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Demba at the double as Spurs slaughtered


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Substitute Demba Ba netted twice in as many minutes as Chelsea routed Tottenham Hotspur in Saturday night's London derby at Stamford Bridge.

With the Blues' challengers for title glory all facing commitments in other competitions, this represented the opportunity for José Mourinho's men to move a mammoth seven points clear of Liverpool and Arsenal - and said opportunity was duly taken.

Though their two closest rivals do have a game in hand on the West London outfit, Messrs Rodgers and Wenger would certainly rather have the points under their belt.

Fourth-placed Manchester City, nine points back, have three extra games to play, knowing maximum points from those games will see them replace the Blues at the summit - but that is no given considering one of their games in hand is the small matter of a trip to Old Trafford.

This win represents Chelsea throwing down the gauntlet to the chasing pack. Whilst Liverpool and City may have enjoyed their own thrashings of Tim Sherwood's men, the ominous way that Chelsea - sub-par and lethargic in the opening half - effortlessly sped through the gears after the break was frightening to behold.

For a team that, supposedly, lacks the firepower and flair of their title rivals, this was a performance that combined style and substance; attacking brilliance and defensive resilience.

Chelsea are a team playing with supreme confidence, and in Eden Hazard - goalscorer yet again - in such sublime form, Mourinho and his charges, despite endlessly dismissing their own chances of title glory, must surely now have one eye on the prize.

Though Fernando Torres injuring himself in the pre-game warm-up is a slight disappointment, this is a day full of positives for the Blues; a day where both Samuel Eto'o and Ba answered many critics, not just of their own form - and age - but in continuing the fine form of the Blues' striking unit. Despite suggestions to the contrary, Chelsea's quartet of strikers have contributed just under half of the 26 goals scored by the team this calendar year.

And after another tepid first half display akin to the none-event that was the opening 45 minutes at Craven Cottage last weekend - the best Chelsea effort seeing Hazard round Hugo Lloris, only to skew his shot wide - it was one of those wily old forwards who made the breakthrough.

What goes around comes around in football. Back in September, Mourinho labelled Spurs' Jan Vertonghen a 'disgrace' after the Belgian's play-acting saw Torres sent off in the 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane. Vertonghen had vowed to answer Mourinho's criticisms on the pitch - and he most certainly did, when his slip and subsequent backpass allowed Eto'o to steal in and clinically convert.

And it was a further case of karma biting back just minutes later when Eto'o was upended in the box. Referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot and showed an admittedly harsh red card to Younes Kaboul just shy of the hour mark. Hazard dispatched the penalty in trademark fashion for his fifteenth goal of the season, leaving Spurs with a mountain to climb.

Sherwood criticised the decision to award the penalty, but the Spurs boss must have conveniently forgotten the enormous slice of luck his side enjoyed in the first minute when Eto'o was upended by Lloris when through on goal.

From that point onwards, it was a case of how many the Blues wanted to score. With Kaboul sent off, midfield lynchpin Sandro moved to centre-half, and that enabled Nemanja Matic to effectively boss the midfield alone. Oscar, a substitute at half-time, had injected some much needed energy into the side, and to make matters even worse for the makeshift Spurs backline, Willian was introduced to the fray. He nearly signed for Spurs, you may recall...

Even before Eto'o had opened the scoring, the Blues had moreorless been given free rein to open fire on Lloris' goal. Last weekend's hat-trick hero Andre Schurrle did his best to waste a terrific chance early on, and with around 20 minutes remaining Oscar lacked his usual composure to hack a shot horribly over.

Whilst that pair lacked conviction in front of goal, one man who showed remarkable mental strength was Ba, a late substitute, replacing Eto'o. On a day of humorous exchanges between striker and manager, "old man" Eto'o had celebrated by propping himself up against the corner flag, with Mourinho reacting by giving those tired old legs a rest. On came Ba, a man determined to make the most of a rare opportunity.

And boy, did he deliver.

Though Chelsea fans can be critical of Ba's form, nobody can question the striker's resolve and professionalism, and his late brace was testament to his positive mental attitude. Ba the striker may not be worth all that much, but Ba the man is a model professional.

First, after Sandro had done all he could (a terrible challenge on Ba and a blatant handball) to end his own misery early by earning himself a second yellow card, it was his slip that allowed the Senegalese forward to prod home the Blues' third goal.

And he underlined Spurs' capitulation when Kyle Walker inexplicably headed a Lloris clearance back into his own penalty area. With the Blues pressing high up the pitch, any sane human being would have headed out wide towards the flanks, but the England man, supposedly already on the plane to Brazil, allowed Ba to pounce and make Tottenham's misery that little bit worse.

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