BY PAUL LAGAN at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea’s Pedro and a bizarre own-goal saw off high-flying Spurs, whose dream of chasing the Premier League finally ended in ignoble fashion at Stamford Bridge as under-fire Chelsea won 2-0 tonight.
While the pressure remains on head coach Maurizio Sarri’s job, his players produced the performance of the season to see off their north London rivals.
Sarri had shown his mettle by dropping £72million goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga for his insubordination at Wembley on Sunday when he refused to be substituted.
It was a gamble by Sarri and it paid off.
After a first half that was lacking goals, but not chances, Chelsea and Spurs rattled the woodwork, the second saw Chelsea take advantage of nervous Spurs defending and on 57 minutes Pedro stole in and slotted home.
Six minutes from time, England World Cup hero Kieran Tripper scored an own goal, that would have made him want the SW6 pitch to open up and swallow him as he blindly passed back to his goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, except Loris was not where the right back hoped he would be and the ball drifted into the back of his net.
The Blues could and perhaps should have taken an early lead.
Chelsea remain in sixth place and it’s that non-Champions League position that will be of concern for the Chelsea hierarchy and they decide to stick or twist over their Italian head coach’s future.
The Blues face Fulham on Sunday at Craven Cottage.
Gonzalo Higuain shanked a right-footer after six minutes, that clattered off Hugo Loris’s left post. He was free in the Spurs penalty area with Loris rooted to the spot. The Blues dominated the opening exchanges with Spurs failing to get hold off the ball.
On 19 minutes, Chelsea were gifted a chance by Loris who passed directly to Pedro on the edge of his area. He quickly passed to Hazard who teed up Higuain. But the Argentina striker curled a left-footer well wide of the Spurs’ goal.
Tempers flared on 24 minutes when Harry Kane chased down a pass by David Luiz to Caballero. The ball had been given to Chelsea by Davison Sanchez as he was obliged to return the ball to the home side.
Mateo Kovacic had kicked the ball out of play following an injury to Kieran Trippier.
Kane then appeared to head-butt Cesar Azpilicueta as the Chelsea skipper raced in to remonstrate with the England captain.
Two minutes from the break, Chelsea’s crossbar was rattled by a brilliant 25-yard blaster from midfielder Harry Winks. Caballero was grasping in the air, but the ball sailed over him, dipped late and smacked the woodwork. Thankfully for the home side, the ball was cleared to safety.
There were no changes from either side at half-time.
But it was the Blues who took the lead and it was Pedro who broke the deadlock.
With 57 minutes on the clock, Azpilicueta fed Pedro the ball on the right.
The Spain wide man raced in to the penalty area, cut inside Toby Alderweireld before hitting a low, left-footer through the legs of Lloris and into the back of the net.
Willian was brought on two minutes later, Hazard the man who was replaced.
Mauricio Pochettino replaced Erik Lamela with Fernando Llorente with 20 minutes left.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek came on for Kovacic on 76 minutes.
Lucas Moura took off Son Heung-Min two minutes later.
Chelsea’s final substitution saw Olivier Giroud come on for the tiring Higuain.
Spurs suffered the ultimate humiliation of scoring an own goal with six minutes left.
A simple long ball was headed on by Giroud with his first touch. Tripper inexplicably took once touch before knocking the ball back to Lloris. Well that was the intention. Instead Tripper slide the ball past then France goalkeeper and the ball trickled into his net. Willian was following up, just in case but was not needed.
Teams: Chelsea, Caballero, Azpilicueta, Alonso, Rudiger, Luiz, Jorginho, Kovacic, Kante, Pedro, Higuain, Hazard
Subs, Arrizabalaga, Christensen, Loftus-Cheek, Barkley, Hudson-Odoi, Willian, Giroud
Spurs: Lloris, Trippier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Davies, Winks, Sissoko, Eriksen, Lamela, Son, Kane
Subs, Gazzaniga, Rose, Wanyama, Llorente, Foyth, Aurier, Moura
Referee: Andre Marriner