The Big Match

Spurs undone by Alonso

Chelsea's Marcos Alonso curling his free kick over the Tottenham players for the opening goal in their Premier League clash yesterday.
Chelsea's Marcos Alonso curling his free kick over the Tottenham players for the opening goal in their Premier League clash yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Wing-back scores twice to spoil Tottenham's debut at Wembley, put Chelsea back on track

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Tottenham 1

Chelsea 2

Crisis over. If, that is, there was a crisis to begin with. Chelsea's patched-up team produced a result worthy of the champions they are.

They beat last season's closest challengers, Tottenham, courtesy of an unexpected double from Marcos Alonso and a dogged display from a determined group.

It was evidence of Antonio Conte's capacity to galvanise a seemingly dispirited group, as Chelsea recovered their resolve and their discipline.

Tottenham lost a game and a winning run. They had triumphed in their last 14 league games at White Hart Lane. They were defeated in their first at Wembley, offering an immediate illustration of how things will be harder for them this year.

They thought they had rescued a point, courtesy of an own goal from Michy Batshuayi, only for David Luiz to dispossess the substitute Moussa Sissoko, Alonso to surge forward again and drill a low shot under Hugo Lloris.

It was Alonso's eighth goal in 32 league starts, a remarkable return for a left wing-back. He also had the distinction of scoring the first Premier League goal at Wembley.

After a summer when Chelsea have tried to sign Juventus' Alex Sandro and been linked with Tottenham's Danny Rose, Alonso offered a timely reminder of his own excellence.

If Lloris may have been at fault for the winner, he was blameless for the opener. Alonso's whipped free kick flew past him.

Strangely, he was the Spaniard with the clinical touch. Alvaro Morata missed a penalty at Wembley in the Community Shield. His fortunes did not improve when he headed wastefully wide when unmarked and found by Cesar Azpilicueta.

Indeed, his replacement found the net, too. Batshuayi met Christian Eriksen's free kick by planting an unstoppable header, unfortunately past Thibaut Courtois.

It reshaped a game where Spurs had much of the ball and the territory but, apart from when Harry Kane, stuck on 99 Tottenham goals and none in the Premier League in August, hit the post, too little of a threat.

Chelsea's makeshift defence performed admirably. There were two newcomers in the back three, in Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger, while Luiz was thrust into service in midfield.

An accomplice there was Tiemoue Bakayoko, rushed back ahead of schedule for his debut. The Frenchman performed admirably, only to foul Dele Alli and concede the free kick for Batshuayi's own goal.

Instead, Alonso turned match-winner, prompting Conte to embark on a manic celebration.

This was Chelsea's response. It was a statement. It was proof of character and spirit. And it was crushing for Tottenham.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2017, with the headline 'Spurs undone by Alonso'. Print Edition | Subscribe