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Chelsea 2-0 Win Expels Spurs From Euro League

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Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino will forever hold a special place in his heart for Tottenham Hotspur and he has one more reason to be thankful for his former club after his current club’s 2-0 win on Thursday night.

A goal in each half from Trevoh Chalobah and Nicolas Jackson handed the Blues a priceless win that puts European qualification within touching distance as they sit two points adrift of seventh-place Newcastle United with just four games to play. The 52-year-old badly needed this.

Pochettino would never align himself with the gleeful sentiment behind “We hate Tottenham” chanting from the home supporters given his fondness for the club where he spent 5½ years, but this victory gave Stamford Bridge a sense of unity it has been lacking for much of this season. Nationwide local elections were taking place in England on Thursday and it remains debatable whether Pochettino would win a popular vote on the question of whether he has done enough to warrant a second season at his newly adopted home.

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This fixture could hardly have come at a more opportune moment. Few games between the traditional “Big Six” are more one-sided: Spurs have won just one of their 32 visits here in Premier League history. That record extends to a solitary win in all competitions dating back to 1990 and Pochettino was in charge of Tottenham that day, a 3-1 win in April 2018.

Chelsea weren’t exceptional here but they built on a positive second half at Aston Villa on Monday with a morale-boosting display featuring more industry from Conor Gallagher, flashes of quality from Mykhailo Mudryk and Noni Madueke capped with Jackson’s 11th goal of the season.

“It is the most happy I am after [a game this season],” said Pochettino, firmly forgetting his personal history. “Because of the way that we play, the way we compete, that is what we wanted from the beginning of the season that we wanted to apply to the team. Today we were so competitive. In this way we can grow, we can do better and improve in all the areas.”

Chelsea were missing 14 first-team players, relying on talented young defender Alfie Gilchrist to nullify Son Heung-Min in his second Premier League start and later handing a league debut to Jimi Tauriainen shortly after Josh Acheampong made his senior debut as a substitute for Gilchrist. They have a goal to fight for which should sharpen minds and might help give Pochettino the sense of progress this campaign desperately needs after many tumultuous months.

In fact, for a long time, the job that Ange Postecoglou had done at Tottenham painted Pochettino in an awkward light given how quickly he had implemented the radically different “Angeball” style on a group of players drilled in conservatism under his predecessor Antonio Conte. So much so that when these teams met in November’s reverse fixture, Spurs were applauded off despite losing 4-1 at home having been reduced to nine men, such was the delight at their enduring commitment to attacking football.

Cole Palmer’s 72nd-minute free kick hit the crossbar and the rebound was turned in by Jackson, adding to two goals conceded from corners against Arsenal last weekend. Postecoglou spent the fallout of that game insisting their set piece problems were overblown and that the lack of a specialist coach within his backroom staff was not a sign that they were missing a trick.

The end result was a rare, comfortable largely unflustered evening for Chelsea.

“Tottenham Hotspur, it’s happened again,” sang the Chelsea supporters about the near inevitability of this fixture. Once that would have pained Pochettino but right now it is music to his ears.

ESPN

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