LONDON (Reuters) - When the final whistle blew on Sunday, jubilant Chelsea coach Frank Lampard ran to the visiting fans to throw his coat into the crowd in celebration, as if their 2-0 Premier League win over Tottenham Hotspur had been a cup final victory.
For Lampard, it was not only his most significant league win in charge of Chelsea, against one of their biggest rivals, after a run of four defeats in five games.
It was also a triumph of tactics over his former mentor Jose Mourinho who, as Chelsea manager 15 years ago, turned Lampard from a promising player into the club’s all-time top goal-scorer and one of England’s best midfielders of his age.
Lampard’s Chelsea were in control from start to finish on Sunday. Two first-half goals by Willian, one of them a penalty, could have been followed by others.
Spurs were taken by surprise by the visitors’ formation which included three central defenders and the return of left-back Marcos Alonso to add attacking threat.
Mourinho said Lampard had resorted to the same three-at-the-back system that was familiar to the team after former Chelsea coach Antonio Conte used it to win the league title in the 2016-17 season.
“They played in a system where they are very comfortable with, a system where they played for two years with Antonio Conte,” Mourinho said.
Lampard bristled at the suggestion. “I’m not trying to clone anyone’s system,” he said. “The way that I play, the message that I give is different. The players took the plan on incredibly well as we all saw.”
Lampard said he played three central defenders to snuff out the threat from Spurs’ ability to get their attackers behind the back line, while the use of wing-backs helped to stretch the hosts’ typically compact defence.
“We had an element of protection in the way it worked but it also allowed us to have loads of control of the ball,” he said.
He also rejected Mourinho’s comment that Antonio Rudiger deserved “an Oscar” for his part in an incident that left Spurs with 10 men for the last 30 minutes after Son Heung-min was sent off for raking his studs on the Chelsea defender’s midriff.
But Lampard stressed there was no bad feeling towards his former coach.
“To go up against a manager I respect so much from my playing days and for everything he’s done in the game, and win, that obviously feels good,” Lampard said.
“Even if we had anything on the line during the heat of the 90 minutes, which we didn’t, it wouldn’t change that. What Jose’s done in his career and did for me as a player, means I have respect forever for him on that one.”
Editing by Pritha Sarkar