LONDON (AP) — Tottenham banners lined the walkways leading to Wembley. The stadium was rebranded inside in the club’s colors. Even drumming was amplified over the speaker system to whip up the atmosphere against Chelsea.
The cosmetic changes couldn’t turn around Tottenham’s wretched Wembley record as the team started its temporary residence at English football’s national stadium for the season. In a renewal of the rivalry between last season’s top two, defending champion Chelsea secured a 2-1 victory through Marcos Alonso’s double.
While Chelsea reignited its Premier League title defense after an opening day loss, Tottenham was condemned to an eighth loss in 11 matches at Wembley since the redeveloped stadium opened in 2007.
“Today I think Wembley is not the reason we lose the game,” Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said. “I think the team played really, really well and it’s not fair to blame Wembley because for me Wembley is one of the best places in the world, if not the best place in the world to play football.”
Just not for Tottenham, which relocated to Wembley while a new venue is built at its long-standing White Hart Lane home. That’s the site where Tottenham only dropped points twice last season, and those matches were both drawn.
Tottenham had been well placed to salvage a point against Chelsea when Alonso’s first-half free kick was canceled out by Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi inadvertently heading the ball into his own net in the 82nd minute just after coming off the bench.
But within six minutes Chelsea was back in front and Batshuayi’s blushes were spared in the London derby.
Chelsea defender David Luiz intercepted the ball after Victor Wanyama received it from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris’ throw. Alonso helped to knock the ball along to Pedro Rodriguez on the left flank and the wingback raced forward to receive a return pass in the penalty area. Alonso’s shot from a tight angle then squirmed under the normally reliable Lloris in the Tottenham goal.
It was an instant recovery for Chelsea after opening with a home loss to Burnley that saw captain Gary Cahill sent off and suspended for the trip across London to Wembley.
“There was a lot of talking throughout the week,” Alonso said. “I think we showed that we are together. We worked so hard this week and we 100 percent deserved the win.”
Tottenham opened the season with a victory last Sunday over Newcastle, which lost 1-0 to Huddersfield in Sunday’s other game. Now it’s level on three points with Chelsea.
“Frustrated? No,” Pochettino said. “I am disappointed because I think we deserved more. Our performance was good.”
Not good enough, though.
Particularly Harry Kane, last season’s 29-goal top scorer in the league, who is still yet to ever score in August. An early shot by the England striker was spilled by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and he struck the post just as he did at Newcastle a week earlier. Another effort after the break was deflected wide at a time when Tottenham was already 1-0 down.
That was the result of Dele Alli fouling David Luiz, playing in the Chelsea midfield rather than usual central defense, and the visitors winning a free kick. Alonso stepped up and curled the set piece over the wall and dipping into the net in the 24th minute.
“That’s the side more for left footers,” Alonso said. “David is better from the other side. I decided to take it and it went well.”
Tackles were flying in across the field, with both teams having three players booked in the feisty fixture.
Chelsea, though, always looked more likely to score.
Alvaro Morata, making his first start for Chelsea, missed a glaring header in the opening minutes but came closer with a deflected strike in the second half.
“He could have scored but his work rate was incredible,” Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said. “For sure he can improve a lot but I think he showed great physicality and good technique in a very difficult game.”
Willian also hit the post before a teammate scored — in the wrong net. Batshuayi had only been on the field three minutes when, under no pressure, he managed to turn Christian Eriksen’s free kick into his own net.
Alonso had time to put the ball in the right net again. After scoring six goals last season, the Spaniard already has two.
“They showed me the desire of last season is still in their hearts,” Conte said.
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