Willy Caballero keeps clean sheet as Chelsea beat Tottenham

Maurizio Sarri’s position as Chelsea head coach was strengthened by a 2-0 win which featured a Willy Caballero clean sheet and a Tottenham defensive howler.

Under-fire Sarri belatedly exerted his authority by dropping Kepa Arrizabalaga for his refusal to be substituted in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final penalty shootout loss to Manchester City.

The world’s most expensive goalkeeper was replaced by Caballero as Pedro’s 57th-minute strike was followed by an embarrassing Kieran Trippier own goal.

The right-back passed the ball by Hugo Lloris into his own net after 84 minutes as Spurs slipped to a fourth successive away loss.

They will now be looking over their shoulders, with Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea closing in, after slipping nine points off leaders Liverpool in the title race.

It might have been worse for Spurs had Harry Kane been sent off in the first half for motioning his head towards Cesar Azpilicueta.

The Blues stayed sixth, but are two points behind United with a game in hand and Sarri’s status appears secure for the first time in a month.

Kepa – a £71.6million buy from Athletic Bilbao – was fined one week’s wages and apologised after refusing to go off with penalties looming at Wembley, sending Sarri apoplectic as he tried unsuccessfully to send on Caballero.

The incident was described as a “misunderstanding” in the immediate aftermath of the 4-3 penalty shootout loss to City, but the 24-year-old was subsequently fined one week’s wages by the Chelsea board and admitted making “a big mistake”.

Sarri on Tuesday said the situation was “finished” and “we don’t want to kill him”, but the decision to omit Kepa from the starting line-up extends the fallout.

This home London derby usually brings out the best in Chelsea and often unnerves Spurs, who ended Sarri’s 18-match unbeaten start to competitive action with Chelsea by exposing the flaws of ‘Sarri-ball’ at Wembley in November.

Here Mauricio Pochettino’s men had an opportunity to pile more pressure on Sarri and exact revenge for last month’s League Cup semi-final defeat.

Negative fan reaction in the last two Chelsea home games – the FA Cup exit to Manchester United and Europa League win over Malmo – was replaced by mutual animosity between home and visiting supporters.

Chelsea should have had reason to gloat after six minutes. Gonzalo Higuain sliced a volley on to a post, with Lloris beaten.

The Argentina striker had another good chance, only to shoot wide after Lloris passed straight to Pedro.

Spurs were struggling to assert themselves and keep their discipline.

When Kane charged down David Luiz following a drop ball, Azpilicueta and the Tottenham striker confronted each other.

The England captain appeared to move his head towards Azpilicueta – an act highlighted by slow-motion replays – but as referee Andre Marriner witnessed the incident retrospective action is not likely.

Spurs’ energy was always going to earn them opportunities and Harry Winks’ thunderous 25-yard shot rebounded off the crossbar after 44 minutes.

The intensity remained high but Spurs also appeared subdued. Pedro, having previously been quiet, broke the deadlock with a well-taken goal.

Fed by Azpilicueta through the right channel, Pedro beat Toby Alderweireld and fired in through Lloris’ legs.

It had looked like Pedro would be replaced by Willian, but instead it was Eden Hazard who made way.

Pedro made a brilliant sliding tackle to deny Christian Eriksen in Chelsea’s area and then Kane failed to direct Ben Davies’ cross goal-wards.

Tottenham’s troubles deepened when Olivier Giroud flicked on a long ball and Trippier and Lloris were involved in a costly misunderstanding.

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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