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Chelsea v Spurs, 24.03.12

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 24TH MARCH, 2012
(12.45 PM)
CHELSEA 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)

Attendance:- 41,830

Referee:- Mr. M. Atkinson
Assistants:- Mr. D. Cann & Mr. M. McDonough
Fourth official:- Mr. M. Oliver

Teams:-
Chelsea (4-1-4-1):- Cech; Bosingwa (sub David Luiz, 60), Cahill, Terry (Capt.), Cole; Essien (sub Torres, 75); Ramires, Mata, Lampard, Sturridge (sub Kalou, 89); Drogba

Subs not used:- Turnbull; Mikel, Malouda, Meireles

Booked:- Essien (foul on Modric)

Spurs (4-1-4-1):- Friedel; Walker, Gallas, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Parker (Capt.); Van der Vaart (sub Saha, 76), Sandro (sub Livermore, 76), Modric, Bale; Adebayor

Subs not used:- Cudicini; Rose, Nelsen; Kranjcar; Defoe

Booked:- Assou-Ekotto (foul on Ramires), Sandro (foul on Essien)

Spurs are more than a match for this Chelsea

The 22 year old hoodoo continues, but it could have ended today, had Emmanuel Adebayor hit his shot with more power after 78 minutes, and not given time for Cahill to make ground and clear. Also, Gareth Bale hit the bar, but so did Mata for Chelsea. The bottom line is that this draw is a very good result indeed for Spurs, who thus maintain their five point gap above them, but it could and arguably should have been so much better. We still went home with a great feeling of satisfaction though, negotiating the sullen and quite glum Chelsea faces around Fulham Broadway Tube Station.

Harry Redknapp matched Chelsea’s 4-1-4-1 formation today, with Scott Parker, wearing the Captain’s armband, playing behind the midfield four of Van der Vaart, Sandro, Modric and Bale. The manager might have liked to have played this side on other occasions in recent games, but one or other of Van der Vaart or Sandro has not always been available. There was no Ledley King, but William Gallas (booed by his former fans) performed admirably next to Younes Kaboul in central defence. If anything, over the course of the game, Spurs were restrained, and could have been more adventurous. In particular in the early phases of the second half, Gareth Bale was held on a leash, and helped out Benoit Assou-Ekotto in defence. When taking advantage of a break and space, both Gareth Bale and Adebayor swallowed up ground en route to Cech’s goal, but it was quite a while before Spurs showed any teeth in that area.

The first half was a low-key affair on the whole. In the early stages, our main gripe was the failure by one of Mr. Atkinson’s assistants to spot a foul on Assou-Ekotto; an offside or two, and the ball going over the line when Chelsea were playing out of their half. Chelsea did have two or three genuine threats on goal, when a penetrative ball was lifted centrally over the defence. Sturridge gave Lampard a chance after 4 minutes, as he entered the left side of the box, and Scott Parker raced back and did really well to cover and pass back to Friedel, who cleared confidently. After 10 minutes though, Parker conceded a somewhat needless free kick in the same area as he had against Stoke. This one nearly cost a goal too, as Kaboul was sharp enough to clear off the feet of Drogba.

After 24 minutes a dangerous ball was lifted over the middle towards Mata, but Friedel read it and was there first. Gallas and Kaboul combined to close in on Lampard in the area, and clear. Lampard wanted a penalty but was dismissed by Mr. Atkinson.

At last, after half an hour, Spurs made a good counter attack after a Chelsea corner. The ball was thrown to Modric by Friedel, and Van der Vaart and Adebayor took the ball forward before feeding Assou-Ekotto on the left. Eventually the ball ended at Bale’s feet on the right of centre, but he lifted his shot well over the bar. Another exciting break followed a dodgy handball decision by Mr. Atkinson, when it was clearly ball to hand. Adebayor was released well in his own half, and went on a run all the way up the field. He had options, but chose to try a shot across the goal from the left of the box. The shot passed wide.

Ashley Cole got to the bye line on the left and his cross was headed back at Friedel rather too powerfully by Kaboul, but the keeper was able to save the header, then clear. Assou-Ekotto released Bale with a fine curved pass in the middle. Adebayor was available to Bale, but he chose to shoot – inaccurately. In added time, Van der Vaart had two shots on goal blocked from close range, and Adebayor headed over. Modric had been the provider for Van der Vaart.

Essien got an early booking after the break for cynically halting Modric in his tracks as he had been released by a Bale headed pass. Gallas lost out in an aerial challenge with Drogba, and Sturridge had a chance, but he too fired wide across the goal. Spurs were starting to take control now and after a period of lengthy possession play, Van der Vaart and Bale fed Walker, whose shot hit the back of the net, but from the outside, after rebounding off the advertising boards behind the goal. Bale had another shot go wide too.

Chelsea wanted a penalty when Assou-Ekotto made a strong challenge and cleared Sturridge’s cross to the far post. “Benny” did soon get a booking for a foul on Ramires though, after being treated for injury sustained in the challenge. Spurs were giving away a few too many free kicks in dangerous areas, but they defended and blocked everything well. After a Drogba free kick was blocked, Spurs’ counter ended with a Walker cross that did take a deflection but was unseen by the assistant referee, who had already made three or four errors. A Kaboul cross from the left was chested clear well by Terry.

After 72 minutes, Chelsea had their best chance when Mata took a free kick 25 yards out. There were two Chelsea players on one end of the wall, and this was where his shot was aimed, beating the wall, and Friedel, rebounding off the post, before being cleared.

Roberto Di Matteo put on Torres for Essien and changed his formation. David Luiz had previously replaced Bosingwa. Harry re-acted immediately by replacing Van der Vaart with Saha, and the booked Sandro with Livermore. That meant that Spurs were also going in a 4-4-2, but Bale was still being held in check. Gallas headed just over from a Modric free kick, and then after 78 minutes, Adebayor was sent on a run and had only the goalkeeper to beat. Adebayor rounded Cech, then hit his shot, but not with enough power to stop Cahill from making a heroic block. Soon after that, Bale hit the bar with a header from a corner. Bale had a typical run, after Assou-Ekotto’s pass sent him away, taking the ball all the way before hitting his shot straight at Cech. At the other end, Assou-Ekotto and Parker defended stoutly against Torres on the right side of the area near the bye line.

Lampard pinged a shot which was comfortably held by Friedel, but in the closing stages (there were 4 minutes of added time), Bale hit a shot low to the left of Cech, which the keeper saved. With the final whistle looming, Modric took too much time over the corner, and the game was over.

As expected, Arsenal convincingly beat Aston Villa today, and have gone three points ahead of us, but we have a good run-in now, and still have third place to play for, with fourth looking more secure of today’s result.

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