Lennon the hitmaker in Chelsea defeat
Tottenham Hotspur 2 - 1 ChelseaA curious fear seems to ripple through the hierarchy of those picking sporting teams that holds back young men with prodigious talent.
Yet with national team manager, Steve McClaren, sitting in the stands as Chelsea came to White Hart Lane, a young man did more than enough to be handed a regular role in his England team. This was the day that Aaron Lennon confirmed his potential can no longer be bottled.
A young man who has shot to prominence in spectacular fashion of the last 12 months, Lennon's pace and skill stood the test against the best in England as he proved he has what it takes to win games against some of the finest defenders in the game. Ashley Cole has been a match for the most threatening wingers in the last five years, yet he was running scared every time the jet-propelled Lennon was released down the right flank and when he switched to the left, Paulo Ferreira was no match either.
That he capped his sparkling performance with a coolly taken winning goal merely confirmed what those who watch this young man in action each week have been saying for some time. He is the most dynamic player eligible to play for England and as McClaren apparently dispensed of David Beckham's services because of the former captain's lack of pace, he must now name Lennon as a regular in his side for the rest of the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign.
'Aaron is one of the best talents in England and he showed that against a great team today,' said jubilant Spurs boss, Martin Jol. 'I wouldn't like to play against him and the same is true of Ashley Cole. He may be a great defender, but I don't think he enjoys facing Aaron and I can understand that.
'The boy had one chance in the game and finished it perfectly. He missed so many openings last week at Watford, but this time he finishes so well on his left foot and you can't explain how he was so clinical this time. It was a special moment for Aaron and a great day for Tottenham. They always say we never beat the top sides, but that accusation can be forgotten now.'
This sensational 90 minutes of action provided compelling evidence that the Premiership is the most thrilling competition in world football. There are not many leagues where a team sitting in mid-table can take on the reigning champions without fear and match them blow for blow.
While Chelsea started with a hugely impressive opening burst that could have yielded two or three goals, Tottenham's ability to soak up the punishment and strike back was impressive.
Only a liar could claim he had invested any money in Claude Makelele firing the opening goal of the game, yet that was the scenario played out as his stunning 20-yard volley curled past the despairing Paul Robinson to give Chelsea a deserved lead. The smiles sported by all associated with the Stamford Bride club confirmed that the Frenchman was not meant to score a goal anywhere near as good as that.
Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba could have extended Chelsea's lead before Tottenham struck back and the latter of that duo had a goal disallowed when few saw any offence in the box.
Yet the next goal was to rock Mourinho's men in their tracks as Jermaine Jenas provided an immaculate ball for Michael Dawson to attack and the flame-haired defender got the ideal weight on his header to pull the scores level.
It was the combination of Keane and Lennon that created the winning goal six minutes after the restart, with the former filling the latter's boots as creator-in-chief, allowing the teenager to control the ball and finishing like a seasoned professional. It was a clinical and cool finish from a player oozing class.
Chelsea's hopes of an equaliser were not aided by the madcap Graham Poll's decision to send off their captain, the talismanic John Terry, for what seemed to be a minor scuffle with Ledley King the box. Television replays failed to show what inspired the first red card of Terry's Chelsea career and while boss Jose Mourinho was infuriated by that decision, he was unusually magnanimous in defeat.
'We didn't deserve to lose the game,' was his familiar opening gambit. 'We played well enough to get a different result, but at the same time I think Tottenham fought and gave everything to get their victory. It was a special result and you have to say congratulations for their defending in the last 20 minutes.
'In the first half, we had a very high quality period, two goals, one disallowed and only Mr Poll can say why because I can't. Then they score due to a mistake from us and they had a good emotional reaction to that goal and in the second half, I don't understand why John Terry was sent off. I saw on TV and cannot find a reason for that.
'From that moment, Chelsea were brilliant again. We were playing with just two defenders in Carvalho and Cole and created chances in the latter stages, but we lost. I don't blame the referee and I congratulate Martin Jol and Tottenham because they fought hard for their special day.'
When pushed on the Terry dismissal, Mourinho offered this enlightening suggestion to the assembled media pack. 'Referees should come to press conferences after the game, I have said this for some time,' he stated. 'How can he send Terry off and leave Hossam Ghaly on when he elbows Michael Essien in the face? You tell me this.
'Now Mr Poll goes home and no one can ask him why he made these decisions. I never bothered to ask because referees always have an excuse. He will say something about someone 30 metres away making a foul. Have you ever seen a referee admit he influenced the game? It will not happen. Mr Poll wanted to be part of the show and he got his wish.'
For once, Mourinho's analysis of a rare defeat inflicted on his team offered some valid points and he should be given credit for that. Indeed, had Arjen Robben's late effort dipped inside the post rather than striking it, his side would have left White Hart Lane with a hard earned point.
Instead, Tottenham were left to toast their long-awaited first ever Premiership victory against Chelsea, with Aaron Lennon left to reflect on what may have been the defining game of his young career.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Aaron Lennon
The sponsors named the impressive Robbie Keane as this game's star turn, but Lennon was the man who frightened the champions into submission.
FOOD WATCH: A meat loaf offering was a daring attempt at top quality cuisine and while Gordon Ramsay may not have been impressed, the press pack were not arguing.
INJURY UPDATE: Mourinho denied reports Andriy Shevchenko has been dropped for the last two games and revealed he only returned to full training yesterday. As for Spurs, Pascal Chimbonda suffered a knee ligament injury in this game.
TIME TO RETIRE: Referee Graham Poll should have quit after his unforgivable clanger in last summer's World Cup clash between Australia and Croatia. His insistence on throwing cards around in this game suggested he is now out of his depth at this level.
TOTTENHAM VERDICT: They may have been fortunate to ride their luck at times, but this Spurs side that beat the champions fair and square.
CHELSEA VERDICT: Chelsea don't lose too often, but they beaten by a decent side at White Hart Lane and there was no shame in their performance. Showing guts and fight right through to the final whistle, this is not a result that will leave a lasting scar on Mourinho's men.