Willy Caballero speaks. “Of course we are happy. It’s a great result for us after the last game, and I think now we have to enjoy it, because every game for us is a lot of effort. We defended fantastically. Every victory is important, to be a little bit closer to Tottenham. We are behind a lot of teams but we will recover well. Always a clean sheet is a satisfaction. We spoke about what happened the other day, and the very good news is that Kepa was fantastic today, he supported me, and he learned, and we are improving as a team.”
A poetic cry from the heart, courtesy of Dom CFK. “I must admit being a Spurs fan from a Spurs family breeds an odd kind of gallows fatalism, even in these more gallant times, so I’ve been expecting not only wheels to come off, but gaskets to be blown and engine blocks to explode in spectacular fashion. Like Grace Jones, pick the motoring metaphor for being shafted you prefer. But curiously for a while I’ve been wrong.
“However, something about the run of Burnley (suddenly OK after big doldrums), Chelsea (an exploding clown car of a club every day bar today no doubt) and The Arse (what week is it? well who knows) made my gut feel zero points from nine. And, especially with recent talk of title races and ‘cup finals’, I think it’s on.
“All I needed to see on the MBM was Pedro’s (Pedro!) smiling face as the picture header for confirmation. Glad to see Trippier finally making a contribution this season by burying one in his own net.
“We will probably have a frightening squeak through the Champions League next round, but then it’s stutters, splutters and fifth to look forward to, with the last game of the season being played in a car park in Chigwell to confirm we’ve scraped into the Europa League.
That’s a great result for Chelsea, who were by far the better team in the second half and thoroughly deserved their win. A great evening for Maurizio Sarri and the faultless Willy Caballero, too. The crowd celebrate accordingly. They’re still in sixth place on 53 points, but have a game in hand on fifth-placed Manchester United (55) and fourth-placed Arsenal (56). Worryingly for Spurs, who started the week thinking about the title, they’re now nine points behind leaders Liverpool, eight behind Manchester City … and only four ahead of Arsenal. It’s going to be some north-London derby at the weekend!
FULL TIME: Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur
And that’s the final whistle! No big brawl this time, but Tottenham’s title hopes are now hanging by a very slender thread.
90 min +3: Kane prepares to take a throw and gets into a childish tussle with Luiz. Both are booked for their playground nonsense.
90 min +2: A throw for Chelsea down the right. Pedro links arms with Rose. He’s enjoying the tussle, laughing and smiling. Rose has a sense-of-humour failure and shoves him back. Not hard enough to warrant censure, but enough for the Chelsea crowd to give him a bit of stick.
90 min: There will be three added minutes. They can’t tick round quickly enough for Spurs, who just want to head back north.
89 min: It’s difficult to work out who was more at fault, Trippier or Lloris. Should the keeper have hared out to the edge of his box to receive the backpass? Or should Trippier have looked up to see where his keeper was upon making it? Questions, questions, as we said all the way back in the preamble.
87 min: Down the other end, Cabellero celebrated that second goal with great feeling. He’s done little wrong tonight. To think all eyes were on him at the start of the game, and now look what’s happened to poor Lloris.
86 min: “It’s happened again. Tottenham Hotspur, it’s happened again.” Chelsea fans sticking in the knife and twisting hard, as Tottenham’s title challenge crumbles in farcical circumstances.
GOAL! Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur (Trippier 84 og)
The ball’s launched long. Giroud flicks it on to nobody. Trippier, under no pressure whatsoever, just needs to roll the ball back to Lloris. But his keeper has sprinted out to the edge of the box. Trippier’s backpass rolls wide right of the keeper, and trundles comically into the unguarded net. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.
83 min: Eriksen’s weak shot sails wide right. Cabellero was behind it all the way.
82 min: Tottenham are threatening to lose the rag. Kane thinks about engaging with Rudiger, then Sissoko chest-barges Azpilicueta, who to be fair was getting up in his grille. They could do with keeping their heads as they look for the equaliser – and late winner – they’re so desperate for.
79 min: Trippier crosses from a deep position on the right. He’s looking for Kane, lurking near the right-hand post, but Azpilicueta is on hand to shepherd the ball back to Caballero.
76 min: Kante backs himself in a footrace with Alderweireld down the right, knocking the ball into space and then tearing after it. He just about wins it, then flicks it inside for Pedro, who in turn flicks down the inside-right channel. Higuain would have been clear on goal, but didn’t quite read Pedro’s intention and found himself in the wrong place, the ball bouncing harmlessly away from him. Would have been a cute move.
74 min: Trippier crosses again from the right. Llorente rises to compete, but Luiz slams a header clear.
73 min: Trippier crosses from the right. The ball finds Llorente, eight yards out, level with the right-hand post. It’ll be half a chance if he can take it down, but he lets the ball ping off his knee and out for a goal kick. Very poor.
72 min: Wide on the right, Pedro sends a speculative curler towards the top left. It’s not that far away. Willian then wins a corner on the opposite flank, though the resulting set piece is a waste of time. Chelsea are looking very comfortable right now. Spurs are doing nothing at all.
70 min: And that’s Lamela’s last contribution to the evening’s entertainment. He’s replaced by Llorente.
