SPORT

Chelsea 4-0 Tottenham: Tim Sherwood's Tactical Anarchy Backfires

08/03/2014 19:30 GMT | Updated 08/03/2014 20:59 GMT
Mike Hewitt via Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Eden Hazard of Chelsea celebrates after scoring his team's second goal from the penalty spot past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris of Spurs during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on March 8, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

The last time Tottenham won at Stamford Bridge, Sinéad O'Connor was No.1 with Nothing Compares 2 U. As far as Premier League managers go, nobody compares to Tim Sherwood, whose anarchic approach at Chelsea threatened to cause an upset, but ended in cruel humiliation as Chelsea's ominous surge to the Premier League title continued.

In the space of four minutes, the scoreline switched from 0-0 to 2-0 and it was almost entirely self-inflicted on Tottenham's part. A slip, a backpass and some myopic refereeing handed Chelsea an unassailable lead over their 10-man hosts, and allowed José Mourinho to treat the last half-hour like an exhibition match.

Jan Vertonghen admitted last month he would have to consider his Tottenham future in the event the club don't qualify for the Champions League, but it was his error which effectively sealed Spurs' Europa League berth next season. Kyle Naughton, in his favoured right-back role, looked like an auxiliary left-back again when he set in motion the counter-attack which eventually culminated in Eden Hazard's 15th goal of the campaign.

Chelsea have now beaten seven of the Premier League's top nine, with Arsenal scheduled to visit in two weeks' time. Four of those victories have come since the turn of the year without Chelsea having to replicate the excursions of their triumphs over Manchester City and Liverpool in the first-half of the season, and Sam Allardyce is the only top 10 coach to have "out-tactic-ed" him. Another Englishman wasn't about to do likewise.

Although not an explicit homage to when Jacques Santini's Tottenham parked the bus in 2004, Sherwood's bus had smashed windows to aim through. At least four players started out of position for Tottenham. Inside the opening five minutes, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris could have been sent off twice, and, during the same period, right-back Kyle Walker, right-winger Aaron Lennon and striker Emmanuel Adebayor all spearheaded the attack. The sight of Lennon stood beside Nemanja Matić, John Terry and Gary Cahill was reminiscent of when the Hobbits were dwarfed by Fangorn Forest's Ents.

Without Christian Eriksen's craft, Sherwood wasn't prepared to appoint a like-for-like replacement, and his unusual 11 was to counter the outstanding player of this Premier League season. Hazard, not short of ego before he joined Chelsea, had it massaged by Chelsea's opponents but was not going to be lulled into a false sense of security. He rounded Lloris in the fourth minute and, off balance, skewered a shot into the side netting.

Sometimes, Sherwood and his players seemed discombobulated. The game was not five minutes old and Naughton struggled to receive instructions even though his coach was stood as closely as he possibly could. Neither player nor manager looked impressed. He at least curbed central defender Younés Kaboul's enthusiasm when he briefly ventured over to the right wing.

Had José Mourinho recruited Wayne Rooney then perhaps Spurs would not have matched Chelsea. Samuel Eto'o, a late replacement for the injured Fernando Torres, was flagged offside in the first minute when he was level with Vertonghen before the onrushing Lloris tripped him. He later exasperated his coach with a wasteful finish when he should have played André Schürrle through.

Tottenham had their own problems up front. A combination of luck and judgement spared them conceding in the first-half, yet they barely threatened Petr Čech's goal. Sandro scored a fabulous strike at the Matthew Harding Stand three years ago but was denied on this occasion, while Nabil Bentaleb scuffed an effort wide. Tottenham's bench had registered just 19 goals between them prior to kick-off and some would have sharpened a blunt and disjointed attack. They offered just two attempts on target.

"Fuck off Paulinho, we've got Mourinho," Spurs' fervent followers chanted as they embarrassed their humdrum hosts. Mourinho had his poker face on with less than 40 minutes to play, though. Laughing and joking with the more stoic Rui Faria. A fortnight ago, Chelsea overpowered a vibrant Everton side with a late winner. Mourinho is building his own catalogue of late Chelsea wins, with one of the earliest coming via William Gallas' boot at the Bridge eight years ago. He didn't have to wait as long this time.

In the 56th minute, Jan Vertonghen received the ball on the left, slipped, and in a desperate and swift effort to retain possession, hooked the ball backwards. Eto'o anticipated the backpass and nutmegged Lloris. Spurs' luck had inevitably deserted them. Three minutes later, it got worse.

Whatever the message Sherwood tried to get through to Naughton was earlier, he hadn't received it. Chelsea capitalised on his indisciplined positioning, Hazard crossed for Eto'o and the Cameroonian took a tumble under a gust of wind. Referee Michael Oliver erroneously gave a penalty and sent off Kaboul. Hazard made it six spotkicks from six in England.

Substitute Demba Ba tripled and then quadrupled the scoreline late on, with his second assisted by the careless Walker. Spurs finally looked like the ramshackle shambles the teamsheet suggested.