Tottenham Hotspur’s dreams of reclaiming the Premier League summit were shattered in a dramatic 4-1 loss to Chelsea, marked by Nicolas Jackson’s hat-trick in a frenzied London derby, which saw Tottenham finish the match with only nine players, on Monday.
Mauricio Pochettino’s triumphant return to Tottenham Hotspur as Chelsea’s manager was nothing short of extraordinary, though the night was marred by VAR decisions, heated tempers, and disallowed goals, leaving few with a clear picture of how this victory would be achieved.
Tottenham, who were previously unbeaten, seized an early lead six minutes into the match with Dejan Kulusevski’s deflected shot. However, their joy was short-lived when Son Heung-min’s second goal was disallowed due to an offside ruling just moments later, setting the stage for a tumultuous night reminiscent of the infamous Battle of the Bridge in 2016, which dashed Tottenham’s title hopes.
Tottenham’s evening unravelled quickly, and it could have severe consequences for their season. Centre back Cristian Romero was shown a red card after a VAR review for a dangerous tackle, leading to a penalty scored by Cole Palmer. Further blows followed as Tottenham lost both Romero’s defensive partner Micky van de Ven and playmaker James Maddison to injury before halftime.
The situation deteriorated when Destiny Udogie received a second yellow card ten minutes into the second half, leaving Tottenham clinging desperately to secure a point. Chelsea capitalised on their numerical advantage, with Jackson scoring from close range in the 75th minute, with the goal confirmed following another VAR check for offside.
Despite Tottenham’s efforts, an equaliser by substitute Eric Dier was ruled out for offside, and Son’s late attempt was saved by Robert Sanchez. Jackson then sealed Chelsea’s victory with two late goals, much to the delight of Chelsea’s jubilant fans.
This marked the first league defeat for Tottenham under manager Ange Postecoglou, placing his team in second place with 26 points from 11 games, just one point behind reigning champions Manchester City. Chelsea’s fourth win of the season elevated them to 10th place with 15 points.
Tottenham had enjoyed their best start to a top-flight season since 1960, with Postecoglou becoming the first manager to remain unbeaten in his first ten Premier League games. However, on this mind-boggling night, their hopes of returning to the Premier League summit were dashed in a chaotic fashion.
The stadium was roaring with excitement when Pape Matar Sarr set up Kulusevski, and the Swede’s shot deflected off Levi Colwill, leaving Robert Sanchez wrong-footed as the ball rolled into the net. Chelsea initially struggled to keep up with Tottenham’s pace, breathing a sigh of relief when Son’s effort was disallowed for offside.
However, Tottenham’s fortunes took a sudden downturn. The turning point was a petulant kick by Romero on Colwill, leading to a Raheem Sterling goal that was disallowed for handball after another VAR check. Minutes later, Chelsea found the net again as Moises Caicedo’s low shot was disallowed for offside after a frantic scramble, but this time, a VAR check led to a penalty.
Referee Michael Oliver showed a red card to Romero for a wild tackle on his Argentina teammate Enzo Fernandez in the build-up. Amid seven minutes of bewildering confusion, Cole Palmer converted the penalty, despite the valiant efforts of Tottenham’s goalkeeper, Guglielmo Vicario.
Tottenham’s woes continued as Maddison sustained an ankle injury and couldn’t continue, and Van de Ven’s hamstring gave out. With four of their starting lineup no longer on the pitch, Tottenham had to endure 12 minutes of first-half stoppage time, further deflating their spirits.
The second half witnessed Udogie’s sending off for a mistimed tackle on Sterling, leaving Chelsea with a numerical advantage, but Tottenham’s fans rallied, vociferously supporting their team.
Tottenham made two more substitutions around the hour mark, with Sarr and Kulusevski being replaced by Rodrigo Bentancur and Oliver Skipp. By this point, Tottenham was missing seven of the players who had started the tumultuous derby.
Jackson eventually ended Tottenham’s resistance with a simple tap-in from Sterling’s pass, and he added two more goals late in the game, rubbing salt in the home side’s wounds.