Tottenham Hotspur’s hopes of returning to the top of the Premier League were dashed in extraordinary fashion as they lost 4-1 at home to Chelsea after a Nicolas Jackson hat-trick in a chaotic London derby that they finished with nine men on Monday.
It was a triumphant return to Spurs for Mauricio Pochettino who got the biggest win of his short Chelsea tenure, though few could have imagined how it would be achieved on a mind-boggling night of VAR calls, hot tempers, disallowed goals and injuries.
Previously unbeaten Tottenham went ahead after six minutes thanks to Dejan Kulusevski’s deflected shot and minutes later had a second scored by Son Heung-min ruled out for offside.
But in scenes reminiscent of the infamous “Battle of the Bridge” in 2016 when Chelsea scuppered the title hopes of Pochettino’s Tottenham side, the hosts’ night unravelled in a way that could have a serious impact on their season.
Centre back Cristian Romero was sent off after a VAR check for a dangerous tackle that resulted in a penalty scored by Cole Palmer and Spurs then lost his defensive partner Micky van de Ven and playmaker James Maddison to injury before halftime.
Destiny Udogie was shown a second yellow card 10 minutes after the break leaving the home side hanging on for a point.
Chelsea eventually made their numerical advantage count as Jackson put them ahead from close range in the 75th minute – the goal standing after yet another VAR check for offside.
Tottenham had an equaliser by substitute Eric Dier ruled out for offside and Son saw an effort saved in stoppage time by Robert Sanchez before Jackson wrapped it up with two added-time efforts in front of the joyful Chelsea fans.
A first league defeat for Ange Postecoglou’s side leaves them in second place with 26 points from 11 games, one behind champions Manchester City. Chelsea’s fourth league win of the season moved them up to 10th with 15 points.
Australian Postecoglou said his first Premier League defeat was hard to analyse.
“If we get a red card, we cop it and we keep going. Instead we’re all just standing around waiting for decisions. I’m just an old man shouting at the clouds though,” he said of the numerous VAR decisions that disrupted the action.
“The fallout we’re going to have to deal with.”
Tottenham have enjoyed their best start to a top-flight season since 1960 with Postecoglou the first manager to go unbeaten in his first 10 Premier League games.
When Kulusevski’s shot deflected off Levi Colwill to wrongfoot Sanchez and roll into the net the stadium was rocking.
Chelsea were chasing shadows initially and were relieved when Son’s effort was ruled out for offside.
But then Tottenham’s world began to collapse around them.
Udogie was fortunate to escape with a booking for a two-footed challenge on Raheem Sterling before a petulant kick by Romero on Colwill went unpunished in the lead-up to a Sterling goal that was disallowed for handball after another VAR check.
Minutes later Chelsea’s Moises Caicedo drove a low shot home through a crowd but that was ruled offside and confirmed by VAR. – Reuters