Pedro’s strike and Kieran Trippier’s embarrassing own goal gave Chelsea a 2-0 victory over rivals Tottenham in the Premier League on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge.
The eagerly-anticipated team news saw Kepa Arrizabalaga dropped to the bench for Willy Caballero after the Spaniard’s show of dissent in the Carabao Cup final defeat at Wembley on Sunday, while on the pitch both sides hit the woodwork in a goalless first half through Gonzalo Higuain and Harry Winks.
Chelsea took the lead through Pedro, who cut in from the right and squeezed an effort through Hugo Lloris’ legs from an angle before Trippier’s backpass caught the Spurs goalkeeper rushing out, only to see the ball roll into the net.
Spurs failed to register a shot on target for the first time under Mauricio Pochettino in the Premier League, and the result further dents their slim title hopes, leaving them nine points off leaders Liverpool.
Before the game, Sarri described his decision to drop Kepa as a message for the group, and he received a big team performance for a vital win in the race for the top four.
During an exhilarating start, Chelsea hit the post as Moussa Sissoko’s failed clearance fell to Higuain, only for the forward to slice a half volley against the post from 12 yards.
Higuain then curled wide from the edge of the box with Lloris rooted, before a flashpoint at the other end as Harry Kane unsportingly chased down a Spurs pass-back to David Luiz after a drop ball.
Luiz and Caballero took umbrage with Kane’s actions before an altercation, and though Kane was seen moving his head towards Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta, referee Andre Marriner did not punish him.
Spurs began to find their rhythm and were nearly ahead before the break, only for Winks’ long-range effort to rebound off the bar after taking the slightest touch off a Chelsea foot.
But Chelsea upped the pace after the break and got a deserved opener through man-of-the-match Pedro, beating Ben Davies and Toby Alderweireld on the right flank, cutting onto his left and finding the net through the legs of Lloris from 10 yards.
Kane was then found by Davies in a fine position, eight yards out, but couldn’t get his feet right, miscuing wide of goal as Spurs struggled to muster up any clear second-half chances.
Their misery was compounded with six minutes remaining as Trippier put too much on a simple backpass for Lloris, catching the goalkeeper unaware as they watched the ball roll agonisingly into the net.