Blues win thrilling London derby as Cahill, Mata (2) and Sturridge strike to prevent Spurs' comeback
The Spanish midfielder dominated Spurs in the second half with two goals and an assist while Gary Cahill and Daniel Sturridge also added a goal a piece for the Blues. William Gallas and Jermain Defoe scored for the losing.
Chelsea's performance full of the attacking verve its former coach was hired to implement.
This was the best of football, a pulsating, ever-changing derby encounter decided by two goals in as many second-half minutes by the quite brilliant Mata, who shone brightest of all in Chelsea’s sparkling midfield and set up Sturridge in injury time for the Blues’ fourth goal.
Against the club that sacked him earlier this year, Villas-Boas restored goalkeeper Brad Friedel to the starting lineup ahead of Hugo Lloris, while Mousa Dembele missed out through a hip injury and Gareth Bale dropped out late after his partner went into labor.
Chelsea captain John Terry served the first game of a four-match ban for using racist language, but the Blues barely noticed his absence in the first half as it controlled the early stages and took advantage of Spurs’ missing men.
Chelsea had initially taken the lead through Gary Cahill’s brilliant volley in the 18th minute before Spurs rallied in the second-half to turn the game on its head through goals from Gallas and Defoe.
Within a minute of the restart, Spurs leveled as it took advantage of Chelsea's defense. Tom Huddlestone’s free kick appeared to be drifting off the pitch but Jan Vertonghen superbly kept the ball alive, allowing Gallas to head home his first Spurs goal virtually from the goal line.
Five minutes later, Tottenham took the lead as Defoe scored the 200th goal of his career with a true poacher’ finish. Aaron Lennon appeared to be attempting to shoot from the right but Defoe reacted more quickly than anyone to expertly turn the ball in.
White Hart Lane was rocking but this was a topsy-turvy, helter-skelter game and it once again turned on its head in the space of a crazy two minutes, as Mata scored twice with more than a helping hand from Gallas.
On 65 minutes, the Spaniard picked up Gallas’ woeful clearance and drilled a perfect, clean finish into the bottom corner with his left foot.
Mata has been in wonderful form so far this season and it was little surprise that he was the man to score Chelsea’s third goal of the afternoon. First he evaded Gallas’ attention, and as the Frenchman watched Eden Hazard’s wonderful pass slide past him, Mata raced through and converted one-on-one past Friedel.
Torres latched on to another Mata pass but shot wide before the victory was sealed in added time, Sturridge turning in to an empty net after more brilliant work from the diminutive Spaniard.
Chelsea has its best start to a season since 2006 and leaves it on top of the league with 22 points from its first eight matches, while Spurs remain outside the top four.