Football: Spurs are a 'pony' in title horse race, says Mourinho

 Chelsea's Ben Chilwell (right) in action against Tottenham's Serge Aurier in London, on Nov 29, 2020.
Chelsea's Ben Chilwell (right) in action against Tottenham's Serge Aurier in London, on Nov 29, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (REUTERS) - Tottenham Hotspur went back to the top of the Premier League on Sunday (Nov 29) when they held Chelsea to a 0-0 draw that left honours even between visiting manager Jose Mourinho and his one-time midfield lieutenant Frank Lampard, now in charge of the Blues.

The result took Spurs back to the summit above champions Liverpool on goal difference, with both sides on 21 points, two points ahead of third-placed Chelsea after 10 games.

Chelsea, who won three league titles under Mourinho, struggled to break through the disciplined defending of the well-marshalled Spurs side that was a hallmark of the Portuguese coach's two spells in charge at Stamford Bridge.

In his post-match news conference Mourinho downplayed Tottenham’s chances of landing a first league title since 1961.

“We’re not even in the (title) race so we’re not a horse. We’re a pony,” he said, although few will be fooled.

Tottenham looked more dangerous in the first half when they threatened on the break, pouncing on any error to flood forward at speed, but Chelsea had the best chances after the break.

Visiting right back Serge Aurier forced goalkeeper Edouard Mendy into a save with a fierce shot in the 15th minute, and left back Sergio Reguilon also stretched the hosts.

The home side - seeking to mark their 1,000th match under the ownership of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich with a win - began the second period on the front foot as Spurs dug in.

Cheslea's marauding right-back Reece James then swung in two dangerous crosses but striker Tammy Abraham failed to connect.

Moroccan winger Hakim Ziyech shot high over the bar after a rare lapse by Spurs in the 67th minute. Fourteen minutes later, Mason Mount thought he had finally made the breakthrough, only to see his low drive tipped wide by keeper Hugo Lloris.

In added time, Chelsea substitute Olivier Giroud was unable to capitalise on a headed back-pass error by Welsh defender Joe Rodon, who was otherwise impeccable on his Spurs debut, as the striker hit a tame shot straight at his France team mate Lloris.

Then it was Tottenham's turn to miss a chance to win when substitute Giovani lo Celso shot over in the final seconds.

A goalless draw was perhaps no surprise since both teams have focused on tightening up their defences, with each conceding only one goal in their previous four league games after some leaky performances earlier in the season.

“I thought we dominated big parts of the game. Everything that we talked of before the game in terms of nullifying their counter attacking threat we did really well, so that part off the game was fantastic,” Lampard, who enjoyed home and away wins over his old manager Mourinho last season, said.

“It is difficult to create against Tottenham when they have a low block, the whole team defending centrally.

“Sometimes you rely on a bit of magic. I am sort of balanced after the game. Big parts were great, hence the clean sheet. But a game we maybe should have won.”

Chelsea left-back Ben Chilwell said the Blues were happy with a point after wht he called a "knife-edge" game.

"Points are crucial and neither team wanted to give the other side any points," he told Sky Sports.

"We'd have loved to win the game at Stamford Bridge against our rivals but we needed to keep a clean sheet."