Jose Mourinho has suffered few more chastening defeats. A loss to a former club, when he was barracked by fans who used to serenade him, was compounded by the reality he was outwitted by a man he mentored. It was billed as master against apprentice but Frank Lampard comprehensively outmanoeuvred Mourinho in a result that could have consequences at the end of the season.
Victory would have taken Tottenham Hotspur above Chelsea. Instead, a six-point gap has been re-established. Mourinho’s task of taking Tottenham back into the Champions League spots will take a little longer. The irritation may be amplified because defeat came courtesy of a man he signed for Chelsea, plucking him from under the noses of Spurs, and one he had hoped to take to Manchester United in Willian, who scored twice.
If all that were not bad enough, Mourinho lost the sent-off Son Heung-min, dismissed for pushing his studs into Antonio Rudiger’s chest. It was more petulant than violent and the Chelsea defender’s histrionic reaction hardly helped the South Korean but it also amounted to a damaging day for referee Anthony Taylor, who had two decisions overturned by VAR. It is not only Son, who now faces a three-match ban, who could be in trouble. Some among Tottenham’s supporters disgraced themselves. Rudiger reported racist behaviour among the home fans, prompting several announcements in the stadium, and things were thrown from the crowd at Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Amidst it all, however, it was a landmark day for Lampard, who fashioned a fine response to a run of four defeats in five. This was his first league win against big-six opposition as a manager and it was thoroughly merited. Well as Mourinho knows Lampard, he may have struggled to predict his former vice-captain’s choices. Lampard sprang a series of surprises by switching to a back three and by dropping Christian Pulisic and Jorginho. Marcos Alonso, much better as a wing-back than a full-back, was summoned for a first appearance for 47 days and was hugely influential. Chelsea had a platform to play and Tottenham were unable to react in a one-sided first half.
They were architects in their own downfall for each of Willian’s first top-flight brace in three years. Serge Aurier gave a corner away in needless fashion and then proved too slow to track the Brazilian when he cut infield to whip a shot past Paulo Gazzaniga.
The goalkeeper may have been faulted then. He was wholly culpable for the second. Somehow Taylor did not give a penalty when Gazzaniga missed the ball and caught Alonso in the head. It was a triumph of VAR as the decision was overturned and Willian duly slotted in the spot kick.
Tottenham were muted, though Harry Kane skied a shot after a cutback from Moussa Sissoko and Son was also off target, though from an acute angle. The limitations of Mourinho’s preferred midfield were apparent as Sissoko and Eric Dier lacked the assurance and invention of the benched Christian Eriksen. Mourinho summoned the Dane for the second half, matching up Chelsea’s tactics and using Lucas Moura as a wing-back, but any hopes of a fightback disappeared with Son.
Chelsea’s win could have been more emphatic. The offside Tammy Abraham had a goal chalked off, but it nevertheless reflected badly on Gazzaniga, who spilled Alonso’s shot into the striker’s path. But Alonso was one of a host of Chelsea players to excel. Rudiger was the game’s finest centre-back, N’Golo Kante its best midfielder, Willian its brightest attacker.
It was the sort of win Mourinho used to mastermind but for the Portuguese, who had lost on his return to Old Trafford, it was another wretched reunion.