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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Chelsea secured a 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur to open up a four-point gap over their bitter London rivals in the battle for fourth place amid more VAR farce at Stamford Bridge.
Goals from Olivier Giroud and Marcos Alonso gave the hosts a comfortable lead before being made to sweat in the dying minutes due to an Antonio Rudiger own goal. But it was the failure of the referee and VAR officials to punish Spurs midfielder Giovani Lo Celso for a blatant stamp on Cesar Azpilicueta that left a bitter taste in the mouth.
Despite a lengthy review of the second half incident, the Argentina international was not even issued a yellow card, a decision that left Chelsea manager Frank Lampard incandescent.
"It is not good enough, that is two VARs in two games, it is hard to shout about it when you have lost but today everybody saw that. It is a red [card]," said Lampard, referring to last week's defeat to Manchester United in which United defender Harry Maguire also escaped punishment before scoring their second goal in a 2-0 win.
"I hate to call for red cards but that is a leg breaker ... VAR is here to clear things up and it is not good enough."
Azpilicueta said he was surprised neither referee Michael Oliver or the officials at Stockley Park thought it was a sending-off offence.
"I'm not a player that likes to be on the floor because I'm tough but it was not my fault because it was a clear stamp on my shin, I felt it straight away," the Chelsea captain said.
"Obviously everybody makes mistakes but when you have a lot of replays it could be easier."
Spurs have won only once at Stamford Bridge in their previous 33 attempts while Jose Mourinho had only ever enjoyed victory once as a visiting manager - and that was with Inter Milan a decade ago.
The big talking point before kick off was Dele Alli's absence from the starting XI, something Mourinho bristled against when it was suggested the decision was down to the midfielder's poor form rather than tactical reasons.
With Harry Kane still weeks away from a first-team return and Son Heung-min potentially out for the season, Mourinho resisted the urge to call up 18-year-old Irish striker Troy Parrott with Spurs' bench instead housing a surfeit of midfielders.
Spurs struggled to get a foothold in the early exchanges, constantly chasing a ball that Chelsea's midfield had monopolised. It was no surprise to see the hosts take the lead on the quarter hour.
Mason Mount had already forced Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris into a smart save when Giroud timed his run on to a Jorginho pass to perfection. Though Lloris kept out the Giroud's initial effort, Ross Barkley's follow up crashed against the post and fell invitingly for the Frenchman to drill home his first league goal since last April.
"I was lucky the ball came back after hitting the post and I tried to finish. It was a good feeling for me, a good moment and I'm so happy for the team to win today," Giroud said.
With Reece James and Marcos Alonso playing virtually as wingers Spurs found themselves encamped in their own half with Steven Bergwijn cutting the loneliest of figures in the nominal striker's role.
When his teammates did belatedly provide support on the half-hour, it resulted in the lilywhites' best passage of play.
Azpilicueta scrambled to deflect Lucas Moura's effort and from the resulting corner Willy Cabellero tipped Davinson Sanchez's header over. The Chelsea goalkeeper then misjudged the flight of Alderweireld's raking pass to find Japhet Tanganga but the Spurs defender's touch past the onrushing Argentine was too heavy and rolled harmlessly wide.
While Spurs finished the half with the wind in their sails, they were swiftly blown off course minutes after the restart.
Alonso is developing into something of a Spurs specialist. The Spaniard's last league start came in Chelsea's 2-0 win at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on December 22 when he won the penalty for the second of Willian's two goals. The Chelsea wing-back had almost doubled the lead with a volley midway through the first half but made no mistake when presented with a sight of Lloris' goal from the edge of the box on 48 minutes, drilling a left-foot shot into the bottom right corner. He was unlucky not to finish with another goal after seeing a free kick crash against the crossbar.
Substitute Erik Lamela was rewarded for a rare foray into enemy territory when his deflected effort wrong-footed Caballero to give the scoreline an air of respectability for the visitors.
Depleted though their ranks are in the absence of Kane and Son, it says much for Mourinho's attacking intent that he replaced centre-back Toby Alderweireld with another defender in Serge Aurier, meaning Spurs ended the match with the same number of defenders - five - as they started.
"We don't have a striker. Our attacking players are not strikers and are in huge levels of fatigue, so very, very difficult for us," Mourinho said.
On Lo Celso's challenge, Mourinho said: "I didn't watch it. I didn't watch on TV and in the game. I don't know."
Updated: February 22, 2020 07:20 PM
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