'Conte, Richarlison and a hard-fought Spurs point at Chelsea'
- Credit: André Langlois
In a charged atmosphere a Stamford Bridge, Tottenham salvaged a point from a game in which they were largely outplayed by Chelsea.
This particular 2-2 draw will be remembered as "the handshake one" with managers Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte building up to a confrontation that saw them both shown red after the final whistle.
It always felt like there was a risk of the game descending into chaos but, remarkably, only three yellow cards were handed out to players on the pitch - all to Chelsea, but more of that later.
The first half saw Chelsea out-class an off-colour Spurs team.
After a few minutes of Tottenham pressure, Chelsea took control, wingbacks Reece James and Marc Cucurella winning the battle for the flanks, and Ngolo Kante and Jorginho winning in the middle.
Kai Havertz could have put the home team ahead after 18 minutes, when Raheem Sterling back-heeled it into his path. The shot was tipped wide, but a minute later a delicious volley from Kalidou Koulibaly, straight from a corner, found the net.
It was a dismal 45 minutes for Spurs and the main comfort at half time was that it was only 1-0.
Things picked up a little for Spurs in the second half but it was with the introduction of Richarlison for Ryan Sessegnon, and a change of system to something resembling 4-2-4, that really lifted things.
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- 10 'Conte, Richarlison and a hard-fought Spurs point at Chelsea'
The game's major flashpoint came when Rodrigo Bentancur wiped out Kai Havertz in the course of a tackle. Nothing was given and at the other end Pierre-Emile Højbjerg scored with a low drive.
Cue celebrations from Conte and a first confrontation with his opposite number.
Parity was not to last long, the excellent Reece James finishing after an unselfish layoff from Sterling.
A chaotic final period followed but it looked like Chelsea had done enough.
This, though, is not one of those Spurs teams that accepts its fate with 20 minutes to play. And six minutes into injury time Harry Kane rose to head in from a corner.
Again, Chelsea had a shout for it to be disallowed, with Cristian Romero seemingly pulling Cucurella's hair during the previous corner.
Nothing given and 2-2 it was, capped off by a handshake destined to inspire a routine on Strictly.
By the time Thomas Tuchel made it to the post-match press conference, he was all smiles about his confrontation with Antonion Conte: "Nobody got hurt."
Asked whether he enjoyed it a bit: "Yes, and I think he enjoyed it as well."
Conte agreed: "Yeah, of course."
Tuchel was more excised about the decisions that meant the goals were allowed. He may face further trouble for stoking theories about referee Anthony Taylor making bad decisions to the detriment of Chelsea. Should he be banned from refereeing Chelsea games? “Maybe it would be better.”
But he also pointed out that VAR could have intervened. With his challenge, Bentancur got the ball but then also took out the player. But Cristian Romero definitely seemed to pull Cucurella down by the hair ahead of the second goal.
In recent seasons taking Son or Kane off was very much a last-gasp play, but now that the squad has been bulked out, they should expect to be more expendable for cause. Richarlison is really going to fight for his place.
Son appeared lethargic here and although Richarlison came on after 57 minutes, he could well have come on at half time.
Changing things up
When Richarlison came on after 57 minutes, it was not for Son. Rather, it was for Ryan Sessegnon, heralding a change of shape to 4-2-4. It worked, helping put Spurs on the front foot ahead of the equaliser, but Antonio Conte said after the game it also left the team short at the back when Reece James took his chance.
"We have to work on this system because for the second goal, defensively, we were very poor."
On the eve of Yves
In Kante and Jorginho, Chelsea have two of the most accomplished central midfielders around. But that area of the pitch is a work in progress for Spurs, if they are to compete at the highest level.
Hojbjerg took his goal well but he can still look cumbersome on the ball, while Bentancur does not necessarily dominate.
The solution arrived in the summer in the form of Yves Bissouma, who has the potential to be the complete package. But it is less than a month since Bissouma flew home from pre-season after a positive Covid test, and he looks far off the pace still. Conte will be hoping he can get up to speed, fast.
Harry Kane scores in August
Harry Kane does score in August.