Spurs top-four hopes dealt a blow by defeat at Chelsea
Mourinho bemoans injuries following 2-1 loss at Stamford Bridge
22 February, 2020 — By Paul Cowling at Stamford Bridge
CHELSEA 2 (Giroud 15, Alonso 48)
TOTTENHAM 1 (Lamela 89)
SPURS and Jose Mourinho had a day to forget as they were well beaten by Chelsea in the Saturday lunchtime kick off, despite the misleading score line.
It was another unhappy return for the one time Portuguese Prince of Stamford Bridge, who saw his side slip four points behind Chelsea in the race for a top four spot.
After the match, Mourinho said it was going to be a “tough three months” until the end of the season, and he was quick to bemoan injuries to Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min.
“We have zero strikers on the pitch and in the stands. But we have two strikers in the hospital,” reasoned a frustrated Mourinho.
“It is difficult for the players to do what they did, with the power that we have, but I have no complaints about my players out there on the pitch.
“I am proud of the boys today. They fought until the last minute,” added the Spurs boss.
Knowing a win would leapfrog Mourinho’s men over the Blues, the Spurs coach made three changes from Wednesday’s defeat to RB Leipzig in the Champions League.
In came Japhet Tanganga, Jan Vertonghen and Tanguy Ndombele, while Dele Alli – who stroppily slammed his boots down when benched in midweek – was relegated to the dug out.
Both team employed three at the back, with Spurs starting with Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura up front in the frustrating absence of Kane and Son.
“They (Moura and Bergwijn) are players not in their positions,” said Mourinho, when talking about the contribution of the front two pairing.
Moura drew the first save on 10 minutes from Willy Caballero in the home goal. But then a minute later, Hugo Lloris got down well to a Mason Mount effort at the other end.
Chelsea gradually took control, and they opened the scoring on 15 minutes with former Arsenal favourite Olivier Giroud firing home with an angled drive into the right hand side of the Spurs net.
As seems par for the course these days, the goal was referred to VAR, but any chance of a reprieve for Tottenham was quickly spat out.
How Spurs fans might have been wishing they had snapped up Giroud during the recent transfer window.
Chelsea are masters of taking the lead at home, and holding on to it.
The last time they lost after scoring first was when Spurs beat them at the Bridge in 2018, and that is still Tottenham’s only victory away to Chelsea in almost 30 years.
Caballero had to be alert on 35 minutes to paw over a goal-bound Davinson Sanchez header.
Two minutes later, Caballero showed his more calamitous side, when out of position he was caught out by Japhet Tanganga, but the ball ran away from the Tottenham youngster before he could slot into an unguarded net.
Instead, Spurs went in 1-0 down at half time, and with the chance for Mourinho to steady the ship. He just wasn’t able to.
Chelsea grabbed a second just after the restart when Marcos Alonso blasted home. Spurs were suddenly chasing shadows on a markedly chilly, overcast afternoon.
It should have got a whole lot worse for Spurs, but VAR thought Giovani Lo Celso’s follow through on Cesar Azpilicueta’s ankle was not worthy of a red card, when it looked like it was. Officials in Stockley Park later admitted a mistake had been made and Lo Celso should have been sent off.
Mourinho wouldn’t be drawn on the controversy, and merely said he hoped there would have been the “same noise” when decisions didn’t go Spurs’ way recently against Liverpool and Watford.
Tammy Abraham was an inch away from making it 3-0 when he came on as a late substitute, while an Alonso free kick thumped back off the crossbar.
A late goal by substitute Erik Lamela was only greeted by resigned and muted cheers in the Tottenham end: The Argentine’s shot-cum-cross taking a wicked deflection off Antonio Rudiger.
Four minutes of injury time went up, but this was no late smash and grab; just a bad day at the office for Spurs and a coach who seems to have suddenly picked up a lot of woes on his experienced shoulders.
“I would love to be in pre-season now. Be on July 1st and have Harry, Son and Sissoko back.” said Mourinho.
CHELSEA: Caballero; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; James; Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Barkley (Willian, 76); Mount; Giroud (Abraham, 70)
Substitutes not used: Keta, Zouma, Emerson, Gilmour, Loftus-Cheek
SPURS: Loris; Sanchez, Alderweireld (Aurier, 79), Vertonghen; Tanganga (Lamela, 62) Ndombele, Winks, Lo Celso, Davies; Bergwijn (Alli, 79), Lucas Moura
Substitutes not used: Gazzaniga, Dier, Gedson, Skipp