Pochettino's emotional return a sideshow as Chelsea punish Spurs meltdown


Mauricio Pochettino, Manager of Chelsea gestures during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea FC at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on November 6, 2023 in London, England.

Chelsea may have kick-started their stuttering season with a 4-1 victory at Tottenham Hotspur but the return of the mercurial Mauricio Pochettino to his old club became something of a sideshow on a manic Monday night in north London.

All the pre-match talk was of the Argentine's re-appearance on the touchline at the club he took from mediocrity to Premier League title contenders and Champions League finalists during a five-year stint before being sacked in 2019.

Tottenham, who would have returned to the top of the table with a victory, initially looked like making it a bitter night for Pochettino as they dominated early on and led after six minutes. But they imploded in astonishing fashion with reckless Cristian Romero and Destiny Udogie both sent off for the hosts.

Even then, Chelsea made hard work of making their numerical superiority count and did not take the lead until the 75th minute. But Nicolas Jackson's hat-trick eventually gave Pochettino the statement result he needed after a disappointing start to his Stamford Bridge reign.

"I feel much better, after four years to come back and say hello to all the people, it is a gift for us," Pochettino told reporters. "Very emotional but at the same time, the memories.

"The game was passionate, competitive, being honest we needed three points and it was an amazing day for us. It is Tottenham but it is not more special because of that."

Pochettino was not making the headlines though with the Daily Mail's back page describing a derby that contained five disallowed goals, umpteen VAR reviews, injuries and flare-ups on the pitch as "carnage" or, according to The Sun, "VAR-nage".

Tottenham manager Ange Postecoglou said it was almost impossible to analyse what had happened in the 90 minutes plus 21 minutes of stoppage time.

But Pochettino had a clearer view of things.

"We started the game really bad. We were calm after that and forced them to make a mistake," Pochettino said.

Postecoglou said he feared that referees were having their authority removed by the almost routine VAR checks but Pochettino, once a fierce critic of VAR, believed the system worked on Monday and said all the decisions were fair.

"That is the football we wanted, we wanted technology to arrive and now it is here. I said I did not want VAR but now support VAR, we need to find the best way," he said.

"Today we played 110 minutes, I don't know if it is one in the morning. We were open to receive the technology. Too many coaches wanted VAR and when it is against you, it is a disgrace, the balance is really difficult. We need to try to help altogether to improve this type of this thing."

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