Olivier Giroud and Marcos Alonso came in from the cold to inspire Chelsea’s 2-1 win against Tottenham as the Blues cemented their grip on fourth place in the Premier League on Saturday.
Giroud and Alonso had been reduced to fringe figures in Frank Lampard’s first season as Chelsea manager.
But Lampard restored both veterans to the team at Stamford Bridge in a gamble that paid rich dividends.
With Tammy Abraham only fit enough to make the bench, Giroud started for the first time since November and the France striker’s fine finish opened the scoring in the first half.
The 33-year-old could have joined Tottenham had Chelsea signed a forward in January, but instead he netted his first club goal since August and his first in the Premier League since April.
Alonso, 29, maintained the theme of exiles getting back in favour as the left-back struck in the second half of his first league start since Chelsea’s win at Tottenham in December.
Antonio Rudiger’s own goal came too late to ruin Chelsea’s first win in five league games, moving them four points clear of fifth placed Tottenham in the race to qualify for the Champions League.
Ending Tottenham’s three-game winning streak in the league was the perfect response to Monday’s home defeat against Manchester United.
It was no more than they deserved after a vibrant performance that finally answered Lampard’s call for a killer instinct in the final third.
Tottenham have now won just once in their last 34 visits to Stamford Bridge, making it a painful return for their former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who was beaten by Lampard for the second time this term.
Mourinho had ramped up the mind games on Friday when he claimed to know Lampard was planning to use the same five-man defence that helped the Blues win at Tottenham earlier this season.
Mourinho was spot on, with Lampard making four changes in a return to the system he predicted, but he could not come up with an effective solution.
Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn, more often used as wingers, led a makeshift Tottenham attack in the absence of Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Dele Alli, who was dropped after reacting angrily to his substitution in the midweek defeat against Leipzig.
Chelsea, pressing hard from the start, were always on top and when Alonso’s superb pass picked out Mason Mount, the young midfielder’s shot was pushed away by Hugo Lloris.
– Toothless Tottenham –
It was a warning Tottenham failed to heed and Giroud put Chelsea in front in the 15th minute.
Giroud had looked impressive in his substitute appearance against United.
And his physical style and clever movement were crucial to the goal as he held off Toby Alderweireld to reach Jorginho’s pass for a shot that Lloris saved with his foot.
The rebound fell to Ross Barkley but his scuffed effort in the post and cannoned back to Giroud, who lashed a blistering strike past Lloris at his near post.
Willy Caballero almost gifted Tottenham a goal out of nothing before the break.
Needlessly rushing off his line, Caballero completely missed the ball and Tottenham defender Japhet Tanganga prodded just wide.
Mourinho had been scribbling away in his notebook before the interval, but there was no discernable change in Tottenham’s toothless display as Alonso increased Chelsea’s lead in the 48th minute.
Giroud guided the ball into Mount’s path and he worked it to Barkley on the edge of the Tottenham area.
With the visitors backing off, Barkley picked out Alonso, who blasted into the far corner from 20 yards.
It could have been worse for Tottenham as Giovani Lo Celso was fortunate to escape a red card when he stamped on Cesar Azpilicueta.
Chelsea should have won by more and Alonso’s free-kick hit the bar before Rudiger deflected Erik Lamela’s shot into his own net in the 89th minute.