The minute the starting lineups were announced this game’s course became clear. Conte said “I think we can stay close, and then I can trump you in the second half with two great substitutes. And I also believe my team’s speed will give you trouble” Pochettino, on the other hand, made the single biggest error of his tenure with Spurs by trusting Heung Min Son where previously Ben Davies or Danny Rose have been stationed against a rapid Chelsea counterattack.
Well, we know who was right. Spurs began timidly, and a surprising error by Toby Alderweireld on a Chelsea counter attack (and his Belgian counterpart in the back made a few as well) and an even more surprising judgment by Hugo Lloris to give Willian the left side of the goal placed the Blues ahead. And for ten minutes after Spurs acted as if they didn’t belong—poor passing, poor defending, poor effort.
But then we found our stride and a wonderful Kane header equalized and it seemed just a matter of time until Spurs would take the lead. But the lane to a counterattack was always open and Son left it wide open then compounded his error with a foolish challenge on Victor Moses and one more Willian deadball strike later Chelsea were undeservedly ahead. Poch simply lost the plot, trusting that role against a team this fast and potent. Son frankly added little offensively throughout the game—why not Davies?
Yet for 15 minutes of the second half Spurs reminded us why they have been breathing down Chelsea’s necks in the league with sustained pressure, this time the goal beginning again with a wondrous Eriksen cross that found Dele’s foot and it was level. But Conte knew he had the ability to strike the decisive blow, and with the entry of Diego Costa and Eden Hazard and a visibly tiring Spurs side, one had to wonder how the next hour of play—should it be required—would not favor Chelsea.
So they finally won a corner (I think Tripper was at least somewhat responsible on an unfamiliar wing for Chelese’s rush), and somehow Spurs allowed Chelsea’s best player to go unmarked. Game over. Matic’s clincher was unnecessary, for one never thought a third equalizer was in the cards. They didn’t quit…Kane came inches from a late third, but really the outcome was already done and dusted—Conte 4, Pochettino 2.
What now? I would hope the manager takes this on his shoulders and doesn’t burden his players. They were at fault for the opener, but everything after was more the product of managerial malpractice. Son at left wing having to defend? No realization of the threat Hazard produced? That aspect should have been discussed at halftime. We can fight for the league, but frankly I am more worried about a carryover to Palace on Wednesday and slipping into a fight for second with Liverpool and/or City. The pundits will crush us, but it is the manager that should be excoriated. I hope the players realize that and don’t hang their heads…
Pochettino will learn, but that’s now two bigtime failures against Chelsea in the last year for him to contemplate. We’ll see how and he—and they—react later this week.
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