69 min: Spurs are looking very jittery at the moment. Sissoko has his pocket picked by Kovacic on the halfway line. Chelsea ping it around awhile. Lamela intercepts the ball, but then immediately falls over, skidding across the turf on his face. He even tries to smother the ball with his arms, in the hope of stopping Kante regaining possession, but can’t even achieve that. A slightly farcical episode.
67 min: Sissoko toils to earn a corner off Luiz out on the right. Alderweireld rises highest to meet the set piece, but under pressure from Alonso, can only eyebrow a weak header miles wide left.
65 min: This might not be Tottenham’s night. Davies crosses from the left. The ball’s dropping to Kane, on the left-hand corner of the six-yard box. It’s the sort of chance he slams home so often, but gets his body in the wrong shape and sends a soft volley squirting harmlessly left of goal.
63 min: Lamela and Son shuttle the ball into the Chelsea box from the right. Son slips a pass left for Eriksen, who drops a shoulder to make space to shoot. From nowhere, Pedro comes in from behind and strips Eriksen of possession with a stunning sliding tackle! Pedro then dribbles away from the danger zone. Sensational defensive work from the goalscorer!
62 min: Son threatens to dribble into the Chelsea box from the right, but he slows up and is quickly swarmed. Uncharacteristically ponderous play from Son.
60 min: Hazard, who has been quiet tonight, makes way for Willian.
59 min: Eriksen, mindful that Spurs need to do something if their title hopes are to stay alive, has a dig from distance. The shot bobbles harmlessly wide left.
GOAL! Chelsea 1-0 Tottenham Hostpur (Pedro 57)
Hazard, to the left of the centre circle, spreads play to the right for Azpilicueta, who shuttles it further down the wing for Pedro. Pedro dribbles hard into the area, drops a shoulder to nick past Alderweireld, and slams a shot towards the bottom right corner. The pace surprises Lloris at his near post, the ball flashing through his legs and in. On the touchline, Sarri celebrates with great feeling.
56 min: Spurs show in the Chelsea box for the first time in a while. Lamela dribbles down the inside left and chips into the centre, but Rudiger had taken the pace off the ball and it’s an easy claim for Caballero.
55 min: Hazard drives fast and hard down the middle of the park. He’s got options either side, so Davies does extremely well to intercept just before Hazard can decide what to do. Hazard wanted a foul, but the ref’s simply not responsive to that sort of request this evening, so he might as well be whistling Dixie.
53 min: Jorginho clips a cute pass down the inside-right channel to release Higuain, who sashays into the box, draws Lloris, and chips daintily over the keeper and into the net. But it won’t count; he went a split second too early, and the offside flag springs up. Lovely finish, though.
52 min: It’s gone scrappy again. Luiz was a bit unhappy when Lamela clipped him late, but there wasn’t much in it and he didn’t get the foul.
50 min: Hazard sends Kante scooting down the right with a fine crossfield ball. Azpilicueta is fed on the overlap. The resulting cross is too high for Hazard. Chelsea have seen plenty of the ball in Tottenham’s final third since half time, but it’s not quite firing for them at the business end.
48 min: Chelsea have been on the front foot since the restart. Pedro dribbles down the left now, and is only just stopped from getting a shot away by the toe of Alderweireld. The ball breaks to Alonso, whose low snapshot is deflected away from danger.
47 min: Alonso, still getting pelters, sprays a wonderful left-to-right pass towards Pedro, who dribbles into the area then lays off for Higuain. The striker crosses to the far post where there’s … nobody. The ball bobbles out apologetically for a goal kick. The crowd groan in unison.
46 min: No half-time changes, by the way. And it’s a fast start to the half as Higuain dribbles in from the left and pearls a shot from the edge of the box. Alderweireld blocks well.
Chelsea get the second half underway. With Manchester United and Arsenal both currently winning, 1-0 at Crystal Palace and 3-1 at home to Bournemouth respectively, the hosts will be desperate to keep up in the chase for fourth place. They’ll need to improve if they want all three points … but then again so do Spurs. “Something’s been missing,” agrees Matt Dony. “What this game needs is more Clattenburg.”
HALF TIME: Chelsea 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur
Both teams have hit the frame of the goal. It’s nearly kicked off once or twice. Other than that, it’s been a relatively quiet match so far by Chelsea-Tottenham standards. Plenty of time left yet.
45 min: Spurs have turned it up a notch. Son dribbles hard down the right, reaches the byline, and fizzes a low ball across the face of goal. Caballero fingertips it away from the lurking Kane. Chelsea eventually clear.
44 min: Winks, 25 yards out down the inside-right channel, sends a spectacular looping shot over the fully extended Caballero and off the crossbar! That wasn’t far from dropping into the top left … but had it been the necessary inch or two lower, the keeper probably had it covered. Though I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.
42 min: Kane takes matters into his own hands by driving in the old-fashioned style down the inside-left channel. He takes a whack from the edge of the box but his shot is deflected out by Azpilicueta. The resulting corner is played out to Davies by the left of the D; his cross clanks off his boot and out for a goal kick, nowhere near any player on the park.
41 min: This match began in very entertaining fashion. It’s now descended into low-quality nonsense. Two-pass moves are at a premium, and neither set of fans sound particularly happy about it. An awful lot of groaning going on.
39 min: Kovacic, out on the left, rolls a pass inside for Kante, who takes a shot from the best part of 30 yards. It flies harmlessly over the crossbar.