LONDON: Tottenham’s Wembley jinx continued as Chelsea’s exorcised their own by winning the first Premier League match at the national stadium by 2-1 through two goals early and late from Marcos Alonso.
The champions were happy to be back on winning track after their rocky start to the season and the off-field nuisance of the fall-out with want-away centre-forward Diego Costa.
But Tottenham were bitterly disappointed with their first defeat of term haunted by the background issue of the club’s below-average pay rates.
For example Harry Kane, on £100,000-a-week, earns significantly less than Alvaro Morata on £150,000-a-week at Chelsea. Spurs’ reliance on players’ loyalty could prove a subject of increasing discord behind the scenes as they try to recover from a painful early-term setback.
The derby had been a major test for both teams. Tottenham are playing at Wembley this season while they await the completion of their new 61,000 capacity stadium back on their old White Hart Lane site; Chelsea had needed to make amends after opening the campaign with defeat by Burnley.
Spurs had lost six times and won only twice in 10 appearances at Wembley since the national stadium reopened in 2007, including last season’s disappointing campaigns in the Champions League and Europa League. They then met Chelsea at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-finals and lost 4-2.
Wembley has not only been a home-from-home jinx for Tottenham. Neighbours Arsenal played their Champions League games at the old Wembley for two seasons between 1998 and 2000 and failed to progress beyond the group stage in both seasons.
Chelsea’s last two visits to Wembley had also been unhappy. They lost to Arsenal in both the FA Cup Final last May and in the FA Community Shield which signalled the start of the new season.
Determination to avoid a third setback was reflected in the manner in which they took an early lead. Dele Alli fouled David Luiz just outside the penalty area and Marcos Alonso rifled a superb effort beyond keeper Hugo Loris with only 23 minutes gone.
Chelsea, under Antonio Conte, had never lost a Premier away game in which they had scored first and Harry Kane twice went close in the attempt to change modern history. He was also the victim of a foul which earned Antonio Rudiger a yellow card. Spurs’ Eric Dier was lucky to escape red from referee Anthony Taylor after a sliding tackle on David Luiz.
Dier went close and Kane hit a post as Spurs kept Thibaud Courtois busy in the closing stages of the first half. Chelsea would have been relieved to hear the halftime whistle.
Pochettino could have had no complaints about the atmosphere and the fans could have had no complaint about the football in a game perhaps more reminiscent of a cup-tie than standard league fare. Hence the second half continued as the first had finished with Kane holding his head in his hands after missing from close range.
At this point Kane had had seven efforts on goal, more than the entire Chelsea team and Spurs had enjoyed 67pc of the possession but statistics are not everything in football.
Conte had given Tiemoue Bakayoko a first start in midfield but still wants to strengthen his squad further to fill the significant gap left by the departure of Nemanja Matic to Manchester United. The manner in which Spurs pushed his team back justified his concerns.
The more Spurs chased the game the more tired Chelsea’s midfielders grew: serious evidence for spending a further £30m to persuade Leicester to part with Danny Drinkwater.
Willian hit the post in a rare Chelsea breakout before a tiring Morata was replaced by Michy Batshuayi. The substitution backfired on Conte almost immediately as the newly-arrived striker headed a Christian Eriksen free kick into his own net.
But almost immediately Alonso caught Lloris by surprise to strike again – and this time Tottenham had no time in which to recover.
** Huddersfield fans should enjoy the moment. A 1-0 win over Newcastle, who were promoted above them last season, kept David Wagner’s Terriers level on points with leaders Manchester United and kept the ‘miracle’ going.
A super second-half goal from Australian playmaker Aaron Mooy condemned Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle to a second successive defeat and will intensify calls for owner Mike Ashley to spend heavily in what remains of the transfer window.
Newcastle worked hard in midfield but only Matt Ritchie on-loan Danish keeper Jonas Lossl and then only once. Mooy was Huddersfield’s player of the year last season thanks to the hard work which was a key factor in their promotion campaign,
Wagner said: Wagner: “I am very happy and proud the players followed our idea to keep Newcastle as far away from our goal as possible. We gave no big chances our and our defence was very sharp. It was a deserved win. One magic moment from Aaron Mooy was enough to win the game.
“It was a top class quality for the goal, Premier League quality. The atmosphere was incredible and the support was Premier League quality. It was a more deserved result than last week against Crystal Palace. We were a little lucky and gave a few chances last week. Today we were solid.
“We are Huddersfield Town, nobody should forget this. We got promoted at Wembley but we have started the season with two wins and six points. This is unbelievable.”