From the day AVB is hired as Tottenham's manager, the matchup with Chelsea has always been the talking point. It matters little whether AVB and Roman Abramovich, or other Chelsea veterans are still friends. Both teams knew a London Derby victory would mean more than only three points, and Tottenham definitely wanted to revenge for their bitter FA Cup loss. An early Saturday afternoon after the international break is indeed the perfect schedule for the long-awaited London Derby.
While both teams are in the midst of fabulous form, neither side could field their strongest XI. John Terry's suspension meant Cahill will partner David Luiz at centreback. There was better pace, but poor set-piece marking had nearly put them on the back foot three minutes into the game. Dembele was injured during international duty, while Tottenham's key man Gareth Bale was absent because his wife was in labour. As both Huddlestone and Sigurdsson's performances were far from convincing in the league so far, one couldn't help think Chelsea had a definite advantage even before the whistle was blown.
Gary Cahill had made Terry's absence forgettable with a flying volley, which even the brilliant Brad Friedel struggled to claw it back from the top of the net. The American got the nod to start the game ahead of Hugo Lloris, who had an outstanding performance against Spain on Tuesday night. Miles of travelling was the only excuse for not starting the French captain.
On the other hand, another Frenchman started the match terribly. Whether it was because of his previous reign with Chelsea caught his nerve, William Gallas failed to show any leadership at the back. He was not the only one who struggled. Huddlestone and Dempsey were sluggish, while Sandro's positioning and passing was lacking.
Chelsea's midfield was in contrast much sharper than Tottenham. Ramires and Oscar dominated over their compatriot Sandro, whereas Mata, Torres and Hazard linked up multiple times to threaten Friedel in counter-attacks. Ashley Cole and Petr Cech led the defence to withstand Tottenham's pressure approaching the end of first half. The five yellow cards proved the intensity of the derby, but it was Chelsea who deservedly led at the break.
Tottenham had not lost to Chelsea at White Hart Lane since 2007, and AVB has a track record of inspiring Tottenham to a better second half at home this season. Well before the fans began to pray, Gallas made up for his mistakes by bringing the match back to where it started. It was a similar story to first half, and it was Ivanovic who let Vertonghen run free this time in a free kick.
It suddenly became a mystery whether Tottenham's dressing room also had a hairdryer. The level of concentration and energy was much higher after interval. The left hand side was particularly lively and it could have easily been 2-1 if Sigurdsson had better finishing touch. However, Defoe ensured their hard work was paid off when his quick feet beat Petr Cech.
Di Matteo for sure was shocked by this ten-minute nightmare. Tottenham was all over Chelsea and just as if they would be able to hold off Chelsea for the next half an hour, Hazard, Oscar and Mata turned to full gear. Mata captured the momentarily carelessness of Tottenham, as well as Gallas' poor clearance again to level at 2-2. Shortly after, Mata teased the slow-turning Gallas, received a brilliant break-through pass by Hazard and made it 3-2. In the space of five minutes, the momentum shifted to the Blue side of London.
The anxious AVB inserted his sole hope on the bench, Emmanuel Adebayor, but the Togo striker was clearly too rusty to make a huge impact. Defoe and Kyle Walker's long shots were threatening but both were parried away by Petr Cech. When Mata captured Kyle Walker's complacency in the injury time and fed Sturridge to a straightforward finishing, it had deflated Tottenham and definitely diminished AVB’s hope of revenge.
It was quite an alerting signal sent to Manchester, as Chelsea demonstrated the winners' attitude which is an essential character to win a league title. It will be a massive confidence boost to Chelsea ahead of the clash with Manchester United at Stamford Bridge next week. Meanwhile, AVB should not be too discouraged to be defeated by a brilliant Chelsea. Tottenham has shown significant improvement since the Opening Day, but do they have the mentality on the pitch to challenge for a Champions League berth? There is still a long way to go but they will have to first recover from this heartbroken derby loss.