The Blues won at White Hart Lane in the league for the first time since 2005 and remained top of the Premier League pile in the process.
A brilliant Gary Cahill goal gave Roberto Di Matteo’s men a well-deserved lead to take into the dressing room at half-time, but that was soon surrendered as William Gallas and Jermain Defoe put Spurs ahead inside 10 minutes from the restart.
However Chelsea steeled ourselves and responded with true belief, Juan Mata netting twice in just over two minutes to restore the advantage. Tottenham had chances, as did Chelsea, but it was the returning Daniel Sturridge who made sure all three points were heading to south-west London just before the end.
There was plenty of evidence for those entertained by a cracking derby match that this reshaped side will prove to be genuine challengers in the months ahead.
With Ramires preferred to Lampard as Mikel’s partner behind the more forward-thinking midfield three, Cahill replacing suspended John Terry was the only change from the lunchtime kick-off win at Arsenal in the league game before last.
Spurs were without Gareth Bale who was reported to be attending the birth of his child and Moussa Dembele who was injured on international duty, so played Gylfi Sigurdsson in the No. 10 role with Dempsey and Lennon pushed wide. Defoe was their lone striker.
There were warm handshakes and smiles before kick-off as Andre Villas-Boas came over to the Blues bench and greeted all the staff and substitutes but then the pleasantries had to come to an end. This was a derby that mattered in so many ways, although labelling it the first real test of the season as some sections of the media had, did disservice to our performance at the Emirates.
The opening 45 minutes of this latest encounter in north London were not dissimilar to those of that match.
William Gallas, so exposed in our 5-1 FA Cup semi win over Tottenham back in April, could have helped redeem himself after just two minutes but couldn’t connect with a Tom Huddlestone free-kick lofted into the Chelsea area. That moment apart, the Blues look solid and up for this one in the early stages.
Mikel was impressive in dealing with Defoe and subsequent through ball down the right was almost reached by Torres.
On nine minutes Oscar picked up a loose ball and turned to face goal before bouncing a shot not too far wide from outside the area.
The Brazilian robbed the dithering Gallas just inside the Spurs half soon after but his quickly released pass found Torres just offside.
Oscar continued to see plenty of possession and it was his delivery that was headed behind at the expense of a corner by Gallas. From that set-piece, the opening goal came. Hazard hit it high and deep but Gallas couldn’t clear the area with his header. Instead it fell to Cahill in a central position to hit the sweetest of volleys over the top of Friedel and in to the net. The clock was turning to 17 minutes as the Blues went 1-0 up.
A response from the home team was only to be expected and Cech was soon saving from Defoe with Cole also back to clear the loose ball. But Chelsea then took control again and the first signs of discontent from the home fans were heard inside 20 minutes as their team’s passes went astray.
On 30 minutes a chance did come Spurs way. Cahill had already blocked strongly from Defoe when he was asked to head away a Lennon cross after the winger had worked a yard beyond Cole. The ball was played back in but fortunately Sigurdsson shot wide.
Terrier-like Chelsea continued to win possession back in midfield and should have gone 2-0 up on 38 minutes. Mata took Ramires’s pass and drew a sprawling save out of Friedel but when the ball came back to the Spaniard just 10 yards out, he blasted over wastefully. He would more than make up for that miss.
Gallas was booked for a foul on Torres inside the Chelsea half (Ivanovic and Huddlestone shown yellow earlier in the game) before Cech was genuinely tested for a second time as a cross dipped dangerously in front of him. Cole was later back at the far post to head a threatening ball away before the half’s action concluded with two bookings, one for Walker for tripping a counter-attacking Ramires and then one for Ramires in similar circumstances on Lennon.
The Blues had avoided conceding a soft equaliser before the interval, as had been the case at Arsenal, but instead we were caught not switched on enough just a minute into the second period. David Luiz conceded a free-kick for climbing and when it was played to the back post, Sigurdsson had space to touch the ball across the face of goal and Gallas was on hand to make sure it crossed the line.
The Chelsea bench must have been fuming and with the Spurs team and crowd now boosted, there was relief when Sigurdsson, who had switched to the wing this half with Dempsey now in the middle, planted a shot straight at Cech soon after.
Vertonghen also smashed a drive into the hands of Cech from further out before the home team turned near-constant pressure into something tangible on 53 minutes. Lennon ran towards Cole and slipped a pass inside him to where Defoe finished in trademark style – turning a first-time shot beyond Cech from close range.
Mata and Oscar were no longer winning those contests in the centre of the park as they had in the first half but the Blues slowly steadied the ship and began to take the game into Tottenham territory once again.
The reward came when Oscar from out on the right picked out Mata with a square pass and our Player of the Year’s finish into the bottom corner was crisp and clinical.
It was 2-2 with two-thirds of the game played and Cech had only just saved a dipping, speculative effort from Defoe when Mata put Chelsea back ahead. Mikel was involved and his pass forward was turned on by Hazard in a moment of inspiration. It was the perfect pass for Mata to find the net between Friedel and his near post for his sixth goal of the season.
Mata could have had a rapid hat-trick as he turned to face goal but his attempted chip was caught by Friedel.
AVB brought on Adebayor for the quiet Dempsey with just over quarter of an hour to go but the next chance was Sigurdsson’s. He blasted over to groans from the white shirts inside White Hart Lane.
Sturridge made his return from injury, coming on for the hard-working Oscar with 82 minutes played.
Lennon worked space to shoot but Cech was equal to it before Mata hit a peach of a pass to Torres but from an angle, his compatriot missed the target by just centimetres.
Cech saved at the second attempt at the feet of Adebayor as the 90 minutes approached, and then at the foot of his post from Walker’s long-range attempt.
Spurs, inevitably, were pushing hard for a late equaliser but they fell for a sucker punch very much of their own making. Full-back Walker was caught on the ball by Mata way out on the touchline and the Chelsea number 10 continued to twist the knife into Tottenham by squaring to give Sturridge a tap-in.
It was 4-2 and there was no coming back for AVB’s men as the Chelseafans sang a little cruelly ‘Andre, Andre what’s the score,’ before turning their attention to the present regime and a hearty ‘One Di Matteo’.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, David Luiz, Cole; Mikel, Ramires; Mata, Oscar (Sturridge 82), Hazard (Lampard 89); Torres.
Unused subs Turnbull, Azpilicueta, Bertrand, Romeu, Moses.
Scorers Cahill 16, Mata 66, 68, Sturridge 90.
Booked Ivanovic 24, Ramires 44.
Spus (4-2-3-1): Friedel; Walker, Gallas (c), Caulker, Vertonghen; Sandro, Huddlestone; Lennon, Sigurdsson, Dempsey (Adebayor 73); Defoe.
Unused subs Lloris, Dawson, Livermore, Naughton, Falque, Townsend.
Scorers Gallas 46, Defoe 53.
Booked Huddlestone 37, Gallas 39, Walker 53.
Referee Mike Dean.