After everything that had gone before, it was only natural that there would be a degree of hesitation; doubts and questions. Was there something wrong with Nicolas Jackson’s goal that finally put Chelsea in front against nine-man Tottenham?
We had already seen four goals ruled out by the officials, the video assistant particularly prominent – one for Spurs, three for Chelsea, even if one of those was overtaken by the award of a penalty from which Cole Palmer made it 1-1.
‘I’m old school’: Ange Postecoglou bemoans use of VAR after Spurs lossRead more
Now we had to wonder whether Raheem Sterling had strayed offside before he crossed for Jackson. Or maybe there was something else amiss. Because it was that kind of night – when the game appeared to be played as much in front of the replay screens at Stockley Park as here in a stadium that teemed with emotion from start to finish.
The occasion was underscored by Mauricio Pochettino’s return to Spurs as the Chelsea manager and it had been hard to escape the feeling that he would be the story. Instead, events would veer away from him and at breakneck speed.
Pochettino was able to celebrate when Jackson’s goal for 2-1 was cleared by the VAR but there would be plenty of further twists before he could reflect on the first statement win of his Chelsea tenure. Or Ange Postecoglou could rake over his first Premier League defeat at Spurs.
Dejan Kulusevski got Spurs off to a deceptively strong start. Photograph: Alex Pantling/Getty Images
Spurs’s red cards were for Cristian Romero and Destiny Udogie while they also lost the influential Micky van de Ven and James Maddison to injuries. Yet they fought until the end, showing the personality that has characterised Postecoglou’s reign. It would earn them the gratitude of their fans, who rose to acclaim them and almost something more tangible.
Eric Dier had come on as a substitute and he thought he had equalised on 78 minutes when he lashed home at the far post after a free-kick had found its way through to him. Cue another VAR intervention; Dier was deemed offside.
There was more. Another substitute, Rodrigo Bentancur, blew a gilt-edged header from a Pedro Porro free-kick – Pochettino raged at the defensive looseness – and Son Heung-min ran through in the third minute of stoppage-time. He looked the favourite to finish. Instead, his shot lacked power and Robert Sánchez made the save.
Chelsea would still have been kicking themselves had they failed to win. And, at the very last, they would embellish the scoreline with two more from Jackson. Spurs had nothing left at the back and the striker encountered minimal resistance as he finished off passes from Conor Gallagher and Palmer.
Timeline: how derby drama unfolded
6 mins: Tottenham 1-0 Chelsea Spurs start at a blistering pace and Dejan Kulusevski’s shot is deflected in off Levi Colwill to put them in front.
13 mins: No goal Son Heung-min slots home from Brennan Johnson’s pass, but is correctly ruled offside after a lengthy VAR check.
18 mins: Yellow card Destiny Udogie makes a two-footed challenge on Raheem Sterling and is fortunate to escape a red card.
22 mins: No goal Sterling’s equaliser is disallowed for a handball, while Cristian Romero avoids any further action for an off-the-ball kick at Colwill.
30 mins: No goal Moisés Caicedo’s long-range strike is ruled out by VAR because Nicolás Jackson was in an offside position …
32 mins: Penalty and red card But Chelsea get a spot-kick, and Romero does see red this time for a reckless lunge on Enzo Fernández in the buildup after Michael Oliver [pictured] checks the VAR monitor.
35 mins: Tottenham 1-1 Chelsea Cole Palmer steps up and sends the penalty in off the post to level for Chelsea, who now have a man advantage.
37 mins: No goal Sterling gets in behind the Spurs defence and squares for Jackson to score, but the England forward is flagged offside.
44 mins: Spurs injuries Micky van de Ven pulls up with a hamstring injury shortly after James Maddison goes down off the ball. Both are substituted as we head into 12 minutes of stoppage time.
45+9 mins: Three yellows Jackson is booked for bringing down Pape Matar Sarr, who then clashes with Colwill. The centre-back reacts angrily before Oliver adds both names to the book.
45+12 mins: No red card Reece James’ raised arm on Udogie prompts a review for violent conduct, but no further action is taken as a 59-minute first half ends.
