Samuel Eto'o comes of age as Chelsea rout 10-man Spurs
Published 08/03/2014 | 19:46
Samuel Eto'o came of age and substitute Demba Ba scored twice as Jose Mourinho's Chelsea beat Tottenham 4-0 to move seven points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
Cameroon striker Eto'o, whose age was questioned recently in unguarded comments made by Mourinho, celebrates his 33rd birthday on Monday and stood crooked at the corner flag, as if using it as an old man's stick, following his goal.
Demba Ba, another much-derided Chelsea striker, then scored twice in his late cameo after replacing Eto'o.
The victory extended Mourinho's unbeaten Premier League home record to 75 games and took Chelsea seven points clear of Arsenal and Liverpool and nine ahead of Manchester City, the Portuguese's title favourites.
Eto'o was a late inclusion after Fernando Torres withdrew following the warm-up and broke the deadlock after after being gifted the ball by a hapless Jan Vertonghen before he was fouled by Younes Kaboul for a spot-kick four minutes later which appeared soft.
The France defender was shown a straight red card for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity and Eden Hazard sent Hugo Lloris the wrong way with Chelsea's second goal in five minutes before Ba's late double added to Spurs' humiliation.
Tottenham travelled across London with the Premier League's best away record, but now have successive defeats on the road following the losses at Norwich and Chelsea, where they were unable to convert their first-half pressure into clear chances.
Spurs, whose wait for a first win at Stamford Bridge since February 1990 goes on, are now four points behind fourth-placed City and five ahead of Manchester United and Everton, who have games in hand.
Mourinho does not consider the table to be accurate as the opposing teams are still to play the same number of games as his side, but he must be pleased to have points in the bank with nine games remaining.
Clearly fearing the worst, a "gob smacked" Gary Lineker, who scored in Spurs' most recent win at Chelsea 24 years ago, questioned whether the visiting "players (had) taken a lucky dip for their positions" as Kyle Walker was fielded in midfield in a side showing five changes.
Chelsea had made one change following the win at Fulham - Frank Lampard replacing Oscar - but Torres' late blow brought in Eto'o, who was caught narrowly offside in the opening minute.
Three minutes later the Cameroon striker was found by Andre Schurrle and played the ball on to Hazard, who rounded Hugo Lloris but fired into the side-netting with the goal empty.
It was a glorious opportunity and a surprising miss for a player enjoying a scintillating season.
Tottenham had chances too.
Nabil Bentaleb found himself through on goal in the left channel following Emmanuel Adebayor's header down, but the Algerian midfielder snatched at his shot, with his team-mates queuing up.
Greater conviction, one way or the other, would likely have seen Spurs take the lead.
Petr Cech had to be alert when Gary Cahill's clearance went only as far as Sandro, whose volley was well saved.
Spurs were having the better of the action, but Chelsea lurked menacingly for their chance.
A loose Bentaleb pass presented Eto'o with the ball, but the striker was forced wide by a combination of the midfielder and Kaboul and shot into the side-netting.
Oscar replaced Lampard at the interval and Chelsea's reshuffled midfield left Vertonghen in space, but his attempted lob never troubled Cech.
Kaboul headed straight at Cech from Gylfi Sigurdsson's corner and Schurrle twice had tame efforts at the other end before pressurising Vertonghen into a blind panic.
The Belgian slipped and, from the ground, returned the ball hopefully and centrally before watching on helplessly as Eto'o nipped in to find the bottom corner.
Moments later it was two when Hazard's cross behind the Spurs defence found Eto'o and Kaboul was adjudged to have tripped the striker, who tumbled to the turf.
Referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot, then reached for his pocket to dismiss Kaboul.
Hazard sent Lloris the wrong way to give Chelsea a two-goal advantage with 30 minutes remaining.
The Belgium forward tried to tee up Eto'o in the 75th minute, but the pass was short and the striker was then replaced by Ba.
Oscar snatched at a shot when played in by fellow substitute Willian before Ba benefited from more hapless Spurs defending.
Sandro, who dropped into centre-back following Kaboul's departure, was unable to deal with Oscar's cross and Ba tucked in.
Another followed when Lloris' clearance kick looped into the air and Walker inexplicably headed backwards towards the goalkeeper.
Ba intercepted the ball before passing into an empty net.