Impressive Chelsea keep heads clear at the top
Chelsea 3 Tottenham 0:Carlo Ancelotti’s side remain top of the Premier League after a demolition of London rivals Tottenham at Stamford Bridge. Ashley Cole put the Blues on the way to a comfortable victory with a first-half header and Michael Ballack made it two in the 57th minute.
Didier Drogba finished Spurs off with a third in the 62nd minute to make it six straight wins for the Blues and leave them three points clear of Manchester United at the summit.
To make matters worse for Spurs they lost both Ledley King and Sebastien Bassong through injury to leave Harry Redknapp with a defensive crisis.
There was bad news for Chelasea, too, as Drogba exited seven minutes from time with a calf problem.
Chelsea almost went ahead in the seventh minute when an angled drive from Jose Bosingwa cannoned off the crossbar.
But the Blues had Petr Cech to thank in the 11th minute when Jermain Defoe sprinted clear of the Chelsea defence only to see the goalkeeper stick out a leg to deny him.
Tottenham were now enjoying the majority of the possession and Jermaine Jenas was inches wide with a 20-yard drive that had Cech beaten.
It was enough to encourage Chelsea boss Ancelotti off his seat and into the technical area. His presence almost had an immediate effect as Frank Lampard headed just wide from a cross by Nicolas Anelka in the 17th minute.
In the 22nd minute Anelka sent a powerful volley into the side netting after a cross from Florent Malouda had made its way across the six-yard box without attention from the Spurs defenders.
Chelsea felt they should have had a penalty in the 31st minute when Ballack collided with Vedran Corluka but referee Howard Webb rejected their appeals.
But his decision was of little consequence when Chelsea went ahead a minute later.
Drogba turned supplier with a superb cross into the middle of the Spurs penalty area and Cole got in front of Corluka to put a diving header into the net beyond former Chelsea goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini.
The game had erupted into life at last and it was now a full-blooded derby with tackles flying in from both sides.
Drogba was the target for some rough stuff from the Spurs players as the temperature began to rise.
Chelsea won a free-kick in a central position some 25 yards out when Tom Huddlestone jumped into Ballack two minutes before the interval, but Drogba hit it straight at Tottenham’s defensive wall.
Chelsea should have gone two in front in the 46th minute but Lampard drove wide after Drogba had found him with a low cross.
In the build-up to Lampard’s chance, Spurs defender King sustained a knock that forced his retirement from the action.
Alan Hutton replaced the stricken King with Corluka moving from right-back into the centre of defence alongside Bassong.
Spurs were furious in the 54th minute when Robbie Keane went down under a challenge from Ricardo Carvalho.
Referee Webb rejected Tottenham’s appeals but TV replays appeared to show that the Chelsea defender had clipped the Spurs striker’s heels.
The debate continued to rage on the pitch with Keane protesting to both Carvalho and Webb that is should have been a spot-kick.
Chelsea made Spurs pay moments later when Ballack made it 2-0. Drogba’s 57th-minute shot was well saved by Cudicini but Lampard followed up to roll the ball back into the six-yard box where Ballack was waiting to poke it home from point-blank range.
Chelsea were at their fluid best with a two-goal cushion and Bosingwa forced Cudicini into another save with a left-foot drive from 20-yards.
Not surprisingly the Blues went three in front in the 62nd minute when Drogba fired home from six yards for his fifth goal of the season.
Cudicini almost gifted Chelsea a fourth in the 73rd minute when he allowed a shot by substitute John Obi Mikel to creep under his body.
But the Italian goalkeeper was alert enough to recover the ball before it could cross the goal line.
It got worse for Spurs when centre half Bassong fell awkwardly on his shoulder and had to be carried off after lengthy treatment. He was replaced by Niko Kranjcar.
But Chelsea also lost striker Drogba with a calf injury in the 83rd minute which will give coach Ancelotti real cause for concern if he is out for any length of time.