A controversial penalty from Harry Kane in the 26th minute turned out to be the difference between the two sides, who meet again on 22 January at Stamford Bridge to battle it out for the final spot. Remember, the away goal rule doesn’t stand here.
The Blues were fairly dominant for larger parts of the game, having registered around 17 shots on opposition goal. The hosts did have their chances as well, but a slice of fortune and the lack of a killer’s instinct from Chelsea spared their blushes.
While one could blame the VAR decision, they can simply not ignore the chances Chelsea spilt.
Hence, without further delay, let’s analyse the five major talking points from the blockbuster London derby between Spurs and Chelsea.
#1 The game was open as both sides looked to play on the front foot
Right from the outset, Callum Hudson-Odoi sparkled into life and turned on the heat map down the right flank. However, it was Son who got in behind Andreas Christensen and fortunately for the latter, both went to ground and nothing was given.
Just a couple of minutes later, on the back of a fruitful exchange between Trippier and Son, Kane found himself with a chance and he attempted a bicycle kick, but his audacious effort didn’t reap the expected reward.
Hudson-Odoi then received a switched pass, took on Danny Rose and launched one straight at Paulo Gazzaniga. Moments later, Barkley spurned a golden chance from a corner.
Eden Hazard got into the act as well, wriggling past a couple of challenges and fizzing one at the Spurs goalkeeper.
#2 Chelsea nullify the Son threat but Harry Kane steps up from the spot
As the game wore on, the Chelsea back line nullified the threat posed by Son, who had got in behind the defence on two occasions. He tried to set free, but lack of touches on the ball locked his full potential.
However, just when it looked like the Blues would capitalize on possession, Harry Kane was played in on goal. Chelsea’s sweeper-keeper Kepa came rushing and crashed the striker to the floor.
Although the referee had no doubts over the penalty call, he refused to point to the spot because his assistant had the flag up. VAR then intervened, and you know what happened next.
Kane stepped up and slotted home the opener. Kepa went the right way but couldn’t keep out the venom in the strike. This remains the biggest talking point of the fixture.
#3 The second half completely goes to Chelsea
The Blues created chance after chance in the second half, and moreover, established a major foothold on the game. They took the occasion by the scruff of the neck but failed to find the back of the net.
From Hazard‘s freedom to choose either flank, Willian’s vision to Hudson-Odoi’s explosive style, it all had Spurs on the back foot.
In the 55th minute, the evergreen N’Golo Kante found space down the right and attempted the spectacular curling shot from 25 yards and drew a save off the top drawer from Gazzaniga.
Four minutes on, Christensen should have restored parity. He found acres of space off a corner but directed his shot just wide.
By then, the hosts had committed all bodies back, with the hope of doubling the lead through a counter-attack. Hazard had the final effort of the game in the 87th minute or so when he flashed one past Gazzaniga but saw his effort saved.
#4 What must Sarri do next?
A host of injuries to his players, two losses at Wembley and no security of a top 4 place summed up Sarri‘s Christmas, as after a remarkable start to life at Stamford Bridge, the Italian mastermind has undergone a barren spell of sorts. But, he’s got no time to look back. It’s Newcastle up next for Chelsea, followed by a trip to Arsenal, before the second leg.
Looking at his side’s fluency in front of goal against the Lilywhites, there’s no denying that they can turn the tables and churn out a result at Stamford Bridge, but what has the manager got to do now?
In terms of his game plan and tactics, the players are slowly but steadily, understanding his expansive brand of football. Although the goals have dried up to a notable extent in recent games, there’s no doubt over the attacking prowess of the side.
What needs to be altered is the team selection. Eden Hazard, who was expected to be given some rest against Forest, ended up playing over 40 minutes. He again started this game. So it would be fine to hand him a 30-minute cameo against a struggling Newcastle side and depend on Pedro, Willian, Giroud and Hudson-Odoi.
Hazard should get some much-needed rest in order to enter the Emirates pitch with fresh legs.
#5 VAR drama unfolds against Chelsea once again
For the second game in a row, VAR came back to haunt Chelsea. Whether or not it must be included in English football is a completely different point of argument, but the fact that even the ever-so-reliable technology can make blunders in frightening; at times, bitter.
In the fixture against Nottingham Forest, Andreas Christensen was manhandled in the box by Claudio Jacob, but the referee seemed to have no clue. Alvaro Morata was brought down when he was free on goal as well, but his appeal was waved off. In that game, much to the anguish of Chelsea fans, there was no VAR.
And here comes Video Assistant Referee, in a high-voltage game against Spurs, to destroy the evenness of the game. The Spurs talisman was definitely fouled by Arrizabalaga, but he was most certainly offside as well. If the assistant and Maurizio Sarri’s video team could see it, why not VAR?
Hence, although the newest referee in football can overturn decisions in favour of the deserving, we aren’t even quite sure if they can accurately do it every time.