By Tim Harrison
Chelsea mugged Spurs at the weekend, as brutally and shockingly as a handbag-snatching moped rider.
A concerted backs-to-the-wall display of last-gasp defending and breathless counterattack at Wembley ground out a 2-1 win which had seemed unlikely days earlier.
The pendulum has swung back in Tony Conte’s direction after the previous week’s defeat by Burnley, with the manager’s tactical pragmatism winning admirers.
Injuries, and the Diego Costa issue, have forced the gaffer to abandon his previous, title-winning policy of sticking with the same line-up.
The Blues still nurse a feeling of injustice at referees’ inconsistency in penalising lunge tackles following Gary Cahill’s opening-day dismissal.
Were even-handedness applied, other players, notably West Ham’s Mark Noble, would be taking early showers.
“As clear a red card as you’ll ever see,” was former ref Graham Poll’s verdict on Noble’s horrendous tackle on Saints’ Mario Lemina, yet it only merited yellow from Lee Mason.
Sometimes a sense of unfairness can galvanise a team. Two-goal hero Marcos Alonso summed it up after the Wembley win in an intriguing phrase. “We knew how to suffer,” he said, referring to the Blues’ collective absorption of repeated Tottenham assaults, and the way the players had turned that to their advantage. “We showed we are together, and we are going to fight again for the title!”
Everton visit the Bridge this weekend.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.
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