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    Sarri reasserts authority, drops Kepa and steers Chelsea past Tottenham

    Feb 28, 2019
    Chelsea's Gonzalo Higuain is tackled by Tottenham's Erik Lamela.
    PHOTO: AP

    LONDON — Maurizio Sarri reasserted his authority on the sideline, and so did Chelsea on the field.

    With Kepa Arrizabalaga dropped for refusing to be substituted in the League Cup final, replacement goalkeeper Willy Caballero did not even have a shot on target to save as Chelsea beat Tottenham, 2-0, in the Premier League on Wednesday.

    While Chelsea remains sixth, the win over its third-place London rival rouses a team and a manager seemingly in turmoil a week ago after being knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester United.

    Instead, it was a calamitous night for Tottenham.

    Pedro Rodriguez poked the ball through goalkeeper Hugo Lloris' legs in the 57th minute. Chelsea was gifted a second in the 84th when Kieran Trippier sent the ball past Lloris with a shoddy back pass, confirming a second successive loss for Tottenham.

    "Tottenham Hotspur," Chelsea fans chanted, "it's happening again."

    It was a cutting reminder of the failure to win the league since 1961 and Tottenham losing ground whenever it looks to be challenging for a title. Tottenham didn't even manage a shot on target for the first time in a league game since December 2013.

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    Mauricio Pochettino's side is now eight points behind Manchester City and nine adrift of leader Liverpool. Just staying in the top four Champions League places could be challenging. Fourth-place Arsenal has closed the gap on Tottenham to four points and Manchester United is only a further point behind.

    Across London, Arsenal beat Bournemouth 5-1 with its fans chanting: "Tottenham Hotspur, we're coming for you."

    Coming up next even, in Saturday's north London derby at Wembley Stadium.

    The next day Chelsea has a short trip across west London to relegation-threatened Fulham. Just the type of fixture Sarri needs to further banish crisis talk.

    Chelsea has now gone three games without conceding. After beating Malmo 3-0 in the Europa League last Thursday, Chelsea held Manchester City scoreless in the League Cup final through 120 minutes only to lose on penalties.

    Sarri wanted to substitute a seemingly-injured Kepa before that shootout only for his goalkeeper to refuse to obey orders. While Chelsea tried to dismiss it as a misunderstanding, Kepa was fined a week's wages on Monday and forced to apologize.

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    The world's most expensive goalkeeper was reduced to a spectator against Tottenham as player power at Chelsea was subdued.

    "It's a choice," Sarri said. "It's a message to my group — that we are a group, we are 25 players. It's my choice."

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    Chelsea's Gonzalo Higuain is tackled by Tottenham's Erik Lamela.
    PHOTO: AP
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