Wembley woe for Spurs
Alonso double gives Chelsea first win of the season
|(Michy Batshuayi 82-og)||(Marcos Alonso 24, 88)|
Wembley, we have a problem.
Tottenham can't win there. They are strangers in their adopted homeland, handicapped by a foreign stadium.
Spurs utterly dominated possession, boasted a superior line-up and still lost 2-1 to Chelsea last night.
Tottenham should have snatched a point at least, and almost did, which is a paradox that must concern their manager.
Mauricio Pochettino may secretly echo Dorothy's sentiments in The Wizard of Oz.
There's no place like home.
As the crow flies, Wembley isn't particularly far from White Hart Lane, which is currently closed for renovation.
But Spurs are light years away from the swashbuckling showboaters from last season.
The first EPL fixture at London's grand venue threw up the champions and runners-up of the previous campaign and Chelsea once again left Tottenham singing the blues.
On paper, Spurs' line-up was easily the more experienced, with Antonio Conte handing full debuts to four new Blues.But Wembley hasn't been kind to their temporary squatters.
Last season, Tottenham lost three out of five matches at London's grand arena, including a 4-2 defeat by Chelsea in their FA Cup semi-final, and the nerves jangled as the unease permeated through the stands.
The vast, green expanse appears to overwhelm them.
The cacophonous din of a compact White Hart Lane has deserted them.
Pochettino will be eager to brush off such superstitious hogwash, but Spurs' dominance, particularly in the second half, was near absolute.
And yet, Conte had the last laugh. He sounded like an unhinged clown in his pre-match press conference, laughing maniacally whenever Diego Costa's name was mentioned.
But the joker pulled a tactical rabbit out of his hat in the guise of the floppy-haired David Luiz.
The Brazilian was plopped into central midfield, nestling in just ahead of N'Golo Kante and debutant Tiemoue Bakayoko.
Chelsea's formation resembled a strange 3-2-3-1-1, as if Conte had read too much Dan Brown and was going for an impenetrable code.
Certainly, Tottenham had trouble cracking the case.
Luiz's elevated position ensured that if he stumbled on one of his customary banana skins, Kante and Bakayoko were on hand to clear up.
More importantly, the partially-fit Bakayoko had enough bodies around him to take the odd breather.
As a result, Tottenham dominated possession, but frequently hit a wall of five across the halfway line.
Harry Kane had the odd glimpse of goal, but so did Alvaro Morata at the other. The unmarked Spaniard sent a header wide, from just five metres.
Fortunately, Morata's blunder was soon overshadowed by a goal of rare beauty.
In the 24th minute, Luiz, charging forward, was upended 25 metres out.
Marcos Alonso stepped up and swung his left boot.
Standing in the defensive wall, Tony Alderweireld stretched every nerve, sinew and sweaty tuft of hair to make contact, but the ball cleared the jumping centre back, dipped viciously and curled away from Hugo Loris and into the top right corner.
The hosts peppered Thibaut Courtois' goal after falling behind. But, when Kane lashed a low strike against the post in the 42nd minute, following outstanding work from Dele Alli, a sense of deja vu was palpable, until they were handed an unlikely lifeline.
Michy Batshuayi had been on the field for three minutes. The Chelsea substitute had no idea he was three minutes from hell.
In the 82nd minute, the hapless striker headed into his own net to Spurs' delight.
But there was a further twist of the knife, plunging deep into Tottenham hearts. With two minutes left to play, Alonso hit a low drive past a squirming Loris to score his second and confirm the curse of Wembley.
As far as Spurs are concerned, football is not coming home.