FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 11TH MARCH, 2006
CHELSEA 2 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)
Attendance: - 42,243
Referee: - Graham Poll
Assistants: - Mike Tingey, Glenn Turner
Fourth Official: - Steve Bennett
Chelsea (4-3-2-1):- Cech; Ferreira, Huth, Terry (Capt.), Gallas; Lampard, Makelele, Essien (sub Maniche, 76); Wright-Phillips (sub Drogba, 67), Cole (sub Duff, 67); Crespo
Subs not used: - Cudicini; Del Horno
Booked: - Duff, Drogba
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Stalteri, Dawson, King (Capt.), Lee; Jenas, Davids, Carrick, Tainio; Mido, Keane (sub Defoe, 83)
Subs not used: - Cerny; Gardner; Murphy, Lennon
Just when you thought that Spurs were going to leave Stamford Bridge with a glorious, well-earnt point, Paul Stalteri (not for the first time this season) was an injury time villain, as he gifted a short ball to Duff and was then left trailing as Gallas turned inside to beat Robinson with a spectacular unstoppable winner, with only just over a minute of the added three left on the clock. The fact that both Chelsea’s goals came from unlikely sources, and from Spurs errors, and that Spurs dominated possession statistically says a great deal about Spurs new-found status as challengers for the Champions League. Chelsea celebrated their late winner with so much ecstasy that you would have thought this was the win that clinched the title for them. For Spurs, it was a hammer blow from which they will do well to recover, and make a sustained charge for Europe.
A number of questions might be asked of Martin Jol. For example why was Mido often found on the left flank, when his team-mates were in possession looking for the big man in the middle? Why did Spurs make just one substitution (Defoe for Keane) with only 7 minutes left, where some midfield creativity, and dash from Murphy and Lennon might have put the home side under pressure towards the end, rather than surrendering territory in that crucial stage of the game. The biggest question might be regarding both Spurs full-backs, as it gets tiresome watching Lee turning inside to cross with his right foot, and it became even more wearing to see Stalteri embarrassed several times once Duff took over the left flank. Cole had been enough of a test for the right back, but he was easily beaten by Duff too many times. In fact it was no contest between the two.
More questions come to mind such as when are Spurs going to make consistent profitable use of dead balls and free kicks? Perhaps when someone other than Carrick takes the kicks, as he tends to float the ball in rather than send it with whipped power.
Maybe that should be enough complaining for one day, but it will take a long time to get over the painful conclusion of this match. Ceremonies began with a parade of former Chelsea heroes in the centre circle, paying tribute to the late Peter Osgood, for whom a one minute applause was heralded around the ground. Both George Graham and Terry Venable were amongst that gathering, as were several of Osgood’s contemporaries.
Thanks to Jose Mourinho’s dislike for away fans behind the dug-outs, the away support now occupies part of the upper and lower Shed End, which is an irony considering its history as a bastion of home support. I personally had a seat in the upper corner which gave me one of the best away views of the season, so thanks Jose!
The early exchanges suggested a hard day’s defending for Spurs, as within two minutes of the start, Lampard’s free kick from the left (he DOES know how to take them) might have taken a flick, but was goal-bound except for Stalteri’s clearance in front of the line. However, Spurs got some decent possession, and when Huth made a failed pass down the line, Tainio found Mido, who tried a shot across Cech from an angle, which passed two yards in front of the goal.
Sadly, Spurs’ failure to use attacking situations to the full often led to potentially devastating counters from Chelsea, and Shaun Wright-Phillips shot was well saved by Robinson, before Essien had a chance from a second ball, which he fired woefully wide. Essien didn’t miss five minutes later. Spurs were at least trying to play their way out of defence, and seemed in control, before Carrick sent a suicidal ball across the area, which did not reach Stalteri, and was seized upon by the former Manchester City winger. This time Wright-Phillips hit a low cross from the right; Crespo dummied and Essien did hit the target with a shot to Robinson’s right corner.
Robinson was nearly caught out by Huth Mid-way through the half, and the drive from some 30 yards was fielded by the keeper’s body, before the defence cleared. There were not many clear chances until four minutes before half-time. Crespo hit a pass to Cole, whose shot was wide of the left post. Then Spurs got an equaliser at a great psychological moment, just before the break. Carrick did hit a successful free kick, headed on by Dawson, and Jenas got in between and in front of three blue shirts to prod the ball beyond Cech.
The atmosphere got hotter in the second half, with the away fans in good voice and good cheer, as their heroes enjoyed plenty of possession, and looked more comfortable against the Champions-elect. After 53 minutes, Tainio received the ball from Lee, making one of his regular forays down the left. Tainio’s cross field ball was successful, reaching Stalteri, who passed back to Carrick in an advanced position. Carrick found Robbie Keane who tried a delicate shot, which Cech held quite comfortably, stretching to his right.
Gallas gave Spurs an early warning three minutes later, hitting a shot that was outside the post, but brought a dive from Robinson to save anyway. A Crespo cross was kneed over his own bar by Ledley, and from the corner, Robinson saved Terry’s header. A perhaps worried Mourinho made a double substitution of Drogba and Duff for Wright-Phillips and Cole, and it wasn’t long before Maniche replaced Essien.
Spurs skipper Ledley King made the best pass of the game after 77 minutes. It was an arrowed ball from deep inside his own half, and one of which Steven Gerrard would have been proud. The pass beat Gallas and Jenas had made the run to reach the ball, racing into the area, with only Cech to beat. Sadly, Jenas got no strength into the shot, which went straight to the keeper. The end approached and Spurs faded. First Drogba received Makelele’s ball from the right, and replays show that Paul Robinson got a fingertip to the driven shot to send it onto the post, when a goal looked certain. As full time approached and Duff and Drogba got booked for being tetchy, Gallas delivered that killing shot to put a smile onto the faces of the majority present, and to leave fourth-placed Spurs’ morale sagging. We were simply gutted.
It’s not just Arsenal we have to worry about, but Blackburn and Bolton advanced their challenges today. I fear for Spurs ability to withstand the pressure of the run-in.
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