A hat-trick from Nicolas Jackson helped Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino enjoy a successful return to Tottenham, but only after a pulsating contest with two red cards and five disallowed goals.
Chelsea’s 4-1 victory ended Spurs’ unbeaten start to the Premier League season and earned Pochettino the first statement result of his reign – but it only told half the story.
Dejan Kulusevski fired Ange Postecoglou’s team in front during a 57-minute first half, where Cristian Romero earned a straight red card and Cole Palmer netted from the resulting penalty.
Tottenham also lost Micky van de Ven and James Maddison to injuries, while three goals were disallowed with video assistant referee John Brooks a busy man.
Spurs were down to nine men soon after half-time when Destiny Udogie was dismissed and the visitors’ numerical advantage finally told when Jackson slotted home in the 75th minute before he completed his treble with two stoppage-time strikes to bring an action-packed London derby to an end.
While all the pre-match focus centred on the reception Pochettino would get from the home fans, he walked out with the PA system booming so his main greeting turned out to be a bear hug from opposite number Postecoglou.
This match rarely disappoints for drama and Moises Caicedo’s crunching third-minute tackle on Maddison set the tone.
The rivalry between the clubs had always been there, but it ramped up a notch during Pochettino’s Tottenham tenure and especially after the ‘Battle of the Bridge’ in 2016.
Almost four years to the day since his sacking, this was Pochettino’s first return to N17 and he watched his new team concede after only six minutes.
Maddison was behind it with a wonderful pass under pressure into Pape Sarr, who recycled into Kulusevski and his curled effort deflected off Levi Colwill to beat Robert Sanchez.
Chelsea should have been level five minutes later when Raheem Sterling played in Jackson, but after he impressively side-stepped Van de Ven, he was thwarted by Guglielmo Vicario.
The breathless nature of the contest showed no sign of slowing with Son putting the ball in the net in the 13th minute after a slick move, but a VAR check showed he was marginally offside.
It would not be the first time Stockley Park was required with a check on Udogie’s tackle on Sterling soon after, but the left-back avoided a red card despite flying in two-footed.
Sterling was in the thick of the action with 21 minutes played when he finished well from an excellent Reece James pass, but Chelsea’s celebrations were cut short. A lengthy VAR check disallowed the goal for a handball by Sterling and Romero’s swipe at Colwill in the build-up was surprisingly ignored.
Caicedo’s long-range effort nestled into the bottom corner in the 28th minute but the Stockley Park duo of Brooks and Daniel Robathan were required again.
After Brooks eventually decided Jackson had interfered with Caicedo’s strike and ruled out the goal, the check turned to two penalty shouts with Van de Ven’s air kick on Sterling fine, but Romero’s tackle on compatriot Enzo Fernandez deemed a spot-kick.
Tottenham received a double punishment though with Romero’s challenge that saw him crunch into the shin of Fernandez worthy of a red card in the opinion of referee Oliver, who reviewed the incident on the pitchside monitor.
Following a near-five-minute delay, Cole Palmer converted the penalty, but only after Vicario pushed his effort onto the post and in.
Spurs suffered when Maddison injured his foot while trying to press James, before Van de Ven pulled up in a sprint with Jackson. Suddenly Spurs were without three of their most crucial players.
The sight of 12 minutes of stoppage-time was the last thing Tottenham wanted and despite a flashpoint between Sarr and Colwill, which resulted in yellow cards for both, it remained 1-1 at the break.
Pochettino replaced Colwill during the interval, but Postecoglou kept on his cautioned full-back and it proved costly.
Udogie lunged in on Sterling and Oliver produced a second yellow card, which meant Spurs faced at least 35 minutes with nine men.
Substitute Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg somehow diverted Jackson’s close-range header over, before Vicario bravely dived at Marc Cucurella’s feet to deny Chelsea again.
However, the Italian had no answers with quarter of an hour left. James released Sterling down the right and he squared for Jackson to tap home for his fourth goal since his summer switch.
After VAR produced a relatively quick check, it was needed again three minutes later when Dier volleyed home from a flick on by Rodrigo Bentancur – but Spurs celebrations were ended by the offside flag.
There was still time for sub Bentancur to head wide from six yards and Blues keeper Robert Sanchez to save from Son before Jackson scored twice from Palmer and Conor Gallagher passes to settle an absorbing clash.