London: There was no revenge for Andre Villas-Boas as Chelsea continued their unbeaten start to the season at White Hart Lane with a performance full of the attacking verve their former coach was hired to implement.
This was the best of football, a pulsating, ever-changing derby encounter decided by two goals in as many second-half minutes by the quite brilliant Juan Mata, who shone brightest of all in Chelsea’s sparkling midfield and set-up Daniel Sturridge in injury time for the Blues’ fourth goal.
Chelsea had initially taken the lead through Gary Cahill’s brilliant volley in the 18th minute before Spurs rallied in the second half to turn the game on its head through goals from William Gallas and Jermain Defoe.
Chelsea, though, deserved a victory that keeps up their best start to a season since 2006 and leaves them top of the league with 22 points from their first eight matches, while Spurs remain outside the top four.
Against the club that sacked him earlier this year, Villas-Boas restored goalkeeper Brad Friedel to the starting line-up ahead of Hugo Lloris, while Mousa Dembele missed out through a hip injury and Gareth Bale dropped out late after his partner went into labour.
Chelsea captain John Terry served the first game of a four-match ban for using racist language, but the Blues barely noticed his absence in the first half as they controlled the early stages and took advantage of Spurs’ missing men.
The first 45 minutes was defined by two volleys. The first, in the fourth minute, was badly mishit by Spurs captain Gallas from a Gylfi Sigurdsson corner and trickled wide from seven yards.
The second, in the 18th minute, broke the deadlock. After a poor header from Gallas as he tried to clear a corner, the ball fell for Cahill to smash the ball into the roof of the net from just inside the penalty area. Thunderous.
Chelsea really should have doubled their advantage in the 39th minute when Ramires found Mata, but his shot was saved by Friedel before he smashed the rebound over the crossbar.
Villas-Boas decided not to make any personnel changes at the break but Spurs came out for the second half with a completely new attitude.
Within a minute of the restart, they were level as they took advantage as the Chelsea defence simply fell asleep. Tom Huddlestone’s free-kick appeared to be drifting off the pitch but Jan Vertonghen superbly kept the ball alive, allowing Gallas to head home his first Spurs goal virtually from the goal-line.
Five minutes later, Tottenham took the lead as Defoe scored the 200th goal of his career with a true poacher’s finish. Aaron Lennon appeared to be attempting to shoot from the right but Defoe reacted more quickly than anyone to expertly turn the ball in.
White Hart Lane was rocking but this was a topsy-turvy, helter-skelter game and it once again turned on its head in the space of a crazy two minutes, as Mata scored twice with more than a helping hand from Gallas.
On 65 minutes, the Spaniard picked up Gallas’ woeful clearance and drilled a perfect, clean finish into the bottom corner with his left foot.
Mata has been in wonderful form so far this season and it was little surprise that he was the man to score Chelsea’s third goal of the afternoon. First he evaded Gallas’ attention, and as the Frenchman watched Eden Hazard’s wonderful pass slide past him, Mata raced through and converted one-on-one past Friedel.
Torres latched on to another Mata pass but shot wide before the victory was sealed in added time, Sturridge turning in to an empty net after more brilliant work from the diminutive Spaniard.