Goals by Olivier Giroud and Marcos Alonso gave Chelsea a 2-1 victory against London rivals Tottenham Hotspur yesterday to strengthen the Blues’ hold on fourth place in the Premier League.
Chelsea defender Antonio Rüdiger scored a late own goal in the last minute, giving Spurs some hope.
Chelsea now hold a four-point lead over Spurs as a number of teams chase fourth place, which would allow them to qualify for the lucrative Champions League.
Although the home side dominated the early play, the first chance of the game fell to Spurs as Argentine Giovani Lo Celso’s shot was blocked by a defender, but the ball fell to Lucas Moura, whose shot from the edge of the area was well saved by Wilfredo Caballero, who was again given the nod ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Chelsea coach Frank Lampard also made a brave decision to give Giroud, who has played only six league matches this season, a first starting place, and the Frenchman proved it was the right move a few minutes later.
Jorginho played the ball to Giroud, who failed to control with his first touch before shooting from wide. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris could only pass the ball to Ross Barkley, who slammed it against the right-hand post.
The ball then came to Giroud, who beat Lloris in the bottom-right corner for his first goal of the season. Chelsea players had to wait as the goal was looked at by the video assistant referee (VAR), but it was awarded.
“It was my first start of the season and gave us a really important win against a direct rival. I am very grateful that I was given the opportunity to start and that I managed to score,” the Frenchman said.
The goal seemed to stun Spurs, who had to wait until 10 minutes from the break for their second chance, which came after Moura’s shot was blocked. The resultant corner gave Davinson Sánchez a chance, but his header was spectacularly saved by Caballero.
It took Chelsea just four minutes after the break to extend their lead when Alonso beat Lloris, after some good build-up, to a great goal after moving in from the left to beat the French goalkeeper.
A few minutes later, Lo Celso could have been red-carded after seemingly stamping on César Azpilicueta, but, despite the VAR being used, Lo Celso stayed on the pitch.
Officials later admitted that it should have been a red card.
Azpilicueta said he could not understand why no action was taken.
“I am not a player who makes a lot out of nothing. But, in this case, it was clearly a stamp and something should have been done.”
Spurs thought they were given a lifeline a minute from time when Érik Lamela dribbled into the Chelsea area and squared to Dele Alli. But, before the ball came to the England international, it struck Rüdiger’s heel and went into the bottom left corner.
However, it was a case of too little too late as Chelsea held on to a win that gave Lampard, as coach, a third straight win against José Mourinho from three matches.
Mourinho said that he was proud of his players.
“It was a difficult game. We had our chances to score; they fought until the very end.
“We just have to go on and, hopefully, we will score before our opponents soon.”
Today’s Premier League matches see Wolves take on Norwich, while Manchester United face Watford. The final game is between Arsenal and Everton. Champions-elect Liverpool are at home to West Ham tomorrow.