Marco Alonso’s sensational brace got Chelsea’s Premier League season up and running as the defending champions managed to beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 in a hard-fought encounter at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday.
Going down to nine men and losing 3-2 to Burnley was just about the worst way to start a title defence, but Antonio Conte’s men responded with a gritty performance at Spurs’ home ground for the 2017-18 season.
After Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi had put the ball into his own net with eight minutes remaining, Spurs looked set for a share of the spoils but the Blues’ marauding wing-back had other ideas.
Victor Wanyama was robbed off possession and as Alonso galloped on the wing, he let loose a speculative shot from an acute angle and, to the surprise of everyone present, squeezed past Hugo Lloris at the near post in the 88th minute.
Conte, sensing nothing less than a win would do, started summer signings Alvaro Morata, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko, with young Danish defender Andreas Christensen getting the nod as well for the crunch tie.
And the Blues really should have taken the lead early on when Cesear Azpilicueta’s pin-point cross found an unmarked Morata in the box. The Spanish forward, however, couldn’t guide his header on target, much to the disbelief of his manager on the sidelines.
Spurs, who lost two of their three home games in the Champions League at Wembley last season, seemed to be stuck in second gear and apart from a Harry Kane effort from distance, didn’t really test Thibaut Courtois for the first-half hour.
In fact, the visitors took the lead via a stunning free-kick from Alonso in the 25th minute. The Spaniard’s shot went up and over the wall and despite a despairing lunge from Hugo Lloris, it flew into the top-corner.
Now, after going a goal down and as the interval neared, Spurs were roused from their stupor and came close to scoring twice. Christian Eriksen’s free-kick from the right crossed the goal with Kane inches away from heading it in and the striker would hit the post with three minutes left in the half after some excellent footwork from Dele Alli.
Starting the second-half where they left the first, Spurs continued to press for an equaliser but Chelsea’s defence stood firm.
The Blues, with Morata and Willian’s pace, posed a serious threat on the break and nearly scored a killer second goal when the Brazilian winger set up his Spanish teammate, but a last-ditch tackle from a Spurs defender saw the shot go out for a corner.
Conte made a double change in the 78th minute, bringing on Batshuayi and Pedro for Morata and Willian but was stunned when the Belgian striker scored at the wrong end within two minutes of coming on. Eriksen swung in a free-kick and despite being under no pressure, the Belgian inadvertently equalised for Spurs to get the home crowd roaring again.
Despite the sucker blow, Chelsea kept their shape and weathered late pressure from Spurs. And when Alonso scored for the second time on the night, the result was put beyond doubt.
The Blues next face Everton at home next Sunday and will hope to get some momentum with a win while Spurs will have to lick their wounds and rebound against Burnely later on the same day.