Wednesday 18 September 2019

Sarri bemoans problems as Spurs end Chelsea's run

Tottenham Hotspur 3 Chelsea 1

Serge Aurier celebrates with Harry Kane after scoring his side’s second goal against Chelsea yesterday. Photo: Frank Augstein/AP
Serge Aurier celebrates with Harry Kane after scoring his side’s second goal against Chelsea yesterday. Photo: Frank Augstein/AP

David Hytner

Maurizio Sarri has regularly offered the impression that his Chelsea work in progress has been ahead of schedule. Do not get carried away, the manager has warned, there are many improvements to be made. And as for the Premier League title, well, do not look beyond Manchester City.

Chelsea have been due a defeat but, when it came here against a rampant Tottenham team, who have had their share of difficulties during a strange season, it felt as though everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong; that all of Sarri's worst fears crystalised at the same moment.

Kepa Arrizabalaga of Chelsea can't stop a header from Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur hitting the back of the net. Photo: Getty
Kepa Arrizabalaga of Chelsea can't stop a header from Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur hitting the back of the net. Photo: Getty

Afterwards, the Chelsea boss revealed that he believed this was a result waiting to happen. The Italian said: "I knew very well we had some problems. Today we have seen that.

"We have to work and have to improve. We were against a very strong team, especially when they can go in counter attacks. We lost a lot of balls in our half, and it was a very big problem."

The Italian had warned of the cost of a slow start. He said: "It was clear in the past two or three games we had a problem in the beginning of the match, today, the difference was the opponent.

"Technically it was the same [performance], but tactically it was a big problem, and we have to work for reactions."

Heung-Min Son of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates after scoring his team's third goal. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images
Heung-Min Son of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates after scoring his team's third goal. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

His team indeed started dreadfully and their day did not get any better, as their unbeaten record folded. It was impossible to give any Chelsea player more than five out of 10 - apart from Eden Hazard, possibly - and their woes were summed up by David Luiz's non-challenge on Son Heung-min ahead of Spurs' third goal.

Chelsea were 2-0 down after 16 minutes and the damage could have been heavier. Antonio Rüdiger was beaten on more than one occasion for pace, Luiz did not have any sort of bearings, Mateo Kovacic laboured, and seasoned Chelsea observers could not remember César Azpilicueta looking this rattled.

Then there was Kepa Arrizabalaga; the goalkeeper's error for the second goal was inexplicable. He had already got his fingertips to Dele Alli's header only to fail to keep the ball out and, when Harry Kane took aim from distance, having picked up possession and sauntered forward under no challenge, the danger appeared to be minimal. Kane's connection was not exactly sweet.

Yet almost in slow motion, Luiz turned his back on the ball, appearing simply to leave it, and Kepa did likewise. At first, it seemed as if Kane's low shot must have deflected off Luiz. It did not. The ball bounced and skimmed, almost apologetically, into the net.

Pochettino had started with Alli at the tip of a diamond midfield, behind twin strikers in Kane and Son Heung-min, and the approach worked beautifully.

Alli found the breakthrough, though, from a free-kick, which was whipped in viciously by Christian Eriksen. Alli got in between Kovacic and Jorginho too easily and the attacking midfielder was free to celebrate his sixth goal in five games against Chelsea.

Hazard ought to have had a penalty on 14 minutes when Juan Foyth went into him from behind - a rash decision the youngster got away with - but the Chelsea winger went down too easily on 45 minutes to deserve one, following Moussa Sissoko's challenge.

Apart from that, it was all Tottenham. Son lifted a half-volley high, after a lovely one-two with Eriksen, and the South Korean was also denied by Kepa after beating Rüdiger. Kepa did well to keep out Toby Alderweireld's flick - Foyth was narrowly wide with the rebound - and Son curled another effort over, before being thwarted by the goalkeeper after good work by Alli and Eriksen. Chelsea needed the smelling salts.

Their defensive record away from home in the league under Sarri had been impressive. Prior to this game, they had conceded only once. At half-time, that had felt like a mirage and it looked even more ridiculous when the third went in.

Once again, Spurs' pace and incision contrasted with Chelsea's sluggishness as Alli funnelled a pass up the inside-right channel and Son tore away from Jorginho. Luiz misjudged the situation terribly, overcommitting himself, and he was last seen heading towards Wembley Park tube station. Son continued his cut inside, held off Jorginho and finished low into the far corner.

Sarri responded by hooking Álvaro Morata as well as Kovacic and Willian. Willian had gone close on 53 minutes but the only remaining question was how many more Spurs would score. Kane blew a gilt-edged chance, Alli was narrowly off target and it felt almost incongruous to see substitute Olivier Giroud head the most hollow of consolations.

Observer

 

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