54 mins: Spurs down to nine men Udogie doesn’t escape this time, earning a second yellow card for a lunge on Sterling.
67 mins: Chelsea miss chances Jackson passes up two opportunities, before Gugliemo Vicario denies Marc Cucurella, who replaced Colwill at half-time. Two more Spurs changes mean that only three outfield players who started the game are still on the pitch.
75 mins: Tottenham 1-2 Chelsea Sterling times his run and crosses for Jackson, who finally finds the target to put Mauricio Pochettino’s side in front
78 mins: No goal Incredibly, Eric Dier volleys home from a flick-on to level for nine-man Tottenham, but the flag goes up – a decision eventually confirmed by VAR.
89 mins: Yellow card Moments after Rodrigo Bentancur sends a close-range effort wide, Mykhailo Mudryk is booked for a heavy challenge on Vicario.
93 mins: Tottenham 1-3 Chelsea Seconds after Robert Sánchez denies Son a dramatic equaliser, Jackson converts from Gallagher’s cross to seal victory.
97 mins: Tottenham 1-4 Chelsea In the last of the game’s 109 minutes, Jackson breaks clear again to complete his hat-trick and close out an extraordinary game. Guardian sport
Photograph: Matthew Childs/X03810Was this helpful?Thank you for your feedback.
At full-time, Pochettino strode onto the pitch and the snap that the photographers wanted came when he embraced Son in the centre circle. The boos that had been forecast for the Argentinian did not come. There had been applause for him from some supporters after his arrival on the touchline and now there was some more, together with hugs and kisses from Spurs staff members that he knew.
Pochettino’s feelings had been different at the outset when Spurs tore through his midfield, bringing the tempo and incision. Postecoglou’s team might have had more from the early exchanges than Dejan Kulusevski’s effort that deflected in off Levi Colwill. They were flying and then, over the remainder of a wild first-half, they were brought thumping back to earth.
skip past newsletter promotion
Sign up to Football Daily
Free daily newsletter
Kick off your evenings with the Guardian’s take on the world of football
after newsletter promotion
Tottenham’s chaotic derby defeat reveals first flaws in frantic Angeball | Jacob SteinbergRead more
By the time that the 12th and final minute of first-half stoppage time had been played, Spurs had lost their lead and Romero, Van de Ven and Maddison. They might have been two-up in the 13th minute, moments after Guglielmo Vicario had saved brilliantly from Jackson. It was Brennan Johnson who crossed low for Son to touch home only the Spurs captain had gone fractionally too early. The VAR lines snared him.
Chelsea stabilised. Udogie avoided a red card in the 18th minute after he jumped in on Sterling with both feet off the ground; he collected only yellow because he missed making contact. Spurs would catch another break when Sterling finished only to be pulled back for handball but the game did then turn after a triple VAR check.
Destiny Udogie was the second Spurs player to be sent off after earning a second booking. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian
Chelsea thought they had equalised when Moisés Caicedo threaded a low shot home from distance. Yet the ball had flicked in off Jackson, who was in an offside position. It was back to the first phase of the move and a penalty check for Van de Ven on Sterling. There was not enough in that. But there certainly was on the next phase and the next challenge before the Caicedo shot – Romero following through hard and dangerously on his Argentina teammate, Enzo Fernández.
Off Romero went and in went the equaliser, even if Vicario might have saved Palmer’s penalty; he got his hands to it only to push it into the corner. Palmer and others in blue shushed the South Stand.
What else before Gareth Bale appeared as the on-field interval guest? Jackson had the ball in the net on 38 minutes only for Sterling to be zapped for offside in the buildup; Postecoglou was booked after losing his cool with the officials and Reece James survived a VAR check for an elbow on Udogie.
Postecoglou was forced to reorganise further in the 55th minute when Udogie stretched in on Sterling, getting none of the ball and all of his man. The manager went to 4-3-1, Dier and another substitute, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, in central defence. Still he ordered a daringly high last line; Chelsea surely had to make a through ball count?
Jackson fluffed a header from point-blank range while Vicario denied another substitute, Marc Cucurella, in a one-on-one. Chelsea certainly did it the hard way. To Pochettino’s relief, they did it.