Super-sub Kante helps Blues kill off Tottenham
Second half goals from Thiago Silva, Kante and Antonio Rudiger seal a 3-0 win for Chelsea over Spurs
Monday, 20th September 2021 — By Dan Carrier at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
CHELSEA 3 (Silva 49, Kante 57, Rudiger 90+2)
EARLY season optimism disappeared into the September evening as a professional Chelsea side upped their game and destroyed Tottenham with a second half three-goal blitz this afternoon (Sunday).
The gulf between Nuno Espirito Santo’s work-in-progress Spurs side and Thomas Tuchel’s Champions League winning Chelsea was all too apparent.
Tuchel responded to a strong start from the hosts by making a tactical tweak at half time. That the Chelsea manager could bring on the world class N’Golo Kante and completely alter the complexion of this game shows both the depth of his squad and his footballing nous.
Nuno had few such options: after falling behind early in the second period, the Tottenham boss had nothing like the quality on the bench required to change the match, and no practical game plan that offered any hope.
After a killer second went in with over half an hour to go, there was no sign of belief and no spirit to conjure.
Speaking after the match, Nuno tried to find some positives from what ended up being a torrid afternoon. He said: “They were different halves. The first, we played well. We pressed high, the attitude was good, and we created chances.
“We went into half time with positive energy to go again, because we did an amazing job. The next challenge it to try and sustain that through all the game.”
Nuno started with Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele for the first time this season, the pair looked like they had at best 45 minutes in their legs. But in the second half Kante outboxed and outfoxed them, and both were pulled from the fray long before the end.
Nuno can point to unfortunate goals that knocked the wind from his team. But it is how you respond to bad luck and adversity that matters. Today showed a worrying defeatism.
“We conceded a goal from a set piece, and that’s disappointing,” said Nuno. “We have to give credit to the opponent – but we weren’t able to play again and compete.”
A bright and entertaining start made the collapse all the more galling. Spurs hustled high up the pitch, and early on chances came and went for Heung-Min Son and Lo Celso.
Ndombele showed a maverick Gazza-like approach combined with strength that has made his inability to settle since joining the club all the more frustrating.
Chelsea were rattled. Opportunities came via swift passing but lacked the killer touch. Such a move just after the half-hour mark saw Ndombele slip a neat ball for Son to chase. Blues’ keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga raced off his line quick enough to block the effort.
Chelsea came out from the break with intent – and after winning their third corner in three minutes, Thiago Silva lost Dele Alli and guided a well-placed header past Hugo Lloris.
It got worse. On 50, Lo Celso dithered and Kante swung a boot. The Chelsea midfielder watched as Eric Dier’s heels sent his speculative effort onto the far post and in.
Heads dropped and belief drained. Lo Celso and Ndombele made way for Oliver Skipp and Bryan Gil – talented players, but two rookies in the grand scheme of things. It was a striking example of where Tottenham’s squad currently is.
Having Kante in reserve was like having a nuclear option on the bench. Tuchel had seen how Spurs were flooding the middle of the park and winning the second balls. Kante’s calmness, resolution and simplicity in approach had an immediate impact.
In stoppage time Antonio Rudiger made it a humiliating 3-0 when he tucked home from just inside the box. If Spurs deserved something from the first half stalemate, there can be few complaints by the final whistle over the size of Chelsea’s advantage.
Spurs: Lloris, Royal, Romero (Sanchez, 82), Dier, Reguilon, Hojbjerg, Ndombele (Skipp, 62), Alli, Lo Celso (Gil, 61), Son, Kane
Substitutes not used: Gollini, Doherty, Winks, Rodon, Davies, Scarlett
Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Christensen, Silva, Rudiger, Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso, Mount (Kante, 45), Havertz (Werner, 69), Lukaku
Substitutes not used: Bettinelli, Chalobah, Saul, Hudson-Odoi, Chilwell, Ziyech, James