Eden Hazard corner, with Gallas meeting the ball at the back post but heading it back into a dangerous area of the box – and Cahill thumped an unstoppable volley into the back of the net.
Tottenham nearly responded straight away, with Defoe forcing Petr Cech into a low save with a left-footed effort, and Luiz just reached the loose ball ahead of Dempsey.
However, that was a rare test for Cech and Roberto Di Matteo’s side continued to dominate the midfield, showing off their intricate passing while hassling and harrying a Spurs outfit who looked short of time, space and ideas.
The subdued Tottenham faithful already seemed to be fearing the worst, and Villas-Boas responded with a tactical change, switching the struggling Sigurdsson and Dempsey, with the American taking up the No10 station behind Defoe.
Sigurdsson nearly redeemed himself with an equaliser as Aaron Lennon’s cross dropped to him in the penalty area, but he dragged his effort wastefully wide.
At the other end, Chelsea nearly doubled their lead as Ramires evaded Sandro and teed up Mata. The initial shot was well saved by Friedel but the Spaniard was first to the rebound and seemed certain to score – only to blaze it over the bar.
Spurs rallied at the end of the half, winning a succession of set pieces and forcing the Blues into some brave flying blocks.
They almost equalised as Defoe created something from nothing, picking up the ball on the left flank and curling an audacious floating effort into the goalmouth, but Ashley Cole headed off the line to maintain Chelsea’s lead at the break.
It was a deserved lead, giving Villas-Boas plenty to do during the half-time interval – and whatever he said immediately did the trick as Spurs struck twice in 10 minutes.
Moments after the restart the Blues allowed Tom Huddlestone’s free kick to bounce in the box and, when Jan Vertonghen prodded it back across goal, Gallas was on hand to head home from point-blank range, redeeming himself after his earlier error.
The home crowd suddenly roared into life and the Tottenham players found another level. Sigurdsson volleyed into the ground from 10 yards and then cut infield and firing at Cech, while Vertonghen followed suit with a rasping 25-yard strike.
The turnaround was completed in the 55th minute as Lennon sent another effort towards goal and Defoe stole in to redirect the ball past Cech.
The lead lasted just 12 minutes though and Gallas was at fault again, directing Oscar’s low cross into the danger area of his own box – again – and Mata fired low into the bottom corner.
Incredibly, the Spaniard repeated the trick four minutes later, beating the offside trip and finished with aplomb to put the Blues back into the lead.
Villas-Boas introduced Adebayor and moved to a 4-4-2 formation, and the Togo international nearly had a rapid impact, flicking a header on to Sigurdsson, who volleyed over the bar.
The drama continued at both ends as Lennon tested Cech and Fernando Torres curled the ball wide of goal from a good position.
Kyle Walker was denied a late leveller by a superb low save from Cech – but the Spurs full-back then cost his side the killer fourth goal, losing the ball to Mata, who gave Sturridge a simple tap-in to secure the victory in north London.
Tottenham: Friedel, Walker, Gallas, Caulker, Vertonghen, Sandro, Huddlestone (Livermore 67), Lennon, Sigurdsson, Dempsey (Adebayor 74), Defoe
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Cole, Ramires, Mikel, Hazard (Lampard 90), Mata, Oscar (Sturridge 82), Torres