Before Chelsea’s visit to White Hart Lane yesterday, a Spurs fan tweeted Ashley Cole “welcome to hell”. Never one to let a keyboard warrior phase him, Cole contemptuously replied, “hell? I have more hell walking to my local chip shop.” It is this kind of testy animosity between Tottenham and Chelsea, their players and fans, that really adds spice to this London derby, meaning the fixture is rarely lacking in spectacle. Yesterday was no exception in a game that saw six goals and five yellow cards, with Chelsea the winners as they left the scornfully named “Three Point Lane” with, just that, for the first time since 2007.
The onus was on this young Chelsea side, without the suspended John Terry and rested vice-captain Frank Lampard, to show what they were made of. All eyes were on Gary Cahill and David Luiz, who, despite having both played for Chelsea in the CL final, hamstrung, and came out victorious, is still a centre-back partnership regarded with some trepidation for big ticket games like this. But Cahill answered those questions pretty emphatically with Chelsea’s first goal, a thumping volley following a poor clearance from the ex-Chelsea man William Gallas. Trying to head it out of the penalty area, the ball instead fell on Cahill’s right-foot for the defender to thump past Brad Friedel with the sweetest of strikes.
In our quiet Yorkshireman we have a more than capable potential captain to fill John Terry’s boots.
The Englishman now has four goals this season, more than any his other Chelsea defender. This achievement is all the more impressive if you consider that out of Terry, Luiz and Cahill, he is generally considered to be the third choice CB at Chelsea, and so far this season has played less than the other two. Terry was the hero of the rearguard action at White Hart Lane last season, when his last-ditch clearance from Adebayor salvaged a point for Chelsea, and it these kind of skills from Terry that Chelsea fans feared they’d be punished for missing against Spurs yesterday. And, indeed, Cahill and Luiz did not have flawless games; two minutes after the break, Gallas atoned for his error by scoring for Spurs when the entire Chelsea backline seemed to have temporarily dozed off.
But after that, and even after Spurs went ahead thanks to Defoe, Chelsea showed very impressive resolve to bring the game level, then score another, before sub Sturridge came on to seal the victory in style. There are several premier league fresh-faces in this team, and critics have often pointed out that they have only shown this much promise because so far the fixture list has been quite kind to Chelsea. But to come back from 2-1 down at hostile territory is no fluke; Chelsea yesterday exhibited the mental fortitude that got them through Camp Nou with a man disadvantage when they were two goals down. Gary Cahill, who Harry Redknapp had tried to bring to the Lane when he was the Spurs boss, was just as much to thank for their great comeback as any other Chelsea player. In our quiet Yorkshireman we have a more than capable potential captain to fill John Terry’s boots.
There were two other erstwhile Tottenham targets who played against them yesterday, and did so terrifically. Eden Hazard assisted two goals, including Mata’s second, where the two exhibited the same kind of telepathic bond that they did against Norwich two weeks ago, when Mata played assister and Hazard scored the goal. The Belgian’s all-round display was also impressive and his keenness to get stuck in with a challenge when required showed that contrary to the image of him pictured as a self-preening pretty boy, he can take one for the team.
Had Mata been playing for Spurs and not Chelsea yesterday, the scoreline would undoubtedly have looked very different
And then there was the only One that Matters, Juan Mata. The Spaniard scored the equalising and winning goals for Chelsea, before setting up Sturridge’s by doing a merry dance around the hapless Kyle Walker to cap off yet another Man of the Match winning performance (Arsenal, Nordsjaelland, Wolves, amongst others, the Spaniard has quite the hit rate). Mata was the jewel of Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs’ eyes, before he chose west London as his destination (aided by his compatriot Fernando Torres telling him to join, so, Torres isn’t completely useless in my books). His development under former manager Andre Villas-Boas was one of the few things that AVB did get right in his short spell at Chelsea, and this season, Mata has gone on to only better himself. Had Mata been playing for Spurs and not Chelsea yesterday, the scoreline would undoubtedly have looked very different.
As a sidenote, it is worth remarking that football is not a terribly fair world. If you were to look at the Domino Effect of John Terry racially abusing Anton Ferdinand last October, arguably, it was Tottenham who felt the effects the worst, not Chelsea. After all, Terry’s terrible choice of words led to his England captaincy being revoked for the second time, from which Capello resigned. Then Harry Redknapp’s head was turned, and Tottenham underperformed, finishing fourth when they should have finished third. As such, Chelsea got Champions League football instead of them from winning the competition. Had any of these things not happened, or had Didier Drogba not scored that penalty kick in Munich, it would be Spurs playing against Europe’s greatest, not Chelsea. Football, as with life, is not about justice.
Yesterday was a fabulous win – there are very few things this Chelsea fan loves more than beating Spurs on their home soil – and it established Chelsea for genuine title contenders. It also highlighted that, for all their spending follies in the past - £50 million for a misfiring striker, anyone? – Chelsea have had occasions of astuteness in the Transfer Window. Cahill was a snip at £7 million, and Hazard, whilst not cheap, is paying back his fee game by game. And Juan Mata, that twinkle-toed, furry winger, is worth every penny Chelsea spent on him.
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