The media had already made a meal out of today’s match before a ball had even been kicked, but thank goodness the football served up a right treat, as Chelsea won at White Hart Lane for the first time for over seven years.
It was the sort of match where expectations were high. Returning from an international break, fans were eager to witness some club football again. John Terry’s racism saga continued throughout the week, and people pre-match did seem more interested in that.
So too because this was the first time Andre Villas-Boas faced his former side, who so brutally fired him after eight months as Chelsea’s manager. If he was expecting a nice welcoming, he was in for a nasty surprise: “What’s the score Andre?” was the regular chant, as the West Londoners couldn’t resist a little snipe at their London rivals.
But even though not Chelsea extend their lead at the top of the table after their early afternoon’s match, it was surely not as comfortable as the scoreline infers.
Tottenham had their lion’s share of possession and shots, testing Petr Cech 24 times, but with the help of the excellent Gary Cahill, Tottenham were just reduced to just the two goals.
If the Chelsea fans were giving him grief, Roberto Di Matteo at least showed some appreciation to his former colleague, warmly embracing the Portuguese, for the cameras if nothing else.
But once the whistle blew for the kick-off, football was the number one attraction.
The Champions League Final duo of Cahill and Luiz were more than competent to break up Tottenham attacks, as was the tidy Mikel-Ramires holding combination.
Chelsea’s very own Three Musketeers were once again Hazard, Mata and Oscar, and it was the latter playmaker who had the first half-chance, hitting wide from range.
If Chelsea had adequate creativity, they were perhaps also handed a favour by their opponents, whose No.11 Gareth Bale had to be beside his wife, who went into labour.
It was Drogba who tormented former Blues man William Gallas on these side’s last visits, but with the Ivorian gone, it was down to Fernando Torres, who found it difficult to get the better of the Frenchman.
At least someone else did, in the form of Gary Cahill. Often frustrated by losing his spot in the first-team for his club, and also with Jagielka preferred to him for his country, the former Bolton defender took his anger out on the ball for the first goal, lashing home after Gallas couldn’t clear, as he broke the deadline inside 20 minutes.
Chelsea under AVB tended to capitulate after being penetrated, but his Tottenham side looked resolute and had character to fight back from 1-0 down. Defoe had his chances, and the pacy Lennon was causing problems for the Chelsea rearguard.
Despite chances for the Blues to double their lead, it was the North London club who upped their game — and turned it right on its head — at the start of the second half.
Gallas made amends by equalising, though there was a hint of suspicion about the goal, which appeared to come off his hand last.
Defoe then sent the home crowd into dreamland with a smart finish to Cech’s next post, as the goalkeeper was caught out with the speed of the ball.
But the shaky fifteen minutes was settled when Juan Mata equalised for the European Champions. The diminutive Spaniard fails to gain the full credit he deserves; perhaps he does score too few goals, but he went well on his way to putting it straight, with a pin-point daisy-cutter.
Two became three for Chelsea very soon after, as Mata put Chelsea into the lead once again. Slow play saw Mikel pass to Hazard, who’s first-time, left-footed sweep to Juan Mata was perfectly controlled, and the Spaniard fired past Friedel: a wonderful, beautiful goal.
As Tottenham searched in vain for an equaliser, Chelsea had another chance to rub salt into their wounds. Kyle Walker ran out of grass to play with, and Juan Mata dispossessed him, before laying the ball on a plate to Daniel Sturridge, who couldn’t miss the tap-in.
Another six-goal thriller between the sides, and again, Chelsea are the victors of a truly pulsating game.