Mauricio Pochettino made a winning return to Tottenham with Chelsea as his former club were reduced to nine men on a night of chaos and controversy.
The Argentine’s return was overshadowed by a sensational game that featured five goals, five disallowed goals, two red cards, and numerous VAR decisions in one of the most action-packed Premier League matches ever.
Spurs made a strong start, taking the lead through a deflected shot by Dejan Kulusevski in the sixth minute, and narrowly missing out on another goal when Son Heung-min’s effort was ruled offside as they aimed to exploit their early control.
In a fevered atmosphere Chelsea had two goals of their own disallowed, one each from Raheem Sterling and Moises Caicedo ruled out for handball and offside respectively.
But the latter situation still led to a Chelsea goal as a penalty was awarded for a crude challenge by Romero on compatriot Enzo Fernandez, and the Spurs defender was deservedly sent off in the aftermath.
Summer signing Cole Palmer scored from the resulting penalty to equalize the match. However, Spurs faced more setbacks as key defender Micky van de Ven suffered what appeared to be a serious hamstring injury, and James Maddison had to be substituted due to an ankle problem before half-time.
The situation worsened for Spurs when Destiny Udogie received a red card for a reckless tackle on Sterling, following a second yellow card from referee Michael Oliver ten minutes into the second half.
Despite being reduced to nine men, Ange Postecoglou, who also received a yellow card on the Spurs bench, took a gamble by maintaining a high defensive line. Nevertheless, Chelsea eventually broke through their defense with 15 minutes remaining, with Raheem Sterling assisting Nicolas Jackson for a simple finish.
The game wasn’t over yet, and Spurs came close to securing a remarkable draw. Eric Dier had a superb goal disallowed for a marginal offside, and Rodrigo Bentancur narrowly missed with a header from a late free-kick, challenging Chelsea’s defensive line.
Jackson then scored twice more in stoppage time to secure a late hat-trick and render the scoreline far more comfortable than the evening had been for the visitors.
Chelsea took their time to break down nine-man Spurs but eventually unlocked the defence, with Senegalese striker Nicolas Jackson the beneficiary.
Pochettino’s men were already edging their way into the game even before Romero demonstrated his irresponsibility, but once he and Udogie where off Chelsea knew anything other than victory would have been unthinkable.
The home side made it to within 15 minutes of pulling off a remarkable draw before Sterling and Jackson finally cracked the code and this could be a landmark night for the 22-year-old striker, who has looked very much a work in progress since his summer move to Stamford Bridge.
He finishes off three chances comfortably and marched off with the match ball, beaming in front of Chelsea’s elated fans.
Pochettino will know this was not a victory earned in normal circumstances, but he will also aim to use it as a springboard after a middling start to the campaign.